Episode 137: How to Beat the Slump and Win Your Practice Vision

Carrie Webber, Owner, The Jameson Group

Ask the Right Questions, Make the Big Decisions, and Achieve Your Practice Vision

Below, we’ve compiled the key points discussed in the Jameson Files Episode 137. To enjoy the full episode with our very own Carrie Webber you can watch on YouTube or listen to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or Spotify.

Carrie Webber:

Hello and welcome to the Jameson Files. I’m your host, Carrie Webber, and I’m flying solo for this episode about getting through the financial slump, the employee crisis, COVID and all its far-reaching impact. We all, as leaders, can get through this. We can embrace our practice vision; we can ask ourselves how to renew, revise, revisit, and reorient in ways that can make our dreams happen. So thank you so much for joining me.

I want to take some time to address the moment in time we are in right now and what’s happening in the dental profession as we’ve been hearing it from practices all across the country. Practices are facing a continued struggle to hire, to find the right team, to get back to continuing growth, and to get back to their ideal vision for their practice. We continue to find ourselves faced with unheard of issues regarding the season of COVID, and it’s important that those of you in leadership positions in your practices feel empowered to continue the good fight and make progress.

And that leads us to today’s topic—pushing through questions you need to ask, the decisions you need to make, and the actions you need to take for your practices’ progress as well as your personal sanity.

ADA Stats on Impact of COVID on Dental Practices

So where are we now? ADA’s Health Policy Institute in its most recent update monitoring the COVID pandemic impact stated that half of those that completed their survey were definitely planning or currently searching to add team members to their practices. So that tells us there’s a great many out there looking to hire now or in the very near future. 

In addition, our friends at Cedar Solution, in a recent online presentation by Paul Edwards of Cedar, stated that it’s taking three to four months to hire a new team member. So the ongoing search is still in full force across the country. 

We talk to clients all the time about what to do in this moment. How do we push through this and overcome the strain of working with a limited team? How do we continue to work on the things that are the priority while dealing with the ongoing urgency that we’re faced with day in and day out?

Make communication with your team a priority.

First, I’ll say it’s especially important to prioritize time to connect with teammates, co-leaders, and partners. Because if you’re not connecting and communicating, there are a lot of things that are probably continuing to stay stuck.

In order to keep working towards your practice vision, you need to stay united and aligned, whether you’re understaffed or whether you are growing and struggling to fulfill all of the demand that you have from the patients in your practice. Those team meetings are going to be important in order to address where you are now, where you want to be, and how you can work together as a team to continue to move forward toward your ideal goal.

So focus on your vision and communicate with your team. If you’re looking for positions in your practice and coming up dry, it might be time to review what your job posts look like; rally together as a team and brainstorm this together so that you can refine it, go back to the drawing board, and keep the search going. And you can elevate your efforts by determining a creative approach to how you’re going to run the practice in the interim. 

Team unity, team creativity, and team training are vitally important!

So what kind of meetings are you having? Are you having your daily huddles? Are you having weekly team meetings, monthly team meetings? Are you having team meetings at all? In my opinion, when you’re in times that are perhaps outside of your norm or times of heightened stress, it’s important to maintain or even increase the number of team meetings until things feel like they’re smoothing out. The time you spend in meetings can be some of the most valuable time you have as a team growing your business. 

Create an engaged team.

If you’ve let team meetings fall by the wayside, it might be time to ask yourself some questions. Are your meetings consistent? Are they productive? Are they the types of meetings that we need to have? Is the timing of the meetings optimal? What is the purpose of your meetings? If your meetings are missing the mark, how can you adjust? How can you be more intentional? Are you creating agendas? Are you making time for training, for brainstorming, for action planning to review your goals? Is the team engaged? 

I often hear, “Oh, we have team meetings, but no one’s really plugged in and engaged.” It’s important then to take a step back and ask how we can reset the purpose and the process of our meetings to help engage more people in these unusual times. If you feel like you are stuck in a rut, the people that are going to be able to help you the most are the people that are in the trenches with you.

If we can create an engaged team where there’s room for people to communicate, give feedback, share ideas, and discuss and take an interest in everyone’s well being, that is the environment we’re looking for. So your work environment is going to make a difference for you and how you carry through in the unusual times. Those practices that have continued to make communication and connection a priority throughout the history of their practices are the ones that are getting through this critical time most successfully because the team is engaged.

Work on action plans, work on strategy, brainstorm together, make sure there’s alignment. This is the time to make sure we’re all on the same page of where we are now and where we’re going and accountability. If you’ve worked with Jameson, you know we’re huge proponents of goal setting and action planning.

And when you do that correctly, there is a place for evaluation and assignment of responsibilities, so that accountability takes place. And when someone is a part of the solution, they have a deeper sense of ownership for that solution.

Train and cross-train your team.

If you’re hiring but you can’t find anyone, it may be time to go back to intentional training and cross-training because in this climate, we’re going to need to be adaptable, and we’re going to need to be able to float sometimes depending on what the day brings. If someone’s sick and you’re also understaffed, that creates a great deal of stress. 

It’s important for our clinical team to know how we schedule, and it’s important for everyone to be on the same page about how we, ideally, lead our patients through their appointments and so on. If everyone isn’t on the same page, it makes it even more difficult and stressful when you may be short a team member for a day, week, a month, or four months. So we need to make sure we’re cross-training so we can be as effective as a team as possible, regardless of who is present. 

Consider outsourcing.

If you’re understaffed or feel stretched, busy, or overwhelmed, it may be time to start asking, “Should we hire? Do we outsource? What do we need to do to bring more balance to our days?” So it’s important to take a look at this, realistically.

Do you feel like you are managing your time appropriately? Do you feel like you have great systems in place? Do you feel like everything is being run well but you are still maxed out? It may be time to start looking for some solutions or another person if you are already maximizing a minimal team.

And by a “minimal” team, I’m not saying to fire everybody and go down to bare bones. I am saying that the important thing is to make sure you’re maximizing the people you have before adding another person to the mix. Sometimes it seems like the easiest solution is to just hire somebody to take on the things that are stressing us out, but there’s not real clarity as to what you need and how that need will best be filled.

Make sure to consider your current overhead overall. Are you monitoring your profits and losses to make sure that the practice can ultimately afford to hire a new person? Perhaps you could outsource some of the responsibilities that are starting to create strain. Maybe it’s time to reset the roles of your team and outsource some of those tasks? Would that be a more affordable solution? 

Of course, if you start outsourcing a lot more than what a salary would be, it may be time to hire. But you could find some great solutions outside of a team so that your team members can work on what only they can do. And you can outsource some of those tasks, giving them room to focus on the most productive and the highest use of their time. Making sure that the practice can support what you want to add to the mix is important before any decision is made. 

Manage time and maximize the team you have. 

Are you on the cusp of burnout?

Now, something else that I’m hearing a lot lately is people on the cusp of burnout. Adam Grant, who is an author, and a thought leader wrote a great article earlier this year, and he used the term “we’re languishing” as a society. We’re languishing. Meaning we’re not quite burnt out, but we’re just going through the motions. So how do we overcome that sense of burnout or languishing that we as leaders may be feeling? Because here’s the important thing to remember as leaders: We feel this need to continue to motivate and keep our team motivated, but it’s very difficult to do that when we ourselves can’t keep ourselves motivated, right? 

And so we need to refocus on our purpose, we need to work on the vision. Keeping an eye on the prize can often keep you motivated to work through the glitches, issues, and needs that the practice has right now. And remember, when you communicate with your team about this vision for your practice, and you brainstorm together, making sure that they’re on board for that vision too, that can feed the well that may feel very dry right now. So be strong and clear in your practice vision. 

My husband Jess and I, who own the company together, have doctors and team members come to us to work on their practice vision planning. A lot of times through seasons like this, practice owners and leaders realize there’s a better way but want someone to help them hash this out a little bit. And that’s what we do in our vision sessions. You can do this for yourself, but you have to learn Strategic Planning 101 first—take a step back, go somewhere where you can think away from the distractions, and give yourself permission to think futuristically in order to determine where you want to be when you’re through all of this.

Dream about your practice vision.

Ask yourself, “What do I really want out of this career?” It’s your practice, and you have permission as the practice owners and practice leaders to create whatever looks best for you. It’s important that we take the time and give ourselves permission to think and dream about these things. 

Remember, your systems matter, your vision matters, your practice culture matters. So taking that connection time, getting clarity, and making room for what is right for you is all going to make a difference. There’s a great book called Excellence Wins by Horst Schulze. I speak about it a lot because I’m very passionate about leadership.

I’m very passionate about customer service and delivering something that’s above and beyond. And in this book, Mr. Schulze talks about leadership. He reminds us that leadership starts at the top with understanding the vision. So think about it. What is the vision of your organization or of your practice?

Once you’ve got your practice vision, you next have to make a conscious decision to achieve that vision. But you don’t keep this a secret inside yourself. You clearly communicate that to everyone on your team. Then it’s time to work on executing the plan, figuring out the actionable steps that align with the vision, and not allowing yourself to get sidetracked by distractions. And then, as you make progress, don’t let it slide.

Maintain focus at all times, no excuses or rationalizations. when I’m recording this session, it is September, 2021. So we are about to enter into the fourth quarter of 2021. 

You can do this, and we can help.

If you find yourself in a situation that is less than ideal for you and your practice, it’s time to make decisions. It’s time to step into your ownership, refuel yourself, get focused on the future, and bring your team on board with you. If there are people on your team that do not want to be a part of that journey, then it’s time to find the right people that are aligned to your practice’s values, purpose, and vision.

You can do this! And if you ever need help from us here at Jameson, you’re welcome to email us at [email protected] If you want some opportunities to cross train your team, I invite you to visit our online learning platform, Grow.jmsn.com. Learn together as a team some of the foundational systems that we at Jameson teach in practices

Best of luck to all of you!

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