The Hard Conversations Around Accountability: (Spoiler) They Do NOT Have to be as Hard as You Think!

The Hard Conversations Around Accountability: (Spoiler) They Do NOT Have to be as Hard as You Think!

One of the hardest aspects of being the CEO of your practice is holding your team accountable when their performance is not measuring up.

Let’s face it, most dentists try to be people pleasers. They want their patients to be happy. They want their team to be happy. Conversations about poor performance can be hard. They can be very emotional and lead to one thing we never like to see in a dental office – unhappy faces!

As a result, many dental CEO’s put these conversations off, hoping things will magically improve. But the longer you wait, the harder these conversations become. And all that time you are waiting and hoping, you may be permitting poor attitudes or performances to bring the entire team down without taking any steps to rectify it.

I certainly do advocate that you be well prepared when you need to have a difficult conversation. Know what you want to say…practice it…anticipate how you might respond to the other person’s reaction. This is not the time to go in “off the cuff.”

When you are prepared, you may find these conversations are actually harder in your own mind than they are in reality. This is particularly the case if you have “set the table” properly.

What do I mean by “set the table”?

I am referring to how effectively you have communicated your expectations to your team. Have you delegated responsibility in such a way that your instructions were clear, precise, and easy to understand? Have you provided the necessary training so your team can fulfill their responsibilities? Do you check in periodically to make sure things are going as expected? I am not talking about micromanaging, but some follow up may be needed. Make it abundantly clear that you will provide any necessary training to enable them to meet your expectations.

Then you need to consider your own behaviour as the CEO. Did you support your team and reinforce the responsibility you delegated to them? Or did you undermine their authority by essentially vetoing any decisions they have made?

If you want to delegate the responsibility for vacation scheduling to your office manager, you have to let that manager do the job. If a team member comes crying to you because they cannot get the last minute vacation request approved, you have to support your manager’s decision. Otherwise, you simply are not allowing them the chance to do the job you supposedly asked them to do!

However, if you have set clear expectations, if you have provided the necessary training, and if you have reinforced their authority, then you have properly “set the table.” If a team member is still underperforming, then it might be time for that “hard” conversation – one that holds that individual accountable.

Now, here is the thing, when you have “set the table” correctly, the other person likely knows they are underperforming. They will expect to be held accountable, it will not come as a surprise. So with the right approach, the conversation is often not as difficult as you think.

Just do not focus on laying blame if possible. Make your conversation all about finding a solution rather than the other person’s failure. Be measured, respectful, and helpful. Frame it as a growth opportunity as much as possible.

When you follow all of these steps, most people will agree that, as a CEO, you were fair. They will respect you for all that you did. And that can be one of the highest compliments you will ever receive as a CEO!

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