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Leading the Leader: How to Influence the Boss

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Leading the Leader: How to Influence the Boss

It’s a common belief that leadership is from the top down, right? The boss gives the orders and the employees carry them out. But what the employees are leading the practice? Doesn’t seem possible, but there are ways employees can heavily influence decisions while letting the boss be the boss. Actually, it’s quite problematic when a boss is the only one making decisions because it assumes they are always right.  But are they? Probably not. In fact, some might feel their boss struggles to make good decisions a majority of the time. But accuracy isn’t the point because most people in charge are generally open to suggestions, observations, and feedback when handled professionally. The problem, however, is that lots of employees get trapped into a “that’s-their-job-and-this-is-mine” mentality – sometimes out of fear, but also out of apathy. So here are six tips for turning the tables and helping the leader lead. Read the Situation Is today the best day to approach the boss about a problem that needs to be fixed when they just got chewed out by a patient or the office computer system went down for the third time in three days? Or maybe they are having some problems at home with a child or spouse, or their health is a little under the weather. There’s a timing associated with bottom-up leadership that has to be right or the boss will be defensive or see it as less consequential to their bigger issues. Differentiate the Problem from Them No one wants to feel attacked or that this problem defines them as a boss. There’s often a separation between the problem that needs to be addressed and them as a boss overall. It’s important that they understand that this is what is driving the discussion so they don’t feel as threatened and push back or act dismissive. Start the conversation with some praise – something they do or handled well. Then, introduce the problem. Here’s an example: “I want to talk with you about something important, but first, you should know I feel comfortable sharing it with you because you are the kind of boss who is open-minded and receptive to feedback, so I know we can discuss it and find a solution.” Get Permission The boss is still the boss – even when feedback is warranted – so it’s important to show respect. When it’s time to engage them in a difficult conversation, get their permission. Lead off with something like this: “Could I bend your ear for a minute?” or “Would it be okay if we talked about yesterday’s situation with Mrs. Jones?” Focus on the Big Picture Small business employers are accustomed to dealing with micro problems – it’s not often when an employee communicates the bigger picture that this small problem represents. Yet, it’s far more powerful when a boss is given some context to little issues. Discussing the bigger picture helps communicate a concern for a solution and not just whining about the problem. Assume the Positive If it were possible to see inside the boss’ head or see things from their perspective, otherwise bad decisions might not look so bad. Since it’s not possible to know all the intentions of an employer, one good piece of advice is to assume the best until proven...

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The Cost of Ignoring Your Office Conflict

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One of the most common leadership approaches to office spats or conflict is to ignore or “let it work itself out.” While this approach brings mild immediate relief to the leader, it’s often temporary and short-sighted. Big problems are the product of small-problem neglect.   Prolific author David Augsburger once wrote: “The more we run from conflict, the more it masters us; the more we try to avoid it, the more it controls us; the less we fear conflict, the less it confuses us; the less we deny our differences, the less they divide us.”   The impact of big office conflict is typically three-pronged: the employees, the patients or customers, and the employer. But let’s mainly focus on the employees themselves because this is where the problem begins, and where you have the most control to address and end it.   Doing Nothing   Simply put, office conflict makes otherwise great employees hate their jobs. They will loathe their co-workers, boss or supervisor, and even patients. This doesn’t happen all at once, but the longer a problem goes un-addressed the greater the potential for inter-office factions, gossiping, and other divisive outcomes.   As you might guess, this not only diminishes their efficiency, quality of work, and productivity, it kills it. And, thus, their job performance will quickly become yet another issue for you to address.   If you decide to keep them and work it out, it will be necessary to continue to monitor their performance to see if it returns or will need some encouragement. If you decide to dismiss them, you are looking at having to recruit, interview, hire, and train another employee, and all the associated costs involved.   Then there’s the trickle-down effect of the behavior and outcomes for even just one employee. Other employees will no doubt take note of the extra monitoring or dismissal and become more fearful of their own jobs, creating an increased wedge between employer and employees.   Finally, none of this happens in an interoffice vacuum. Patients are also impacted and that leads to retention, production, and an impact on the very purpose for which you are in business. And that, finally hits you as the practice owner or manager – your livelihood. The long-term success of your business depends on your leadership in times of trouble and putting out small fires to avoid big ones.   Take Action   If you hadn’t thought much about it before this article, hopefully you are reminded of the importance of immediate action to address office conflict. Don’t let the small squabbles turn into huge problems. Here are a few tips.   Communication It can’t be understated enough how important communication is, even if you are not experiencing office conflict. If you are not having regular staff meetings and one-on-one meetings with individuals you are creating an environment that is ripe for conflict. Staff need the opportunity to freely and fearlessly express problems. If they don’t trust you as a leader in sharing this information, they will do it with someone else and that leads to the gossiping, factions, and other divisive behavior mentioned earlier.   Watch for Warning Signs   Sometimes an employer or boss is aloof initially to problems because employees try to keep them under wraps out of...

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How to Cut the Cost of Office Drama and Get Back to Work

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There’s a good chance your office’s biggest expense has nothing to do with state-of-the-art equipment or insurance companies. According to a 2008 study organized by CPP Inc. — a company most known for its Myers-Briggs Assessment — found that employees in the U.S. spend 2.1 hours per week involved with conflict.   That may seem minimal at first glance, but when you consider the lost time producing a great experience for your patients, the viral-like nature of “office drama,” and the potential that customers will experience and feel this tension, it’s more than a few dollars. In fact, it’s quite possibly your biggest expense.     Sadly, most business owners struggle to handle these issues swiftly and decisively in a way that leaves everyone feeling better or resolved. The traditional approach of ignoring may temper flare-ups and allow for more rational exchanges, but these are really only the surface. Rarely are conflicts isolated, as they tend to build in layers until a tipping point is reached and you end up with an even more time-consuming problem.   Get a Conflict Resolution Policy   The most important thing you can do about workplace conflict is anticipate and prepare. Well before it strikes – and don’t kid yourself, it will strike – you need a written plan. You need a unique strategy document that guides you and employees through the process of how conflict is managed at your office.   Formally called a “Conflict Resolution Policy,” this can be a stand-alone document or just one section of your employee handbook. It can be several pages or several paragraphs, but in summary it needs to address your definition of conflict, your office’s approach to it, and how leadership role.   When done right, a conflict management policy removes some of the pressures associated with you being the “bad guy” or one to resolve the conflict and places them squarely on the policy itself. The policy acts as a neutral third party, leaving little or nothing to question and putting you in a more favorable or easier role of facilitator simply guiding the process.   Sure, there are lots of “templates” or language on the Internet you can easily locate, copy, and paste. But does it really fit what’s unique about your office? And, further more, who created it? Are they an expert – have they ever dealt with or trained leaders and offices on the subject of resolving disputes?   Hire a Professional   If you are really serious about your business and the harmful affects of workplace conflict on your balance sheet, then consider hiring a professional who works with you to create a thoughtful, concise, and unique conflict management policy that eliminates confusion and instills confidence.   At Dolak Dispute Resolution, we are experts on conflict. We’ve been there, done that, and have helped many business owners and managers through the nuances of not only dealing with all kinds of scenarios, but crafting conflict management policies that align with their vision, culture, and managerial style mixed with industry standards and best practices.   Work place conflict is likely your office’s biggest expense, and can quickly grow larger if not kept in check. Hiring a pro to help you draft a well-defined conflict management policy that is unique to the individual...

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Share Your Dental Office Conflict

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Share Your Dental Office Conflict

Share your experience with conflict in the dental office. You can remain anonymous by placing a first name and last initial at the end of your story. I will use your story in a dental conflict workshop scenario and post on this website. Please note if this is an ongoing issue or how it was resolved if you would like to include it in your story. Email Your Story Thank You Sharon Dolak...

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Leading the Leader: How to Influence the Boss

It’s a common belief that leadership is from the top down, right? The boss gives the orders and the employees carry them out. But what the employees are leading the practice? Doesn’t seem possible, but there are ways employees can heavily influence decisions while letting the boss be the boss.

Actually, it’s quite problematic when a boss is the only one making decisions because it assumes they are always right.  But are…

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R.Lauck, J. Corley