Think Like a Doctor, Part 9: The What, Why, and How of Constructive Feedback

Uncategorized Dec 13, 2019

Staff members frequently use the term “I was NEVER told.”   Often, they were told in some form or another, but for some reason, it just wasn’t clear.  

Constructive feedback is focused information based on observations intended to help the person receiving the feedback.  In a Periodontal practice, the staff relies on the doctor's feedback to know how they’re doing and whether they are meeting the needs of the practitioner and patient.  They often take silence as a green light that all is well and there’s nothing left for them to improve upon or fix.   

Periodontists don’t always provide essential feedback for several reasons:

  • They don’t know how to give feedback.
  • They are too busy.
  • They’re not sure whether it will matter anyway. 
  • Doctors think on a different level than the staff.

But here’s the reality: giving feedback isn’t a nicety, it's an essential business element.  Providing constructive feedback properly will improve the current and future state of the practice.  Here is why… 

Providing constructive feedback effectively gives the team a clear understanding of your perspective.  

A high performing team is one who shares the vision and knows the mission set out by their leadership.  

It’s a first-hand glimpse into your mindset, and if you want your staff to do their jobs the way you want, they need to be able to think like you when making decisions. As I’ve already stated, the staff thinks on a different level from the doctor but instilling in them an ability to think like you is not an impossibility.  

Here’s how to deliver impactful feedback that won’t fall on deaf ears: 

Focus on Something Specific

When you tell a staff member, they need to do something differently, focus on what specifically needs to change and why.  Going back to Part 3 of this series, context is just as essential as the concept itself. 

Tasks are just tasks but understanding why we are doing what we are doing helps to reveal solutions that may not have been clear by simply going through the motions.  

Refer to the Problem, Not the Person

Feedback can often make a person feel attacked, even though it’s not your intention. Make sure you’re focusing on the problem itself and not personality flaws.  This ensures you’re only presenting objective facts rather than falling back on your feelings about a person. 

Remember, this is a business and patients are at stake.  Allowing feelings to interfere, one way or another is only self-serving and certainly does not serve the patient.  When you put the patient first, it’s much easier to eliminate negative feelings.  Pointing this out from time will help the staff remember what’s important about their role in the patient care process. 

Be Direct, But Informal

Face to face feedback is more powerful than a text or email and shows that your feedback carries an importance.  You also don’t want to beat around the bush. 

No need to make a big deal and have a time-consuming sit-down session which can be very awkward.  Formal sit-down meetings can have a negative impact and leave everyone feeling like there is tension afterward. 

Practice giving feedback “as you are working”.  Get straight to the point and keep moving forward.  A simple non-emotional verbal response to immediately address a point shows that you mean what you say.   Think of it more like giving brief momentary corrections, or clarification. 

Employees need to know how they’re doing.  Silence is the loudest way to tell someone to keep doing whatever they are doing.  Silence can also create feelings of fear between both parties.  If you don’t say anything, they’ll never try to change because they’ll think they simply don’t need to.  Silence leads people to conclude that you don’t care, it’s not important, or you are afraid to speak up.  

Speak on a level understood by your audience.

Your staff does not have the benefit of years of medical training, nor your years of acquired practice experience.  You don't need to elevate their medical knowledge to the level of yours, but you do need to elevate their knowledge for specific tasks and sharpen their skills in those areas.  It will become apparent in working with your staff Which members warrant additional training (by you), and which ones have topped out in their abilities.  

This is how you can eliminate the term “I was NEVER told.” from your practice.  

Clear communication is an essential part of developing trust, holding people accountable, and transforming every employee into a capable leader.  And remember, your expectation is never implied, it must be deliberate, clear and to the point at the exact time of the incident to clarify the frame of reference.  

Our final blog in this series will talk about how to acknowledge employees for a job well done - see you soon!  

PANDA Perio now offers a master course for easy implementation. This enhanced course is called “How to teach your staff to think like a doctor." We utilize the regular training components of PANDA College and incorporate an extra 10 step series to help strategize implementation in less time by showing you how the team thinks and what they need to know in order to effectively get the inside scoop about how you think. This strategy puts everyone on the same page and empowers your staff, in turn, creating cohesiveness and lowered stress.  We also offer the standard full course curriculum that comes free with purchase on any license of PANDA Perio. 


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