Managing a team can be a hard, sometimes thankless job, that is often more difficult if you’re new to the role. If you’re new to an office manager role, you might feel overwhelmed that you’re now responsible for the professional success of what was previously a team of peers.
There isn’t just one right answer for how you should manage your team, as every business is different. However, there are some key behaviors that you should adopt (and some to avoid) that will help you lead a successful team.
DO: Set team goals
Through policy and scheduling, it’s important for you to establish the expectations of your employees. If you want to encourage a culture of teamwork, create shared goals that have measurable results. This could be working to cut down appointment cancellations or optimizing the team’s calendar to fit in additional patients.
DON’T: Create new rules for every mistake
You will occasionally run into situations where a member of your staff does something that you don’t have a policy for but negatively impacts your team or practice. Responding by creating a new policy for one mistake will result in that employee feeling singled out. Instead, take the time to have a private conversation with them to explain what problems the incident caused and what they should do differently.
DO: Be transparent
Being upfront and honest with your team will help create a culture where your staff feels trusted and is willing to trust you as their employer. When major changes occur, try to be as open as possible as any information you withhold could be replaced with negative speculation or gossip. If necessary, be transparent about why you’re withholding information (ex. out of respect for a staff member who has left).
DON’T: Pass the buck
In a perfect world, your staff follows the policies you put in place and you never have to reprimand anyone. However, if you have to discipline a member of your staff, don’t hide behind the policy or pass it off as the dentist or organization’s decision. If you don’t appear to take the policy seriously, your staff won’t either.
DO: Be the example
If your expectation is that your staff follow policies, you have to set an example with your behavior. If you’re late, leave early, or take a particularly long lunch, your team will be less likely to follow a strict schedule. If you promote work-life balance but stay late most days, your staff will feel the need to as well.
DO: Strive for consistency
It’s equally important that you implement policies (and rewards) in a consistent manner. It can be discouraging if you make exceptions to policies or give praise to one employee, but not do the same for other employees demonstrating the same behaviors. Make sure that you are treating all your employees equally.
DON’T: Limit feedback to reprimands
If your office is regularly booked or doesn’t have a structure in place for performance reviews, it’s easy for feedback to be limited to policy violations. If you only interact with your staff when something’s wrong, your staff will start to dread meetings with you. Even if you have to schedule a time to do so, make a point to give your staff positive feedback.
DO: Recognize hard work publicly
Whatever is within your budget, try to publicly reward your staff individually and as a team. If an employee takes on additional work to help the team, give them a reward (lunch, a gift card, etc.) or thank them in a morning meeting. If your practice hits a milestone, buy them all lunch in celebration. Let your team know you appreciate their hard work.
While micromanaging seems like an obvious behavior to avoid as a manager, it can be easy to hover over an employee if they’re new or the task has higher priority. If you feel you can’t trust an employee without regularly checking their work, you shouldn’t delegate it to others. If a staff member is new and the task isn’t critical, allow them to make (and work through) their mistakes. You want to give them the opportunity to learn.
DO: Ask for help
It’s very likely that your staff is made up of different specialists whose knowledge in their particular discipline possibly outweighs the broader, more high-level view of your business. This is true of any management position, particularly so in a dental practice. Your role as a manager is to lean into your team’s expertise and delegate tasks based on their strongest skill-set. Don't be afraid to ask for help if someone on your team knows more about a particular topic than you. Asking for help not only lightens your workload but makes your staff feel valued.
Entrepreneur: 14 Management Do’s and Don’ts to Motivate Employees
American Management Association: 10 Management Don’ts
Entrepreneur: The 10 Golden Rules of Effective Management
Harvard Business Review: How Great Managers Manage People