Working hard – or hardly working?

According to a recent McKinsey report, today’s workforce spends 61% of their time managing work, rather than actually doing it.

Does that strike a chord? It did for me, even though my job as a people manager is to deal with and eliminate bureaucracy so my team can focus on achieving their goals. But I hear the lament over and over that others are drowning in administrative tasks, battling red tape and knee-deep in paperwork (online demands included). Today, the biggest complaint seems to revolve around the overwhelming email bog.

I’ve heard of companies creating ’email-free’ days where all internal business must happen over the telephone or gasp! in person. Other companies have turned to solutions like Yammer External Groups for patient communication, Microsoft Teams for internal office communication and document sharing, Slack and other instant messaging software to stem the flow. According to a recent TELUS report, tools like these ones can reduce email volume by as much as 40%.

Most companies at the very least publish email policy or etiquette guidelines for staff. I’ve been amused recently by a number of articles listing the major pet peeves of email users; here are some favourites:

  • Not entering a Subject line – making the email impossible to find later
  • Replying to an email and changing the topic completely – usually best to start a new email but at least add a word or a phrase to the end of the existing Subject line to inform readers of the change
  • Threadjacking – changing a Subject line to start a new conversation – please start a new email!
  • Using non-embedded logos and other graphics in a signature that come through as attachments, or little red exes
  • Intricate fonts, different coloured fonts, emoji overkill, SMS shorthand, excessive punctuation!!!!! None of these belong in business emails
  • PEOPLE WHO SHOUT AT ME
  • Messages that go on and on and say little or nothing
  • Messages that are so short they actually say nothing
  • People who can’t seem to master a professional tone; their writing is either far too casual or unnecessarily stiff
  • Those who mark everything urgent. Wolf-cryers
  • Asking for proof of receipt (unless it’s a summons, it’s insulting)
  • Replying to all when not warrented, cc’ing without approval, bcc’ing…

I wonder how much more work could get done in a day if email management took even half the time it currently does for most. If we effectively put to use the tools, technologies, approaches, and best practices that have been developed to reduce emails in the first place, we’d all be doing ourselves a favour. It’s worth the experiment.

 

Apparently, there’s a Q for that

My parents routinely told me to “mind my Ps and Qs” and I always tried to, even though I wasn’t entirely sure what that meant.*

Turns out, the “Qs” are an especially important part of coping with the world.

The first one we encounter is IQ. Intelligence Quotient is an international standard that has been around for over a century. The results of various IQ assessments have guided – and misguided – the lives of many of the boomer generation. (That and gender stereotyping, a topic for another day.)

The second one is EQ. Although the concept of Emotional Quotient was identified over 50 years ago, it only gained mainstream popularity in the mid-nineties. Briefly, it’s the ability to use emotional information – your own and others’ – to guide thinking and behaviour. There are all kinds of assessments available, but to my knowledge, there’s no ‘official’ standard scale like IQ.

Then there’s CQ… twice. Cultural Quotient is the capability to relate and work effectively across cultures. This term was coined in the early 2000s, and there’s even a Cultural Intelligence Center in Lansing, Michigan. Managing diversity in the workplace is a much-explored topic.

The second CQ is also a recent addition to the list. I’ve seen several articles now about Confidence Quotient: The measure of how each individual acts and interacts based on their own self-perception and self-esteem. Again, there does not appear to be one standard assessment or scale that ranks CQ, but you can find a wide variety of tools online (like at http://www.funquizcards.com).

Your CQ can have an enormous impact on the success of your practice. Patients expect clinical expertise but it goes further than a certificate on the wall. They need the reassurance that their dentist and team believe in their expertise.

You and your team exude confidence – or not – in many ways. What you say, how you say it, your non-verbal cues, your ability to listen, how others deal with you… these behaviours all contribute to the trust your patients develop.

Here are a few things to think about to build a positive CQ:

  • Be aware of the power of positive thinking and the self-fulfilling prophecy
  • Pepper your vocabulary with positive words: “Absolutely!”, “Of course”, “No problem whatsoever”
  • Train your team to embrace these techniques as well. Get them comfortable with patient-centric comments like “Our dentist is the best!”, “We’ll take care of you!”, “You’ve come to the right place!”
  • Identify and showcase your strengths. Framed diplomas and certificates add gravitas. Framed or counter-top congratulatory postings as team members achieve continuing education show progress. Showcased testimonials and accolades from all sources support the official credentials.
  • Know your weaknesses and learn from your mistakes; correct errors and move on
  • Discuss your curiosity, ongoing learning and continuous improvement
  • Practise stress-reducing strategies. Calmness and control exude confidence
  • Identify and avoid toxic influences; nip negativity in the bud
  • Search for the upside and focus on the can-do
  • Celebrate others’ successes

The next measure looming on the horizon appears to be SQ: Spiritual Quotient. But I’ll leave this one for you to explore at your leisure. Religion and Politics… my parents taught me better.

*There are many theories as to the origin of this expression. My favourite is the Old English barkeep’s system for keeping track of your pints and quarts.

ABELDent News January 2017

The theme of this newsletter is practice success and security. ABELDent has lots to offer your practice on both of those fronts. Take a few minutes to discover what’s new and what’s coming soon. You will also find an invitation to a free webinar that reveals ways to increase the value of your practice. Enjoy!

ABELDent News

What’s in your filing cabinet?

I met a friend for dinner over the holidays. One of those people who go back forever and with whom, within five minutes, you’re able to pick up exactly where you left off. By the time our entrées arrived, she had grimaced in pain three times. It turned out she had an impacted wisdom tooth. It hurt “only when she chewed” and had caused a few infections.

In response to my obvious question, she didn’t really know what she was waiting for to get it extracted. She simply had not got around to it – it was on a long list of things to do. Her dentist had referred her to an oral surgeon well over a year ago and neither had ever followed up. Weeks turned into month, as they tend to do.

I was not there to judge or lecture, but I couldn’t help but wonder why both practitioners would have let this drop. Are their practices so successful that they don’t need the business? Or are their workflows simply not set up to follow through with all their treatment plans? Yes, the patient is an adult and thus responsible for her own care, but even she admitted that a simple email or phone call was all it would take to stop her procrastination.

So that’s pretty low-hanging fruit. How many such cases might you have tucked away in what we like to call your ‘million-dollar filing cabinet’? With ABELDent’s Treatment Manager, the data is at your fingertips. Combining it with email or text alerts through the patient portal makes this kind of follow-up a breeze. Maybe it’s time your team took a look, and started a New Year’s revolution against stale-dated recommendations.

It’s the most stressful time of the year…

Well here we are in December again – already. The time of year when every one of us is celebrating something. The diverse tapestry of our society gives us exposure to so many wonderful traditions, it’s tempting to want to experience everything.

So we can all get a tad stressed with all the chores and commitments that accompany the festivities. You, your patients and your staff… we’re pulled in many directions.

Some stress is positive: daily deadlines and stretch goals give a sense of productivity and achievement. But how do you lessen the negative stress and carry on business as usual?

Here are a few pointers I’ve assembled:

  1. Clear communication is one of the best ways to alleviate stress. Whether or not we like what we hear, knowing the facts removes anxiety.
  2. Use team meetings to discuss what is working and what could work better. Shared problem solving is proven to build accountability, buy-in and purpose.
  3. Having performance benchmarks in place – Key Performance Indicators – makes it straightforward to monitor and track progress and help everyone know where they stand.
  4. In most cases, anxiety is caused not by an event, but by how we choose to deal with it. Poorly handled stress is a chief cause of workplace illness. So train your team on how to recognize stress and react: the basic techniques of counting to ten, taking a walk, focusing on facts, practising empathy – they all can help. Remembering that others are also under stress, and don’t get up in the morning planning to irritate you.
  5. Understand that different people have different ways of managing stress. In today’s diverse, multi-generational workforce, there are many differing styles, priorities and motivators. Men and women handle stress differently, so it’s good to recognize the need to distract or retreat (men) against the need to talk and be listened to (women).
  6. More than at any other time of year, staff appreciate a bit of flexibility in their schedule in December. Who wouldn’t relish a 10:00 am trip to the mall on a weekday? This can be do-able if the team is willing to bank hours and cover for each other as they take their turn. Time is often the best gift you can give.
  7. At the risk of preaching to the choir… stay healthy. Encourage flu shots, hand washing and liberal doses of hand sanitizer for your team and your patients.

I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

Blissfully Exempt from Disaster (today, anyway)

Here we are between Canadian and American Thanksgiving festivities. I must say, I am thankful every day to wake up exactly where I do. For many reasons, but mostly right now for the reliability of our weather patterns.

It is heartbreaking to watch the wrath of Mother Nature unfold on the news, seeing homes buried in mudslides or people wading through waist-deep flooded offices. Hurricanes and wild fires, tornados and volcanoes. Homes, businesses, highways and entire communities demolished… it seems to be increasingly frequent and alarmingly closer to home.

When I watch the news coverage of these events, I can’t help but wonder how many dental practices might be affected. I worry about customers who have not yet made the time for official data backup and disaster recovery measures. Like insurance payouts that help rebuild, accurately backed-up data and system files can help turn a potential disaster into a minor inconvenience.

We have a contingency plan in place. Do you?

Ransomware: scarier than ever!

Around this time last year, I posted a blog about a couple of dentists whose practices were endangered by sinister ransomware. I reported that the security company McAfee had charted a 165% year-on-year increase in ransomware attacks.

Clearly, this nasty behaviour has not gone away. On September 29, 2016, OntarioMD issued a bulletin to all physicians using Electronic Medical Records systems to be extra-vigilant about security. They’re seeing an escalating trend in ransomware threats and caution that healthcare professionals in particular are being targeted by cybercriminals.

We passed the warning along to our medical customers and want to also share it with our dental customers. The OntarioMD bulletin contains sound advice about how to deal with such a threat and, more important, steps to take to protect your practice in the first place.

Last year’s post had similar tips. Maintaining current data and system backup files off site is one great way to thwart cybercriminals and limit ghoulish behaviour to one night per year.