PROACTIVE PRACTICE MANAGEMENT
“I want to be sure I'm following the right"ethical" path when delegating tasks and duties to my team. What recommendations do you have to keep me on the straight and narrow?”
Since I’m not an attorney, this
article is not meant to provide legal advice on business ethics. And,
since I am not a licensed dentist in Arizona, I don’t possess the
clinical expertise to evaluate a person’s skill level when providing
dental services. My experience as a practice management consultant and
broker for dentists and dental practices has given me the opportunity to
develop an extensive knowledge and understanding of the business of
dentistry. As a result, I will provide recommendations that I have found
reasonable, prudent, and successful in developing a standard of
excellence in managing the business aspect of dental practices relating
to delegation of duty.
As a matter of course, it’s important
to be knowledgeable and understand the code regulating dentistry as it
relates to unethical conduct. My first recommendation is to reference
Arizona Revised Statues §32-1263 Grounds for disciplinary action;
definition, for an explanation of the code. For the purpose of this
article, I would like to point out the area that meant the most to me
when I researched the stature:
Since 1983, I have been extremely
fortunate to work with exceptional dentists and team members in Arizona
and across the country who embrace the principle imbedded in this
statute. In order to accomplish realistic goals for the development of a
successful dental practice, a foundation in principle must be laid.
Basing these principles on the fundamental concept that what a person is
doing must trace back to the thought of providing services that bring
health, welfare, and safety to the patient and the public is vital to
good business and practice management.
With this in mind, consider how a
dentist may delegate duties to the team so that the practice grows and
ensures that patients become healthy in a safe, professional, and
long wrestled with balancing the duties of a clinician with those of a
manager. And as a dental practice grows, so do the tasks and
responsibilities needed to sustain growth in such a competitive
profession. Effective delegation can dramatically improve the efficiency
of a practice by helping to build teamwork within the staff. And
cooperation and teamwork can contribute to helping staff members to
reach their full potential.
One of the
reasons why people hesitate to delegate is that they believe they can do
things better themselves. However, market forces such as managing the
financial aspects of a dental practice, dealing with managed care,
ensuring compliance with governmental infection control standards,
leading a team of workers, ensuring the practice is following a code of
ethical conduct, and sustaining growth in a competitive environment take
dentists away from productive treatment time. These factors necessitate
the proper distribution of responsibility in such a way that it is
embraced and accepted by the staff.
confuse delegating with dumping. If an employee feels he or she is being
dumped on, then that is probably because a task has been delegated
without adequate authority to carry it out. It’s all in the way one
delegates. Yes, there’s an element of risk in delegating authority.
But if one doesn’t feel comfortable with that risk, it probably means
that the task is being delegated to the wrong person. And if the right
person to delegate to doesn’t exist, it’s time to hire better
Here are some
tips on implementing distributed responsibility effectively:
Remember that the ultimate goal of delegation is neither
to get rid of the work; nor is it just to keep employees busy. The
ultimate goal is to increase the output of the team and the practice.
Don’t delegate the method delegate the task. Let the
person you delegate to determine the method.
Make sure that the person delegated to “buys in” to
the task, agrees to the time frame, and accepts the responsibility. If
one is unwilling to delegate the responsibility, one shouldn’t bother
delegating the task.
Make sure the person delegated to has input into what
constitutes accomplishment. Goals should be measurable.
Once the task is assigned, keep your distance. It’s okay
to ask for updates, but don’t snoop or pry. If you feel you must,
you’ve delegated to the wrong person.
Require reporting, but not excessive reporting.
Follow up only on target dates, or when the project is
finished, or when it should be finished.
Make sure the person delegated to is accountable for his
or her success or failure. Applaud and reward success, discuss and
document failure. If necessary, develop a plan together to improve
Beware of over delegation to superstars. If one employee
is relied upon too heavily, then there is a superstar shortage. And
there may be a bigger superstar shortage if the overloaded superstar’s
workload is not balanced.
Finally, do not confuse the “delegatee” with the “gofer”.
Gofers “go fer”
because they have to.
In summary, the
basis of effective delegation is trust. If one doesn’t trust, then one
can’t delegate. Prepare a plan to carry out the work, implement the
plan, and measure progress. Keep to the principle of ethics that is the
foundation of management and conduct in the practice. Effective
distribution of responsibility will yield leverage by allowing the
dentist to become more productive with their time. Enjoy distributing
responsibilities effectively and witness increased staff productivity,
enhanced practice performance and increased profit.