Lead ‘Em or Lose ‘Em – Creating a Feedback Culture

In Print Issues, Success by Dana Salisbury

“I replace a couple of employees every year, no big deal. It’s not just me, it just seems hard to keep assistants and hygienists in our area.” This is a comment I hear all too often when I ask dentists about team engagement.

Team turnover cost dentists $28,000 per event. Think about that. If you lose two employees this year it costs you nearly $56,000 in lost time, retraining, re-establishment of protocols and building of new relationships with patients. Take this out 10 years, and you can see that this is a half-million dollar conversation.

What if we treated our employees as well as we treat our patients?

What if we shifted our mindset from “customer service” to “customer and employee service”?

Feedback conversations are often viewed as dreaded conversations laced with the fear of hurt feelings and temporary results. Employees want conversations about their performance, but the delivery doesn’t always feel like a natural process. The days of waiting 365 days to have a conversation about performance are long gone. Leaders put extreme effort into hiring team members, agonizing about low performance, experiencing knowledge loss in the business and the costs of seeking and hiring a replacement.

Feedback as part of your everyday practice culture can increase trust and improve performance. Nine out of 10 employees can be motivated through an effective feedback exchange that will increase their attendance and performance, and lower your team attrition.

When employees understand their purpose and trust in your ability to help them move to action, the outcomes shift and work relationships become richer. Your employees want to understand their purpose, to know you care and to believe you are willing to act in their best interest. The outcomes of a productive feedback conversation are shown to enhance motivation, employment terms, and provide elevated outcomes. Creating motivation through feedback builds leaders within companies.

Creating a feedback culture in your practice can activate leaders within your team, and when you create leaders, you gain support that alleviates your own leadership pressure.

The work relationship grows when individual impact is communicated and celebrated. Leaders that connect purpose to action are more likely to have more engaged employees.

The give-and-take of feedback can not only motivate outcomes, but it can build and extend the years of your star employees. Feedback to kick-start motivation provides your practice with the potential to reach new heights.

Let’s talk about a three-step process with a sample scenario to motivate with feedback to shape the employee experience and move a member to action.

Here’s the scenario: You notice that your top patient advisor, Mary, has a low treatment acceptance rate compared to April of the last three years.

Set Expectations

We expect teams to listen and act on feedback we provide, but do we as leaders do the same for them by listening and acting on their suggestions? It’s said that leaders are listening to their employees now more than ever, but what action occurs based off team insight? After all, the team is in the trenches.

Set the expectation that this is a two-way conversation, where they bring feedback to you, and you provide feedback to them.

You may not heed all the advice shared with you, but allowing your team a seat at the table provides an opportunity to share the bigger picture and allow them to see the potential effects of their efforts. It’s creating an early conversation before things go too far and are no longer redeemable.

“Mary, I’d like to get your insight on something I’m seeing. I’ve noticed that we’re trending downward from the last several years in treatment acceptance. We use metrics to tell a story about how well we’re taking care of patients, and I want to talk to you about what’s changed and how we can help you get back to where you were.”

Creating a culture of feedback acceptance starts with you embracing and acting on feedback about your leadership style and activities within the practice.

Start by clearly stating what is working well to set the benchmark for stellar results and reinforce the good that is happening in the situation. Let them know you hope to mutually share, and work to bring the practice vision to fruition.

Honest and meaningful conversations increase the relationship dynamic as the team moves to higher levels of production.

Quick Validation & Prioritization

The second piece is a two-step process to align employee efforts through validation of their actions. Here you focus on validating their efforts and shifting them into action with the naming of priorities.

Celebrating short wins holds the potential to build constructive habits. Acknowledge what you see and commend the positives. Feedback is laced with transparency, and your team wants to feel they have a seat at the table so they can see the big picture and help you move toward achieving your business initiatives.

To provide validation and gain their agreement, you might say,

“Thank you for sharing what you see. Do you agree that we could help more patients with the right solution? You offer rich insight because of your direct patient interaction. Would you investigate your top recommendations for adding that new service and we’ll go from there? Awesome! Another thing we can consider is that we typically see an increase in new patient flow in the Summer. We want to be sure we’re helping patients maximize their dental benefits while getting the treatment they need. Let me know what you find out and let’s talk again soon about this. You’ve got great ideas. Will you let me know what you need along the way?”

In the above example, the conversation shifts from validation to prioritization while influencing where the focus should be. By asking for insight during these conversations, trust can be elevated, safe spaces are created, and employees are influencing you in a positive way. Throughout the process, offer your support so that they know they have you for guidance and other resources. They will come to you more when invited.

Employees want to know where they stand in your expectations so that they can impact the success of your practice and the team. The more consistent these conversations are, the more that your feedback is normalized and put into action.

Set the Focus

During this process, you are creating a sense of belonging and positive impact. Studies show that what isn’t as important to employees is having a clear link between their work and the practice values. Aligning with practice values is critical for leadership, but it isn’t top-of-mind for team members.

We do ourselves a disservice and we let our team members down by waiting too long to try and have a deep conversation. We miss out on sharing an opportunity to support them and close off the chance to have them contribute in bigger ways. When we set the focus, it becomes about putting great ideas into action while using their input on how to make it work. Your team are the ones in the trenches and they know what needs to get done. It’s your role to surface their willingness to act and identify their action items.

To set the focus, you may say something like this:

“Our goal is to help patients commit to 85 percent of the treatment they’re diagnosed with. Until we can make a decision on what you’re recommending, what else can we do to help patients commit to the treatment we know they need?”

Get their insight, and respond in ways similar to the following

“You’ve made great recommendations. Do you feel you have what you need to start with that today?”

“It looks like I’m leaving this in your capable hands.”

“If you feel you would like additional role playing, we can practice during our next team meeting, or if you’re interested in finding a workshop where you can learn with others, we can look into that.”

“I appreciate what you’re doing. You are incredibly conscientious, and I know we can resolve this. I’m here to support you.”

Feedback conversations should always end on a positive note and an offering of support. Many times, team members will realize you trust them and move to action in new ways when you allow them to lead the way.

Final Steps

Normalizing open and ongoing feedback gives you the opportunity to influence the team to move to action. Consistent conversations that are intentionally scheduled, as well as impromptu dialogues, create more levels of trust and influence than you can imagine.

You hold the power to shift your team with this method of leading, and you can start at any time. By influencing the purpose to position, your team becomes leaders of themselves and their own actions. Fulfilled employees that understand their impact toward your practice vision become walking billboards for your business, in effect growing your practice.

You will know this is working when you are having richer conversations with your team, attendance is higher, turnover is reduced and patients are being served at higher levels. Patients will want to become employees, and employees will want to become your patients, referring their family and friends.