We hear it all the time from doctors – “Our staff is like family”. And that’s a wonderful concept or at least it seems to be but, really, are they? Words have meaning and just saying things because everyone else does is not useful. Also words are just words – actions and results are all that matter… So do your actions bear out the contention that your staff is like family? We love our Smiley Face Team! It’s hands down the best team we have ever been part of, have ever seen in the hundreds of offices we have visited and even better than any team we have ever heard of. Not only are they the most productive group ever to work in an orthodontic office, they are also marvelously skilled, incredibly caring, internally motivated, considerate, wonderful human beings! Seriously. They are so good that Bridget and I often talk about the fact that we never imagined a team could be this good. And they are compensated accordingly with pay that is the top end of any in our area, plus, an incredibly generous work schedule plus all the respect/honor/dignity they deserve plus all the holiday/end of year perks we pile on plus parties, trips, fun excursions, random little surprises and a ton of thanks! Of course none of us are perfect and our team members do have fantastic days and then they have the days that are only great… Everyone does. Sometimes we make a mistake in hiring and the team lets us know that the new person is causing upsets or not pulling their weight so we have to go through the process of training, coaching, advising, warning and even dismissing employees just like every business owner does. Occasionally we have a team member who gets distracted with personal or family issues to the point that their work suffers and we do our best to help them through that. Sometimes it’s resolved and sometimes not but we try and encourage our team members not allow instability elsewhere interfere with their stable and secure work life. We love our team but like anything, life can be tough. But I digress. We were talking about the ubiquitous claim that “our staff is like family”. Our team is a wonderful group of people who come together regularly to make a good living for themselves and their families by taking exceptional care of other people and their families but we don’t claim they “are like family”. For the most part and on most days we all like one another and get along well – but not everyone and not every day. And that’s ok. We tell new hires that, “you don’t have to love everyone here to be professional and work well with everyone here”. There are friend groups, cliques, language barriers, religious differences, gender differences, racial and even nationality differences among our team members but we are all there with the same goal and we all want to do the best we can every single day. We are often asked

1) seriously? are they that good? this sounds like BS and

2) how did the team get to be this good/fast/skilled and learn to work together so well?(after seeing the team in action)

These are great questions and have to do with

1) a lifetime of doing it wrong in previous orthodontic offices we owned and

2) a wholly different mindset of “Lifestyle First” when it comes to the way we operate at Smiley Face…

but that will all have to wait for another article because we are talking about your staff today and asking if they really are “like family” as you claim they are. We love/respect/appreciate our team and our actions towards them reflect this reality in a way that just saying “our staff is like family” does not.

A few simple questions for you about your staff now that we’ve established our Smiley Face Team is awesome and we love them even though we don’t run around paying lip service to them being “like family”:

  1. Are you proud of what you pay your team? What I mean is, do you pay as much or more than anyone in your area/region/state? It’s easy to look up and also easy to figure out here – do you worry about people leaving or other offices “stealing your staff”? If you worry then the answer to this question is likely no.
  2. Do you create an environment where your team members feel secure/respected enough and confident enough to speak up and even question the doctor when an issue of patient safety, happiness, quality of care or work environment issues arise? If so then when’s the last time someone questioned you or pointed out a mistake you made, doctor? If it’s not happening then that means the team doesn’t feel comfortable because none of us practice error free… not even you!
  3. Is your schedule family friendly in terms of days and hours worked? Does the team get off during important family times for holidays and for school being out? Probably not… because those out of school times are when orthodontists like to work so that new patients can come in!
  4. Do you honor what you say you’ll do by running on time, providing a full lunch period and finishing the day on time? Or do you make everyone suffer because you talk too much, move too slowly and take too long to the point that idea of lunch is a joke and the team has to pay penalties for late pickup at their kids’ day care? Do you show up on time for patients, doctor, or do you consistently make staff wait and suffer for your lateness? If you’re like 90+ percent of doctors, lateness is your thing and your so called family suffers the resulting indignity and abuse in silence.
  5. Do you support your staff when they enforce the rules YOU MADE or do you cave to pressure and make them look bad so you can be the hero and nice guy/gal? For example when the team enforces the scheduling rules about after school appointments or being late and mom pitches a fit saying “I paid 6000 dollars and I deserve…” do you back the staff member up or do you cut the legs out from under them and give mom her way? Odds are it’s the latter and I need to tell you that there is no better way to insure staff will not enforce your rules than to reverse them for doing what they were told and make them look like a jack ass in front of a gloating mom with an “I told you I’d get my way” face.
  6. I could go on, but we will end with just one more simple question… Was your Christmas party at your house, doctor? If not, why not? Your staff is like family after all…

P.S. I’ve been told I’m not being blunt/obvious enough… which is hardly ever an issue for me! So, to be clear, I’m calling BS on 99.9 percent of you who say “our staff is like family”. Your staff (and especially your chairside staff) make it possible for your office to operate and for you to have the life you do. Yet if you answer the questions above honestly – or better yet have your spouse answer them – you’ll find that you could do better for your team. You should. If you do you’ll  find the results of such respect and honor for your team will improve the lives of all involved. And if that’s still not clear enough – I know most of you didn’t have your staff Christmas party at your house because you “don’t want them to see where you live and be jealous and upset at what you have”. Deny it if you want but you know the truth and you know the conversations doctors have every year among themselves about where to have a Christmas party. That’s not good and it’s certainly not how you treat family. Make 2024 the year you make your actions match your words and treat your team like the rock stars they are!