Dental risk: Staying safe with staff

Dental business coach Alun Rees sets out five do’s and don’ts for keeping your life simpler as an employer

In my work as a business coach, many of the problems I encounter can be classified into time, money and people. More often than not the calls I take concern the challenges of getting on with the people with whom we work and who we need to make our businesses function effectively. Like many areas of practice it’s a two-way street and requires effort from both parties. Here I have taken the employers’ point of view.

I am not an HR professional nor am I an employment lawyer. I just use my experience as someone who has successfully run several practices and watched others go through the mill. So here are five Do’s and five Don’ts for keeping your life simpler as an employer:

Do start as you mean to go on with team members. Ensure that all contracts, job descriptions, inductions, appraisals and training programmes are clear, easy to understand and have sensible time frames. Stick to those timings for updates and appraisals and act on them.

Do be a leader. Set an example by embracing the highest standards in everything from punctuality through dress code and communication. Avoid gossip and idle talk; it will encourage others to do the same. Show by words and actions what you expect from others.

Do be clear about your social media policy and the use of mobile phones and other technology in the work place. Patient confidentiality is sacrosanct. Any and all mentions of the workplace and other team members should be positive and nothing that would bring the business or the profession into disrepute should be broadcast on social media.

Do have regular team meetings where openness and candour are encouraged, and where everyone has a voice and they feel safe sharing their opinions. Ensure agendas and minutes are available to all. Change the person chairing the meeting regularly to prevent it becoming a regular moan from “the boss”.

Do communicate with everyone, whether a colleague in the team or a patient, clearly in words that are easy to understand. Ensure that all staff (not just those that are public facing) have regular updates in communication skills. Remember the phrase “if they haven’t heard it, you haven’t said it”. Encourage team members to share their experiences, good and bad, and the lessons they have learned.

Don’t show favouritism to any team member, even if they are your partner or spouse. I frequently come across what I have labelled “the boss’s nurse syndrome” and “the boss’s spouse effect”. With the former the person has frequently been in post for years, becomes the boss’s confidant and is treated more favourably than the rest of the team. The latter scenario happens when the person doesn’t have defined duties or hours, appears and departs when it suits them. Often the spouse has never had an involvement in dentistry and behaves as if the rest of the team are slackers and robbing them of all profits. Their visits can lead to chaos.

Don’t tolerate unprofessional behaviour from anybody; the longer it is allowed to continue the more difficult it is to rectify. Deal with the situation rapidly, correctly and effectively. If you feel that it is a serious matter then seek, and take, appropriate professional advice without delay. Always use the processes set down in the individual’s contract.

Don’t discuss anybody in front of someone else unless you would be willing to let the subject listen to the conversation. If you have a problem with someone, talk about the problem only with them and in private (from Paddi Lund’s Courtesy System).

Don’t look for scapegoats. Mistakes are going to happen. Acknowledge them. Rectify them. Learn from them. Move on.

Don’t hide. Be inclusive and delegate appropriately but always back up your team; never ask someone to do something that you are not prepared to do yourself if necessary. They have to know that they can rely on you as much as you rely on them for your success.

I hope these have been a help. I realise that I have just scratched the surface of the challenges that happen in day-to-day practice but I feel that the simpler things are the less likely there are to be difficulties.

Alun K Rees BDS is The Dental Business Coach – and experienced dental practice owner who changed career and now works as a coach, consultant, troubleshooter, analyst, speaker, writer and broadcaster. www.dentalbusinesscoach.co.uk

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