Shifting Contexts to Achieve Better Results

I have regular staff meetings and I always have a morning huddle. We go over the numbers. We set goals and targets. We review the operations and what needs to be corrected to make things work better. However, these meetings rarely produce the outcomes and results I want. Why?



Much of my work is about coaching people to speak in a way that makes a difference. The way you and many dentists speak about what is going on in the practice leaves the staff indifferent, apathetic, and unresponsive. You report activities or numbers in a way that leaves your staff uninspired. If you’re going to speak to your staff, formulate your speaking in a way that makes an impact.

In Stephen Covey’s book “The 8th Habit,” he describes a poll of 23,000 employees drawn from a number of companies and industries. He reports the poll’s findings:

Only 37 percent said they have a clear understanding of what their organization is trying to achieve and why.

Only one in five was enthusiastic about their team’s and organization’s goals.

Only one in five said they had a clear “line of sight” between their tasks and their team’s organization’s goals.

Only 15 percent felt their organization fully enables them to execute key goals.

Only 20 percent fully trusted the organization they work for.

This is pretty sobering. It’s also very abstract. After you read this information, you may walk away thinking, “There’s a lot of dissatisfaction and confusion in these companies.” But the way it is reported, the way it is spoken, generates no real emotional impact. There is no call to action. There is no wonderment about what can be done to change it. Likely there is just a sense of discouragement and resignation, and in a few minutes all of these stats will soon be forgotten.

Covey follows these statistics and superimposes a human metaphor over them: “Let’s say a soccer team had these same scores. Only 4 in 11 of their players on the field would know which goal is theirs. Only 2 of 11 would care. Only 2 out of 11 would know what position they play and know exactly what they are supposed to do. And all but two players, in some way, would be competing against their own team rather than the opponent.”

I’ll say it again – context is decisive. By shifting the context from statistical analysis to a human condition, you hear the same information in a totally different way. And that’s what you need to figure out how to do it (speak it) when you report to your staff. Speak it in a way that gives it a “human context.”

Staff cannot connect to numbers alone. You need to connect the numbers, the stats, or the underperforming activities to match or touch something human so they can embrace what you are saying.

Whether you’re talking to staff or patients, begin to speak in a way that really hits home. “You have extensive distal caries on number 30 that should be addressed immediately or you might need a root canal.”

Or “You have a large cavity on the back of your first molar that if left untreated will most likely cost you the tooth?” Which one grabs you?

“Your job description is clear on room set up, tray set up and seating patients. Please follow the protocol.”

Or “Keeping patients waiting makes them apprehensive and more nervous than they already are. Every minute we’re late raises their anxiety level another notch.” Which one will most like move the assistant to action?

The more you can format your speaking to fit experiences that people have, the more they will hear what you have to say. As an exercise this week, try to design “human” conversations around your numbers and deliver it that way to the staff and see what that gives you.