How Attitudes Impact the Success of a Practice

OK, you have a dental practice…you have all the best equipment…a great software system…a beautiful building, and all the protocols in place. Now what? You need a dynamic dental team to get you to the next level. Have you ever worked with a team member who had a negative attitude? Negative attitudes affect all areas of your practice, especially when it comes to collections and financial arrangements. One reason a negative environment can exist is due to a lack of systems. If there aren't clear-cut job descriptions and job duties, your dental team will lose focus and will not be as prepared when faced with tough situations. When policies and procedures are not consistently followed, frustrations set in. There are several types of attitudes that will affect your systems negatively:

  • The naysayer:
    • "That will never work here."
    • "We can't do that!"
    • "Our patients will never go for that.
    • "Our patients have never paid at the time of service.
  • The complainer:
    • "Our patients never pay what they're supposed to."
    •  "Doctor XYZ is always doing treatment without financial arrangements."
    • "You always file these EOBs in the wrong place."
  • The martyr:
    • "That's OK; I'll send statements…I always end up doing it anyway."
    • "I'll put the supplies away; otherwise it will never get done."
    • "I don't mind taking out the trash…I'm the only one who does it anyway."

The most effective way to turn a negative attitude around is:

  • Walk your talk. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Presenting a positive environment in the office starts with the owner. The old saying "positive attitudes are contagious" is so true. When the doctor presents a positive environment and attitude it infects the entire team
  • Address negativity immediately. Gossiping is never healthy and should be addressed first, in the employee manual and next, addressed with the individual personally.
  • Issues should be addressed early so there is not an opportunity for it to "fester".
  • Reward good behavior, publicly and privately (depending on the team member's personality style).

There are an equal number of attitudes that will affect a practice positively:

  • The team player:
    • "To ease your day, I will confirm appointments for you."
    • "Which patients need special conversations about FA's today?"
    • "I'd be happy to escort the patient up to you personally. Let's see, I say "Lois is going to get a receipt for you, right?""
  • Random acts of kindness:
    • Post-it notes with a positive message to the individual who acted unselfishly.
    • A sincere smile.
    • When you are finished with your task, help someone else out without being asked.
    • Recognize team members for going above and beyond during your weekly huddles.
  • Positive reinforcement: Nothing is more rewarding than catching a team member doing something great. Make a positive statement to the team member when they were unselfish or acted on behalf of someone else. This reinforces more positive behavior. The number one reason a staff member leaves is due feeling unappreciated or feeling overworked. Remember team members…it's a two way street. Your boss needs positive reinforcement too.

To create the best team, strive for personalities who would work well together. One way to achieve this is to do a DSC listening profile, developed by Banta Consulting, Inc. with each team member. This isn't a test you can get wrong. In fact, the DiSC profile can be a wonderful tool to assess your patients' personalities as well. This is an especially helpful tool to identify which person fits the financial coordinator best or to pre-identify possible challenges some patients may have with financial arrangements. When you identify someone's personality trait, you have the opportunity to prepare in advance. For example, a patient who wants written guidelines for financial arrangements would have a "C" cautious, correct, perfectionist detail oriented listening style. The four areas of the DiSC listening profile are:

D: Dominant, Direct
I:  Influencing
S: Steadfast
C: Cautious, Correct, and Conscientious

The "D" personality has a tendency to have a very strong personality. They are very results oriented and cut to the chase. Every office needs a "D" person because they get things done. However, this may not be the person to handle the small details. Sometimes this personality can be perceived as abrasive that wouldn't work well with some sensitive issues such as financial arrangements.

The "I" personality is usually a very positive, enthusiastic, "glass is half full" personality. This is a great person to have at the front desk especially when scheduling treatment. This personality is usually great with patients who need a little convincing to do their needed dental treatment. Attention to detail is a usually a struggle for this individual too and they tend to be slightly disorganized so it would be important to have written guidelines for tracking outstanding insurance claims, making collection calls etc.

"S" personalities have great attention to detail and will be extremely thorough. They are very likable and tend to not to want to rock the boat. Confrontation is difficult for this individual. This personality style would be very effective as a dental assistant because of the high empathy for the patient. Handling conflict is usually a challenge with this personality so role-playing how to handle conflict would be helpful. For instance, the patient may say, "I'm not sure I can afford this crown. Can I make payments?" Role-playing would give an advanced opportunity to plan so there are no awkward moments.

"C" personalities are the most change resistant. They are perfectionists and highly analytical.  These individuals are toughest on themselves and therefore are quite resistant to change. Researching claims and sending statements are all related tasks which are easy for this type of individual because they plan ahead. However, when faced with change, (i.e. asking for payment at the time of service when you used to bill everyone) would be a challenge without a written plan.

Note: Any one of these personality styles can handle the collection, financial responsibilities if they can recognize their typical personality style and make adjustments to accommodate. Also, your bottom line improves immediately when all parties participate.

The first step is to establish written systems. The second step is to have great communications…recognize where you fall in the DiSC profile and learn to adapt. The DiSC listening profile is not meant to "pigeon hole" you into a specific personality. All of us have some aspect of each DiSC in them. But, you also have one that is more prevalent.

Many offices use the DiSC listening profile to determine how and where a team member fits best in the office. Additionally, a written job description will take the guesswork out of who is responsible for each job in the office. The job description should be included as part of the employee manual. In addition to that, a clear list of job duties for each position should be placed in writing. This eliminates much of the confusion that happens in a dental practice as it relates to responsibilities of various team members. A team can only take ownership when there are clearly written guidelines.

Additionally, proper training of the dental software system in a practice is a great predictor of success and positive attitudes. A dental team will thrive in an environment once they completely understand how to operate their software system. Invest in your team by investing in their professional development. Have a system in place for ongoing on-site and remote training. This offers a "tune up" to keep those systems running in check. Also, anytime a new team member joins the practice, they should be offered one-on-one coaching and training to learn how to utilize the dental software properly. This leads to fewer errors, less frustration and less negativity.
To sum it all up, understanding the different types of personalities and how they relate to each other combined with a good working knowledge of how the dental software works allows the practice to communicate more effectively.  

Lois Banta is CEO, President and Founder of Banta Consulting, Inc. established in 2000, is a company that specializes in all aspects of dental practice management. Lois has over 32 years of dental experience. To contact Lois for a personal consultation or to invite Lois to speak to your organization: Office-816-847-2055, Address: 33010 NE Pink Hill Rd ~ Grain Valley, MO 64029, Email: lois@bantaconsulting.com Website: www.bantaconsulting.com
Author: Lois Banta
Published: 7/7/2010