You can delegate a task, you can delegate responsibility, but you cannot delegate accountability.
One of the most difficult tasks for a dentist is holding team members accountable for outcomes. According to Harvard Business Review, accountability is not simply taking the blame when something goes wrong; it is delivering on a commitment. It is responsibility to an outcome, not just a set of tasks.
Share your vision
A vision statement is a vivid future-based description of a desired outcome that inspires, energizes, and helps you create a mental picture of your target. Communicating your vision is critical; it serves to guide you and your practice. The vision statement needs to be in written form, displayed for staff to read as necessary, and communicated verbally during team meetings.
Set clear expectations
Staff should have a clear understanding and documentation regarding the expectations for their role. Go beyond communicating the details of the job description and incorporate the “why” behind the job. They should understand the big picture role they have within the practice as well as the day-to-day details of the job. Each role in the dental office directly impacts the ability of other team members to meet their objectives.
When team members see themselves as an integral part of your overall plan, they are more likely to be proactive and realize outcomes. If the overall goal is not clearly communicated, they are more likely to “stay busy” and focus on tasks vs. outcomes. For example, a front office team member assigned the recare system will focus on the number of attempted calls vs. the number of patients scheduled. This is an example of a task mindset vs. an outcome mindset. Gaining buy-in helps move the staff member to an outcome mindset. They need to know their work has a greater purpose.
Follow-up: Communicate with the team
Share expectations for roles with the entire team, this holds the team accountable to each other. You can follow up with progress at team meetings to provide additional accountability. For example, you can announce the front office team is working diligently to meet the goal of achieving 70% of the active patient base with future appointments. Ask if additional support is needed from the rest of the team to meet the objective.
Check in as frequently as needed
Review performance frequently. The goal is to meet the objective, not to analyze the tasks needed to meet the objective. Measuring tasks indicates you are concerned about “busy work” and the team will shift their focus to meet that goal. The frequency of meetings depends on the functional level of the staff member. Superstar employees do not need close monitoring. These individuals often thrive with words of appreciation and an independent work environment. Frequent monitoring and coaching is appropriate for team members who are struggling to meet objectives.
We recognize providing leadership and accountability isn’t easy. Burkhart’s Practice Support Team has resources and actionable recommendations to support implementation or consistency in any of these areas to enhance accountability in your practice.
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