By definition, a high performance team is one that has blended together two primary components – the Achievement Component and the Relationship Component. In the Achievement Component, the team is very clear about their vision, shared goals, tasks and common interests. In addition to their clarity of knowledge about them, they are extremely committed to achieving them. In the Relationship Component, members of the team have caring, loving relationships within the team. As friends, they exhibit strong evidence of trust, respect and support and yet these characteristics do not prevent them from holding each other accountable to a high standard. The leader of a high performance team must understand the balance necessary between the two components.
The role of the Coach is to continually review the performance of the team and to ensure that balance is in place between the Achievement and Relationship Components. In addition, the coach must be committed to help and guide the team to achieve that balance.
Let’s look at the characteristics of these components.
THE ACHIEVEMENT COMPONENT
A high performance team love what they do. They pour their hearts into their work that they love. Doing what you love creates energy. It creates a contagious positive attitude. Bonnie Blair, speed skater (Gold medal Olympic winner) in all of her interviews says, “I love to skate!” High performance teams look for the joy in their work because those who are the best at what they do realize that joy lies in going to work. When you enjoy your work, it is easy.
A high performance team takes enthusiastic ownership of the “goals” of the team:
… They cooperatively set goals, ever challenging each other to do better. Goals are regularly established … at least annually … and are regularly revised based upon performance. Goals are set for all parameters of the practice including production by provider and operatory, collections, receivables, preappointing, chart auditing, timing of procedures, operating and capital cost forecasts, bonus forecasts, new patients, marketing and staffing levels. Past history is used as a basis. A dental team can model the best of companies and set the goals in the same manner as other well-run businesses that have income expectations of a million or more.
… They measure all aspects of the goals and are excited about this process. To function without measurement would diminish the enthusiasm the team places on results. Goals are meaningless unless results are measured, in detail, and later compared to the goals. Monitoring systems, preferably computerized, allow the team on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to analyze results, celebrate continually and take action to correct or enhance results. The individuals who set the goals are accountable to measure, report and take corrective action. The key word here is ownership. High performance teams declare ownership of all results.
… They continually adjust their activities to meet the goals without making each other wrong and are highly flexible in the variety and nature of their approaches. When goals are not being attained, the team members elegantly communicate with each other, in a masterminding environment, to collectively create solutions. The result is both individual and team accountability and ownership.
… They are clear that this is a process made up of a series of outcomes. The team realizes that they are on a journey (some even aspire to being on a pilgrimage) that has no end. As each new goal is achieved, another one has already been set. Therefore, the journey develops a map all of its own designed by the successes and failures of the team.
… They celebrate each outcome as part of the process. The team has certainty in their success, so in order to prevent the fading of focus, interest and commitment, they create variety. Variety on a daily basis is accomplished by celebrating every success possible, recognizing as a team that individual effort is what contributes to the whole. Therefore the team stays focused on ways to reward and celebrate. A celebration can be as simple as the clinical team ending the day with a group hug for the scheduler. Celebrations are motivational because each team member is clear that their strength lies within and is dependent on each other. They also operate out of the belief that the more you give, the more you receive. Therefore, giving becomes a part of their culture and requires no thought or effort.
… They continually focus on making the future better than the present. Peak performance coach, Anthony Robbins, in his C.A.N.I.! ® model so elegantly states, “Without Continuous and Never Ending Improvement, life becomes jaded and boring. One of our greatest human needs is growth. It is important to continually work to find a better way.” The team and particularly the leader must create an environment where risk is encouraged and failure is regarded as a learning process. Utilization of the experiences of success and failure are valuable for team performance improvement. A team, whose theme is ‘How can we do it even better?’ has the potential of moving people forward, is motivated by the results and knowing that rewards are extraordinary.
… They embrace “help”. They love continuing education, they are eager to model others and thrive on learning better ways of doing things. They will investigate and research new products, materials and equipment and are enthusiastic about reinvestment in the business. The team knows that by providing their patients the best that their profession has to offer, in terms of procedures, skill and technology, that growth and profitability are inevitable. They are also very clear that continuing education is an individual responsibility and they will support the doctor to learn as much as possible in order to increase their value on the team. They take accountability to research new courses so that it is not left to the doctor to shoulder full responsibility for continuing education.
… They are excited about creating wealth for themselves and the doctor and have an expectation that high performance deserves high rewards in terms of salary, benefits and bonuses. The team actively work with the doctor and advisors on how best to invest and manage financial resources so that each member can attain a point of financial certainty as they so justly deserve.
… They do not have nor can they imagine an “hourly mentality”. They will do ‘whatever it takes’ to care for their patients and each other, even if it means that, on occasion, they have a short lunch or a late day. These high performance teams are unconditional, thus their work is not a job, it is a career. They are clear that if the practice is not functioning smoothly, then they are the ones who can take the necessary corrective action. As a colleague, Dick Vessels said, “There are three kinds of people in the world – Winners, Whiners and the Walking Dead”. A high performance team is very clear that whining gets nothing, whereas winning gets everything.
… They are committed to supporting the achievement and relationship components with weekly staff meetings. Their outcomes for staff meetings are mercenary – knowing that this time invested is priceless. They believe that meetings must be positive and productive – that staff meetings provide the platform to discuss corrections and declare improvements. These meetings offer the opportunities to recommit to vision, goals and support for the team.
… They also know that without the ‘SOOT’, ‘SOT’ and ‘GOOT’, they cannot sustain high performance on a long term basis. These acronyms are a fun way of coaching time elements throughout the day.
… SOOT – Starting Out On Time. When you begin late, you often end late. When the appointment time is scheduled for 8:00 am, this means that the patient is seated at 8:00 am. If a staff member or a doctor is unclear about this, then a team conversation and agreement must take place.
… SOT – Staying On Time. Staying on time is the key to reducing stress and chaos for everyone. Time has become an increasingly precious commodity. A contract was established between the patient and the team when the scheduler and the patient agreed upon the appointment time. It is a breach of that contract to run late. Should procedures overrun scheduled times on a regular basis, then they must be re-timed, discussed and evaluated for clearer scheduling guidelines. If a patient is forced to wait more than a few minutes beyond their appointment time, an elegant, honest explanation must be given. The days of patient mistreatment by way of unnecessary waiting, are long over .. especially in an arena including elective services where the patient has many choices.
… GOOT – Getting Out On Time. Getting out on time is a must for every single member of the team. It is an unending source of amazement to this writer that many practices routinely run late. By definition, this means that there are team members working in the practice fifteen to twenty minutes after the last patient departed. It is very possible to have it all – high production, happy patients, quality work, enthusiastic team and getting out on time. This takes teamwork by a team who never gives stories or reasons why it will not work and living within the belief that it is possible.
… A High Performance Team insists on “Morning Huddles” before the day starts. They know that their day will result in high performance when they spend a few minutes together adjusting the day’s schedule and validating their team relationships. The High Performance Team knows that preparation creates the day … the win. They know that preparation creates the best environment for their patients. Each day is viewed as a new challenge and an opportunity to do their best. With this focus first thing in the morning, individuals and teams win more frequently because they set themselves up to win. Anything less than this is not an option.
… A High Performance Team insists on an “Evening Huddle” to review the performance of the day and to acknowledge each other for the team effort. When the team makes great plays throughout the day, they must be recognized. Acknowledgment of the successes of the day stimulates the team to feel good about their accomplishments and reinforces their plan. Acknowledging treatment results of their patients and relationships create the energy to return the next days and perform at a higher standard.
… They are very clear that the source of their success demand constant focus on the four major components of the “Practice Wheel”.
1. New Patients – they market continuously, both internally and externally. Internally, the team is clear that within the practice they must ensure that their patients become and stay their “Raving Fans”. A peak performance team is very clear that raving fans refer the majority of new patients. External marketing is a continuum. Daily, the team must have a plan to keep the public informed about their office. People must know that they are open for business and that they provide extraordinary service.
2. Preappoint – In a general practice, no patient departs without an appointment, either in hygiene or operative. The goal is to have every patient of record with an appointment. A dental business does not need thousands of files to have a million dollar plus practice. It is easily achievable with twelve hundred patient files. In a specialty practice, all patients are appointed for follow-up, indicative for each specialty. Preappointing takes a proactive team whose preappointing goal is in the high 90 percentile.
3. Reactivation – a regular review of files to ensure that no one has “slipped between the cracks”. Voice contact with patients is essential to support their specific needs and challenges. The goal for every call is to establish a relationship of trust so that the patient will schedule an appointment to follow through on their necessary care.
4. Diagnosis, Treatment Planning and Case Presentation – each individual member of a high performance team – from the administration area to the clinical team – is thoroughly familiar with all procedures, how they relate to overall patient care, how long they take and approximately how much they cost. The primary focus is to make patients aware of the opportunities available to them to sustain high quality oral care and to encourage them to consider elective procedures, based on individual patient needs and wants. Elegant, congruent communication through trained languaging skills will build urgency within the patient to place their oral care as a high priority within the multitude of needs and wants that they have. This is not a conversation about insurance, this is a conversation about patients making better choices and allocating resources to meet those choices. If insurance can help, so much the better.
… A high performance team is an enrollment machine. With integrity, congruency and love for the work they do and the care they show to their patients, the team knows that patients need support in order to manage all objections related to nonacceptance of treatment. A peak performance team know that there is alignment in the caring process.
Making use of high tech tools in the enrollment process increases the likelihood of enrollment through ownership. Ownership is the ultimate step in diagnosis and case presentation and is enabled and accelerated through the use of intraoral cameras, imaging systems, digital radiography, lite pen computerization and basic organization and preparation. Once the patient takes ownership of their teeth and has the desire for improvement, enrollment is largely complete.
… A high performance team has fun!
THE RELATIONSHIP COMPONENT
The most challenging and difficult parts of maintaining the completeness and continuity of a high performance team lie within the Relationship Component. Within the Relationship Component exists a paradox… how to maintain close, loving, respectful, supportive empathetic relationships while at the same time holding each other to high performance standards on a continual basis. It’s imperative that the team knows how to make those necessary corrections without “going out of relationship”. If the team loses focus on high standards and is out of relationship, the subsequent pain, upset, and sometimes tears, impairs the focus on the most important person in the practice – the patient.
To manage the Relationship Paradox and to keep the high performance team intact, there must be three essential pieces in place. All are equal … the loss of one will destroy the team.
1. Vision, Purpose, Mission Statement – the team must create, be clear, understand and be committed to the vision they create. Without a vision, the necessary human need of coming together for the purpose of contribution is lost – it, literally, will then be “all about money”.
2. Agreements or Code of Conduct – the team must create through workshops, a list of agreements that govern their relationship so that a safe environment is in place. This code of conduct supports team members who “lose their way” and assists, through questions, to lead them back to who they really are as a team and to what their vision is. A high performance team member will know when they are not performing and will ask for help before conditions or circumstances result in a loss of communication.
3. Communication Skills – a high performance team works hard on developing elegant, effective, appropriate communication skills both with themselves and their patients. Many upsets so easily occur when, with the best of intentions, the wrong words are used or the body language of the team member makes the communication incongruent. The moment team members are out of relationship, the high performance team is no better than any other team – they have fallen back to average. Quality communication takes basic understanding of why and how we communicate. It is essential that the team be taught these skills.
With these three legs of vision, agreements and communication skills, the Relationship Component remains intact.
To be an outstanding coach, the following factors must be in place:
… You must be clear about the characteristics for your team. Take time to think about this and write them down, study them – be specific with your definitions. Include how you want them to act, look and relate. When you are clear in you mind and heart about the details of who your team must be for you and your patients, you will coach with ease. Become clear in your mind regarding the level of performance that are requirements and also the level of performance that you will not accept. This exercise in clarity will support you to determine what you want as your business culture. Coaching is fun when it is effortless.
… You must set clear expectations. Your team must know what you expect from them – in detail. They must know what you expect in their appearance, how to relate to each other and patients, what level of clinical care you expect and how they communicate and deliver the business systems that support your business. They will give you what you need when they know what it is that you expect.
… You must set clear responsibilities and roles. They must know what their job descriptions are and must be clear that a job description always includes ‘and whatever else I can do to support my team’.
… You must create clarity regarding the integrity of the entire team. Each member of the team has equal accountability to win as a team or lose as a team. The team must know that there will be fairness from you and that you operate out of impartiality. No individual is better or less than others on the team. Winning or losing is a team effort. The team must know that they did not lose because of one person on the team – everyone has equal status to contribute to the loss or gain.
I’m sure, at this point, you are thinking, “What happens when I have one or more persons on the team who excel, who are always out in front, people who are my leaders?” Some people are destined to be leaders and will out perform others. This is fact and will happen. It is important to coach those people to integrate their leadership into the team so that the team does not lose the spirit of oneness. This requires skill. The team must know that this is a possibility. Ultimately, it becomes the role of the star performers to promote team spirit and acknowledge all contributions made by the rest of the team. There is balance to this idea. For instance, when an individual athlete wins an award or trophy, he acknowledges that it was possible because of his team. Sometimes, it’s a large team – other times, it’s the family team. When stars shine, there are always others who created the inspiration for the star to win. True star players recognize this. This recognition creates team, therefore the coach’s work is easy.
Be willing for the team to make mistakes …. make this a part of your culture. When a team knows there will be no condemnation when errors occur, they will feel more free to take risks. When the belief of the coach and team is that there are no failures, only learning experiences, the team is then free to learn from all experiences. They learn from the winning experiences and the unsuccessful ones. Learning from a less than successful result sets the team up to succeed the next time. They have the same talents when unsuccessful as they do when they succeed. A high performance team will recognize all results and will do what it takes to correct the errors. Meanwhile, the coach must be willing to address all experiences. Applaud the winnings and coach the errors. When coaching this high performance team, remember that one of their characteristics is to be solution oriented. They are determined to mastermind for improvements.
Coaching a high performance team requires learning the skill of asking questions. When errors occur, the question to ask is: “What do you believe needs to happen to get a better result?” The team knows that this question lays no blame because they have a clear understanding of the intent.
Now that you have developed your list of expectations, you must inform the team of your philosophy, your values and your vision for your business. Your team must become missionaries for you. This evangelistic approach from the team will support new team members as they are being interviewed and hired.
When looking for new people to add to the team, be clear on the qualities and skills you are seeking. Look for people who love life, are willing to learn and grow, have positive attitudes and are enthusiastic about the possibility of having a place on your team. They must believe in the simplicity that being a part of a team must be fun. Just as marketing is in constant motion, so is the process of seeking great team players. As the leader and coach, your goal is to focus on the refinement of the team, therefore you will always be in the process of looking for people that you can hire for where you want your business to be, rather than where your business is currently.
When hiring new members for the team, all philosophy, values and visions must be shared, in detail. For instance, if integrity is a high value for you, then the definition of what integrity represents for your team must be explained to interviewees. It’s amazing how many people hear words such as integrity and actually do not know how others relate to it or live it. When interviewing, you must leave no doubt about the code of conduct and standards that are requirements on the team.
Coaching your players centers around the concept of helping people grow within the team. This growth requires the team to be challenged and asked to set new goals for improvement. When improvement occurs, acknowledge and congratulate.
Recognize and acknowledge the great talents of each individual. Praise them individually in public and criticize in private. Every member of the team has individual talents that together add up to a great team. Set up ways to recognize and acknowledge the wins of each player. Doing this regularly sets the morale and spirit of teamwork. In order for the team to become a high performance team, all talents and strengths of the individual must be reinforced.
Teamwork is highly rewarding when the team realize that they can learn lots from others. Recognizing that a single individual does not have all the talent or the answers, is the first step for people to create high performance. High performance will bloom when individuals on the team seek to understand the differences each player brings to the team and ultimately puts others first.
The ultimate winner is the patient.
If coaching has been difficult for you, create the belief that coaching is fun and easy. In order to have the fun and ease in coaching, take time to read this chapter again and develop your criteria to match your values and philosophy. Taking this first step will make the following steps easier and your path less bumpy. Make coaching a part of your daily life. Some leaders only coach when there’s a fire burning. Make coaching simple … believe that it is. Be willing to be the example of your values and expectations and set your path to learning the power of asking great questions.
Use the power of questions to coach. Avoid telling, as this puts people on the defensive. Instead, ask great questions. Once an answer is given, then the ownership sets in and they own the answer well enough to understand. Questions form the basis for good coaching. What are you willing to learn from this chapter and apply immediately for better results?
Congratulations on your commitment to be the best coach for your team and best wishes to you and your team for a fulfilled journey.