12 Mistakes I Made – A Lack of Clear and Consistent Communication

This blog is part of the series 12 Mistakes I Made When Starting in Dentistry written by Dr. Agatha Bis. The series covers topics relating to real problems Dr. Bis has encountered in her practice, and how she overcame them.    

I am absolutely convinced that one of the biggest influences on the health of a dental practice today, the business of it, is communication.  An office where there is strong and clear communication gets smarter and stronger with time. That’s because the people in that office learn from one another, identify critical challenges, and recover quickly from errors or issues, without drama, politics or confusion. If you have ever worked in an office filled with drama, politics, dysfunction, and confusion, you know the emotional AND the financial cost of having poor communication. Those offices waste time and resources have lower productivity, loss of revenue, high staff turnover, and high levels of client attrition. 

Now, you CAN have an office where people get along and work well together so the turnover is low, but still RARELY achieve their goals. In situations like this, if the office rarely achieves its goals, then it’s simply NOT a good team. AND… the responsibility lies with the leader.  There is NO way that your employees can be empowered to fulfill all their responsibilities if they don’t receive clear and consistent messages about what is important from their leader. So how do we go about achieving crystal clear communication? The answer lies in having great meetings.

Who Wants Leftovers?

Imagine you are getting ready to make dinner for 6 of your friends.  What do you do first?  What do you do next?  Do you prepare or do you wing it?  Imagine if your friends just arrived and you had nothing prepared so you decided to go into the kitchen and take out a little bit of everything from your fridge and your pantry, throw it all together, and bake it.  How would that turn out?  Not too well, you might say.  But that is what most dentists do when it comes to their staff meetings. They don’t prepare, and when everyone is present in the room, they just pull out every issue from the fridge, and every idea from the pantry, and throw it out there to discuss, with no resolution, no decisions made, no plan of action, and then wonder why, at the end of two hours, nothing good came out of that meeting. 

Planning is Everything

Meetings are like dinner parties. There are the formal ones where you plan for weeks in advance, with a specific menu and theme, then the less formal ones, that take less preparation but still have a specific idea behind the menu, then there are the casual ones where everyone stands around the kitchen counter and snacks. But even the snacks were planned.  Even the snacks were prepared ahead of time. In order to have greater clarity and focus, and in order to improve communication and ensure that your staff knows exactly what is expected of them and when, we need to rethink our meetings, and rethink what we talk about at those meetings.  What we need is the right kind of meetings, and then we need to make these effective.  We need to plan the menu for those meetings and make sure our staff knows what is expected of them at each one.  

Good Communication Starts at the Top

There is no escaping the fact that the single biggest factor in determining whether an office is going to communicate clearly, or not, is the true and absolute commitment AND active involvement of the person in charge.  At every step in the process, the owner MUST be in front, not as a cheerleader, or an audience, but as an active leader. The leader must be the driving force behind demanding clear answers to questions, even when everyone wants to end a discussion or ignore an issue. So how do we accomplish this, you ask? We create a clear vision and structure around what needs to be done and when. 

So how do you do this simply and effectively?  Check out our Effective Meetings Program and get started on having great meetings and great communication with your entire team. 

Dr. Agatha Bis is a cosmetic dentist and the founder of UPB Dental Academy. Dr. Bis uses her experience and extensive research to develop UPB Dental Academy Courses what help dentists achieve their ultimate practice.