How to Deal With a Weak Link

Many dentists don’t know that they have a weak link in their practice.  But knowing how to identify, deal with and make decisions about whether to train or to let go of someone can be a challenging task for many of us. 

Some of the dentists we talk to believe that a weak link is someone who causes tension in the office, or someone that doesn’t get along with other staff in the office.  In addition, it could be a person that doesn’t contribute to production as expected or doesn’t deliver the type of care you look for in your people.  Looking at your staff and deciding if a weak link exists can be challenging in a typical office.  If you don’t have specific systems in place, where everyone knows what to do and when, follows the outline of your Strategic Plan, it’s really difficult to identify that person. 

Most offices operate based on very few systems.  Most have staff that do whatever they did in their previous office or whatever they feel like on that particular day.  Very often, there is a lack of consistency,  and if that’s the case in your office, it becomes really tough to tell if you have a person that is a good fit or a weak link. 

There are 4 simple steps to expose a weak link in your practice:

  1. First, you have to define what it is you want to happen in your practice every time
  2. Create systems around what it is you want to happen
  3. Implement the systems
  4. Evaluate the systems and tweak

Your hygiene department is probably the best place to start since it’s critical that your hygienists are consistent room to room, provider to provider, patient-to-patient.  Once you have these tight systems, it becomes really easy to identify who is truly with you and who isn’t. 

Once you identify a person that may be a weak link, don’t jump to letting them go just yet.  First, you need to figure out if they are a weak link because they need to learn more about the system?  Or do they lack certain skills?  Or is it an attitude issue?  Or maybe they are just simply not a fit. 

Systems turn regular people into performers and allow your people to shine each and every time they see a patient.  So when someone doesn’t follow your system, you need to have a conversation with them to find out why.  Ask:

  • Are you challenged by the amount of information you are learning?
  • Are you challenged by the level of skill that’s expected of you?
  • Is it your attitude that’s a concern?
  • Is there something else going on that I need to know about?

Once you figure out what the challenge is, it becomes really easy to know what to do. 

So how do you know when it’s time to let go?  I use a “Three Opportunities” Rule:

  1. The first time someone doesn’t do what they were trained to do, I assume they weren’t trained well enough and we allow for more time to learn, role-play, and ask questions around what is expected of them
  2. The second time someone doesn’t do what they were trained to do, after having another opportunity to learn more, I ask them if I was clear in what my expectations are and inquire how I can help them figure out how to improve
  3. The third time someone doesn’t do what they were trained to do, the question becomes: is it that they don’t want to do it, is it too hard, or is it an attitude issue? 

At this point, you basically know what to do.  Three opportunities, because the chain is only as strong as its weakest link. 

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