Managing and Leading for a Happy Team

From Dr. Britt Reagin:

When I started practicing orthodontics in 2006 I had exactly zero hours in education on how to manage people. My mentors were Michael Scott from the office and Mr. Burns from the Simpsons. Being extroverted I had spent my life around people and I had a good idea of how to get along with others, but I had no real background on managing or leading others.

That lead to a rough start and plenty of mistakes.

One mistake in particular was how I attempted progress reviews. Not having any prior experience in reviewing staff, I simply listened to the masses on Google of how to do a proper performance review. After reading several articles from “experts” it seemed the best method was to use “the sandwich technique”?

It goes like this: employee you are doing a good job at X, you need improvement on Y and you are doing a good job on Z.

Seems pretty simple.

Well, if you have ever given a review like this you know that all the team member recalls is the Y….what they are not doing well. I remember the feeling I had after serving up what I thought were “subway approved sandwiches” to our employees. Only to find out over time that this type of review breeds negativity, distrust, and a lack of fulfillment in one’s work.

All they heard was that I did not value them as an employee.

As I was doling out these “amazing sub sandwiches” I was also being sure to correct folks when they made a mistake. We were going to run a tight and perfect ship and the only way to do that is to make sure people know when they mess up….right? Isn’t that what managers are supposed to do? Go around looking for mess ups and then correct them. Over time I felt like all I could see was what was not going right and all our team was feeling was “oh God, I hope I don’t mess up today.” Let me tell you, this is no way to lead, manage, or encourage others.

Something had to change and that something was ME. I needed a paradigm shift in managing and leading people. I had to learn and learn fast.

This time I took care to research and read books on business, management, and leadership. I cannot count how many books I inhaled during this time and in a matter of months. Some of my favorites were: The E Myth (Gerber), Five Levels of Leadership (Maxwell), and Extreme Ownership (Willink).

In addition to reading, I sought out advice from other leaders that I valued as mentors and friends. Several but not all of these folks were: Mike H., Gary B., Brian A., and Josh R. They all had a major influence on me and the way I lead my team now.

Mike taught me that when I help others achieve their goals, my goals will take care of themselves.

Our performance reviews instantly changed, I now ask 4 basic things:

  1. How do you think you are performing in key areas of the business?
  2. What are your goals in the work place and how can I help you achieve them?
  3. What are your goals personally, and if you give me permission how can I help you achieve them?
  4. How can I improve as a leader?

Gary taught me to always put my best foot forward and let God take care of the rest. Brian taught me what it means to be a caring teammate, and that we are in this together…even when we have bad days…we can still have each other’s back. I needed to be more caring and compassionate. Josh taught me to look for the positive in our staff and what they are doing right and praise them when I see it.

This will breed a culture of trust and positivity.

Slowly and baby step after baby step it has started to change for me. I cannot thank the authors and mentors enough for their advice and example along the way. I am not managing perfectly by any stretch, but I am better than I used to be☺

I will list a few additional tips below:

  • You do not have a staff, you have a team, and you are part of that team.
  • Start your day with a team huddle and if possible (depending on the size of the team) everyone can have a part.
    • In our huddle we start with a positive quote, talk about the day ahead, recite our customer service Core 4 (got this from Chic-fil-A), read an online review and say a “tip” from our tip jar. Our tips are interoffice pats on the back, that build each other up. In the huddle each person, except me, has a role.
  • Read a team book at least once per year. Start with the Energy Bus if you have not yet done one. Let someone else lead the discussion.
  • Do performance reviews where the team member evaluates themselves, sets goals and evaluates you as a leader. Then help them reach their professional goals and if they give you permission you can also help them reach personal goals.
  • Acknowledge their hard work and efforts and never take the credit yourself.
  • Praise in public and criticize in private. And when you have to talk to someone about “a thing”, you need to be specific and set clear expectations and tell them why it is important.
    • Example, Susie I really need you be sure and call the patient by name 2-3 times during the visit. The most important word to another person is their name, and when you use their name it makes them feel good. Most people do not know what we did or how well we did it, but they know how we made them feel. If you make them feel good they will tell other people about our office. When they do that it helps all of us keep our jobs and be able to do fun things as a team.

Our team is not perfect, but we are trying to continually improve a little bit at a time.

Good luck on your management and leadership journey and feel free to reach out if you have any questions for me. If you would like a copy of our performance review (which is a collaboration of others before me) please email manager@drorthodontics.com and we will be happy to share.

Let us know how we can help!

Dr. Britt Reagin

3 Comments

  1. Britt,
    Encouraging and soulful. That is what I call “putting yourself out there”. Job well done and is a great message for anyone really that deals with people on the daily.

  2. Dr Reagin, you are a shining example of true leadership! Anyone can be taught to manage, but true born leaders are those who get in the trenches with the team and help each other achieve. So blessed to have been led to your practice – such a team effort!!

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