Your office and clinical staff is a direct representation of you and your practice, keep them motivated and positive.
It can be hard to get through a day at the office sometimes. Your staff is doing their best, but they’re just not always up to it. Here are 20 ways that you can keep your dental staff going even when they’re dragging their feet.
Some of these tips go well hand in hand with others on the list. Some of them will only work for certain kinds of employees, and some of them will only work for certain kinds of bosses. Take whichever ones you find useful and adapt them to your particular office environment.
1. It all starts with you, boss
Everything you do affects the entire workplace. Your dental office staff is acting on your cue, so give it a little thought. Walk through the door with a smile on your face every day. Practice it in the mirror if you need to. Just this will make a world of difference. Your staff is feeding on your enthusiasm, so you need enough for the whole team. Take care of yourself so you can bring your best game when you show up. Wake up early, get a jog in, and do whatever else it takes to bring you to full performance. After that, all the other pieces will fall into place.
2. Take care of the environment
Not every motivation method is a Freudian sleight of hand. Keep your office clean. It improves every aspect of your work environment. A clean space will make people happier unconsciously. Remember that the office is to staff what shoes are to your feet: the more comfortable they are, the farther they’ll run.
This tip goes a long way in combination with the first one. Set an example by keeping your space in order. Everyone should clean and organize their stations regularly, or at least as often as they’re wondering what to do.
3. Address them as a group
Communication is key to all organizations large and small. The dental field is no exception. Make sure to address your staff all at once as often as you need to. This improves the sense of cohesion between them. Every time you do this, end on a positive note no matter what. Even if you’re breaking some bad news, remind them that their work is valuable and that they’re doing good for their patients.
4. Address them individually
You need to know how each member of your staff is doing individually to keep the whole team running. It’s like knowing how every part of your car works. If you understand what all the parts of your engine do individually, you can adjust them to work more efficiently together. Talk to all the members of your team one-on-one as often as you can. Take stock of their morale and find out what their needs are. Or just let them talk. You’d be surprised at what you can learn this way.
5. Show them some trust
As strange as it might sound, your staff wants to work. They don’t want to run the hamster wheel, but they do want to make a difference. If you show them that you trust them to do important work, it will boost their confidence and inspire them to do their best. If you consistently delegate menial work to them, they will return menial results.
6. Acknowledge their contributions
As often as possible, acknowledge your workers’ contributions to the team. All that’s needed is a “thanks” or “good work.” Grandiose speeches aren’t necessary, just a simple acknowledgment. Whether you do this publicly or privately, never miss an opportunity to pass praise along.
This helps people feel secure not just in their own abilities but in the health of your whole office. Good work is being done, the organization is thriving as a result, and continued mutual profit is a sure thing. People really do catch on to those things!
7. Set achievable goals
Make sure that your staff is up to whatever you ask of them. When people feel like they’re faced with a hopeless task, they will usually give up on it and focus on something else. If you’re not seeing the results that you expected from your team, take a step back and make sure you’re delegating appropriately. This is a balancing act. You want your staff to feel challenged but not overwhelmed. Read more about SMART goals to understand where the line lies, and try to get as close to it as possible.
8. Make sure your office is well lit
Sitting in insufficient light can slow your endocrine gland, which in turn can cause depression. In a sense, you might suffer seasonal affective disorder year-round if you spend a lot of time in poorly lit areas. This might account for any sluggishness you see from your staff.
If you have windows at your office, keep them open all day. If you don’t have access to enough natural light to fill your office, there are light bulbs that simulate sunlight to combat sluggishness. You should avoid fluorescent lighting no matter what.
9. Bring food to the office
This is a much greater incentive than you might think. Anyone who’s ever been asked to come in to work at an early hour knows what a strong motivation coffee and pastries can be. You can also offer to buy lunch for your staff once in a while. This is a good way to pick up spirits after a difficult day, but if you drop a nice surprise on them even outside of special occasions, they’ll remember you fondly all the same.
You don’t need to pamper your staff. All that’s needed is a little recognition for their good work.
10. Set up a rewards system
There are a few different advantages to this tip. Some of your employees will have the kind of work ethic that drives them to go above and beyond naturally. Those ambitious types will respond well to gift and bonus incentives. You can’t expect the whole office to follow that lead, but you can expect a bit of healthy competition to arise.
One crucial point to remember about any rewards system is that it must be voluntary.
11. Take them out of the office
It’s helpful to get to know your staff on a personal basis. Take them out to lunch every once in a while for some one-on-one time. They’ll be glad to get an opportunity to know their boss. You’ll probably like to know your staff more closely, too. Keep things professional, but let your staff know that you’re interested in them as people.
You should also take your staff out as a group occasionally. Make a reservation at your favorite restaurant for an office dinner around the holidays, for example.
12. Organize social events
It’s nice to have an outing for the whole office sometimes. Take your dental staff out to a bowling alley, organize a potluck, or bring them to the movies. You can also organize an office sports league. Anything that creates cohesion between your staff outside of work will help them to be more productive when they’re on the clock.
13. Give clear instructions
Make sure that when you assign a task, you do it as clearly as possible. If you give vague instructions, your staff will feel lost. Clear instructions are like a straight, broad, and clear road. It’s hard not to follow them. If you expect your company to be run with the wave of a hand, you’ll find that it is riddled with uncertainty and a lack of confidence from top to bottom.
You can ensure that your staff understands what’s required of them by asking them what they think of the task you’ve set them. If they seem to be at a loss for words, you have either assigned the task unreasonably, or you have failed to make the task clear. In either case, you’ll need to talk it out.
14. Don’t let them catch you slacking off
You lead by example. When your staff sees you cutting corners or waffling around, they take that as the standard of behavior in your organization. They will follow suit. That doesn’t mean that you don’t get a break yourself. All that it means is that, as a leader, you are a model employee, and your staff will adjust their behavior to match yours as closely as possible.
Trust that your staff will not feel comfortable kicking their feet up if they see you going about your day with determination and purpose.
15. Empower your staff
Involve your staff in the decision making process as often as possible. This goes hand in hand with the trust tip related above. Your staff will feel more capable and do better work if they feel that they are intrinsically involved with your organization.
You still have final authority over all decisions, but you might be surprised to find out how capable and willing your dental staff is to care for the whole practice.
16. Provide seminars and training
If your staff is struggling, don’t hesitate to provide them with ancillary training opportunities. Having new skills under their belt will encourage them to find new ways to put them into practice. This goes hand in hand with the previous tip, since the more they know, the better equipped they’ll be to advise on a company-wide level.
17. Be flexible
You can allow your staff to telecommute from time to time. You can also allow them to show up in casual dress (if they’re not dealing with patients). You can change their working hours as needed. Allow them as much flexibility and freedom as you can without letting their responsibilities slip.
Rigid rules can be self-destructive. They’re there for a reason, but alter them at your discretion for the right reasons.
18. Offer bonuses
Ideally, your staff would work for you out of the goodness of their hearts, but the reality is that the number one motivator for any employee is their paycheck. Having a bonus available for truly great work will get your staff on their feet more quickly than anything. This is similar to the reward system mentioned above, except that the reward is a dollar amount.
19. Add plants to the office
Plants add a lot of charm to any interior. Moreover, the health of your office can be gauged somewhat by the health of its plant life. If your plants are healthy and growing rapidly, you can be sure that the office environment is being properly cared for. Plants that are dying indicate a general malaise around the office, and plastic plants guarantee that the company culture is completely stagnant.
20. Don’t let them get bored
Idle hands are the devil’s playground. Set the expectation around the office that even when things are slow there’s something to be done. Sometimes you can ask your staff to organize and take care of the office, but if you throw them the occasional curveball they’ll be more productive and agile. Mix up their responsibilities, and allow them to have fun as often as possible.