Board Certified Periodontist

69 – Team Rehearsals and Performance

Hi and welcome, or welcome back. You are listening to the Perio Hygienist Podcast, a podcast for my professional colleagues to include dental and dental hygiene students, dental residents, practicing dentists and dental hygienists and anyone else who cares to listen.
My name is Ben Young and I am a practicing periodontist working and living in San Antonio, Texas. This is Episode 69 and I have titled it Team Rehearsals and Performance
As I said in the last podcast, the hardest part of periodontics is effective communication, not any technical procedure we might perform. If there is a procedure like that – one you just don’t like performing, then drop it and do something else. Life is too short. That’s part of what I talked about last time in episode 68.
And sure, I know it’s tempting to try and work quietly by oneself, but it doesn’t work well.
I can certainly personally relate to why this work-alone idea is popular in dentistry. Many of us came into dentistry and dental hygiene because we were comfortable with school and classes – taking notes, doing homework, taking tests – as individuals — and also working with our hands. We enjoyed arts and crafts or shop work that is more or less solitary and where we could construct things we wanted to make without a lot of interference from others. Those with these skills and personality bents tend to gravitate to the dental field. It all makes sense.
But this is not enough. Dentistry involves working with and on people – a position requiring high trust.
I know it’s easy to joke about life being a breeze if it weren’t for all the people we have to deal with, but the truth of the matter is that once anyone has learned how, interacting with others in healthy ways adds to the richness and enjoyment of living.
Another commonly expressed opinion today is that younger generations are struggling more with relationships than their elders did. This may or may not be true but what I think is obvious is that technology can enable people to hide from others more. As videogames replace other social activities, people will lag in their social development. The reverse is also true. The more people interact socially growing up the easier they will find work environments involving people – especially in healthcare – both enjoyable for the most part and fulfilling.
One of the strongest marketing tools every dental office has involves how all co-workers – from the doctor down to the part-time employee — relate to one another. And just hiring friendly people is not enough. Also understand, the larger the organization becomes the more critical training becomes because all the possible interactions with people grow exponentially.
Which brings me to offering one simple team training idea for your consideration. I call it the Stage Play Performance Model.
To begin, effective communication starts with the team alone – apart from patients. This does not work when the team is segmented. The dentist must be involved. In fact, the dentist must lead. No leadership at the top spells chaos.
The best word-picture I have for this is the Production of a Stage Play.
Our patients are the audience.
When patients are in the office or on the phone, we are in performance-mode.
In performance-mode, there is no verbal training in front of patients.
In other words, if someone is doing something wrong, and it is not putting the patient or anyone else at risk, then it is not discussed until later. We are in performance mode. Later when we get back to rehearsal-mode, we can tweak our performance actions.
One exception to this might be a student who is shadowing people in the office. When this is the case, it is important to let the patient know who this person is and to get their permission to allow them to stay in the room. Even then, the focus should not be shifted too far away from meeting the patient’s needs and expectations. At times it is even appropriate to say to the student, “Let’s talk about this or that in a little bit.” In other words, before they ever set foot in a room with a patient, explain to them the difference between performance-mode and rehearsal-mode. Essentially, that they have stepped into something similar to a stage play production.
Also, in performance mode, the patient is the focus of attention. This means that conversations that have little or nothing to do with the patient should be held to a minimum. Discussing what team members, including the dentist, are planning to do this coming weekend – especially when the patient can’t participate in the conversation because his or her mouth is open and work is being performed, can be sending a subtle message that the patient is not important and that we are not focused on doing our best for him or her.
Remember, our performance provokes an audience response – whether they communicate this back to us or not. They always leave with a feeling about how they were treated – which is the purpose of our performance.
When patients are not around, all team members should understand that they are in rehearsal-mode.
This is not party time or a time to relax.
At any moment, for example, the phone might ring, and it is important that the one who answers the phone as well as all around him or her understand that they are now in performance mode. Each one has a role to play. The conversation between them must drop in volume in order for this phone conversation to fulfill its purpose.
It is in rehearsal-mode that training occurs.
First, this should be formal purposeful training.
New employees need to feel comfortable that they will not be thrown into situations they have not been prepared for. Later, as people have been in the office for years, the training will and should be less formal, more subtle.
Let me end with this today.
The tone, the atmosphere of the dental office, is set at the top. There should be only one person occupying this position. One voice must be able to cut through all other voices if there is to be any hope of order, peace, and tranquility. This is the atmosphere every dental office needs and every patient hopes to find. The owner-dentist must assume this position.
But just because there is an overall leader doesn’t mean that there are no other leaders.
For example, the tone or atmosphere of the dental treatment room is set by the provider in that room.
The tone or atmosphere in the administration areas of an office are set by the highest-ranking individual in these areas. The office manager is in charge and responsible for the conduct of all other team-members in this area.
For the back-office areas — this would include supply rooms, instrument sterilization and processing rooms, rest room facilities, perhaps even outdoor areas – need individuals assigned as responsible and given leadership roles over each one of these areas.
Everyone is responsible for his or her behavior – this they must demonstrate by how they dress and how they act.
To Review: When there is chaos in a dental office, the problem begins at the top.
Someone is not leading first by example and then by instruction.
All leaders are trainers.
Leaders who yell are not training. They are attempting to change others’ behaviors by bypassing their self-will, their rightful autonomy as grown individuals.
Yelling and bossing might work in the short run, but never the long run.
And patients pick this bad vibe up. And when they do, knowing they are powerless to change it and knowing that a distracted dental office might end up harming them, they will usually quietly go somewhere else.
Fortunately, the reverse is also true.
When people who have experienced a negative atmosphere in a dental office talk with their relatives and friends, it is not uncommon for one of them to suggest they go to the office they like.

Well, that’s it. Thanks for listening.
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This has been The Perio Hygienist Podcast, and I am still Dr. Ben Young. Bye for now.

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