Have you ever been surprised by a staff-member tending their resignation? You shouldn’t be. I say they should have felt safe enough, and seen you open enough, to share their feelings before it came to quitting. More on that in a minute…

In my early days of staff management, I never used to ask people if they were satisfied in their role. What if they said ‘no’? What if they requested something that the business could not give. What if their input opened up a ‘can of worms’? So to avoid this uncomfortable situation, I simply avoided this kind of discussion. However there was a cost to closing off this level of communication: my awareness.

Once I owned my own practice, I felt more obliged to the people I worked with. After all, I was the one who was now in control of the working environment that was created. I decided to take on that responsibility enthusiastically and be proactive in my management of staff happiness. I did this by incorporating the following three elements:

  1. Open and Eager: Whenever a staff member approached me for discussion, I immediately stopped what I was doing (baring speaking with a patient) and smiled at them with an ‘eager to please’ intention. I wanted to know how I could help. The more happy the staff member, the better their approach to patients. The more problems I solve for them, the higher their personal performance. Therefore it was in my interests, and the interests of the business to maintain a high level of happiness with the staff. To gain the needed clarity around troublesome issues, it was up to me to create the environment where staff felt encouraged and safe to communicate with me.
  2. One-on-One Discussions: Every few months I would directly ask each staff member how they were traveling. What is making them feel happy within the practice? What is making them feel unhappy? Is there anything I can do to create a better environment for them? As an employee, this step truly shows how much they feel cared for. (Feeling ‘cared for’ is one of the top reasons staff remain loyal.)
  3. I quickly dispelled the fears of not having a solution for every issue by releasing the need to deliver a fix straight away. Sometimes there is an obvious and easy solution, and that’s great. But for those trickier times, my response was, “I hear you. Leave it with me so I can mull things over. I’ll get back to you with a plan.” This is a powerful sentence because it, i) reassures the staff member that what they say is important, therefore they are important, ii) lets you step away and create the time and head-space you need to deliberate, and iii) assures the employee that you both have the power, and also intend to, make things right.

What if there are no solutions to a problem? The decision to keep things as they are for now and discuss instead how staff can better process the challenging situation is also a resolution. There is growth and development in that space. The answer is not always going to be exactly what the staff member wants, or exactly what the business wants. A solution is often a negotiation towards something that suits both.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become you habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.”-Mahatma Gandhi

I thought of the above quote from Mahatma Gandhi. I have always loved it and in fact use it as my ‘behaviour map’. I determined that to be able to address my actions I needed to first address my beliefs. Did I honestly hold the belief that running a business would not have problems? That staff would never be sick? That lab results would always arrive on time? That every process I implemented would be instantly embraced by all staff? I have been working in dental surgeries for 28 years and these three events happen…ALL THE TIME! So I changed my belief to using Pareto’s 80:20 principle. Things run smoothly 80% of the time, and then 20% of the time, they don’t. I embraced this concept.

So if you want to avoid losing good people, only discovering their reasons for unhappiness at the time they quit, I encourage you to develop your communication skills.

Provoke the clarity you need to keep your best people at their best.

Julie Parker
DirJulie Parker Practice Success
m. 0407 657 729
e. julie@julieparkerpracticesuccess.com.auuli Parker was the first non-dentist to own a dental practice in Australia. After 10 successful years of managing her practice in Brighton, Victoria, Julie joined forces with Australasia’s Passion Provocateur, Charles Kovess, to create Julie Parker Practice Success. They are on a mission to teach all dental teams the strategies and know-how of achieving great success.

107/18-34 Station Street,
Sandringham VIC 3191 Australia

T: +61 407 657 729
E: julie@julieparkerpracticesuccess.com.au