Success tips on organization and countering stress in dentistry as an office manager!
These days, the term Office manager, may translate into different duties depending on the size of a team, work load, and task delegation. Regardless, dental office managers are usually performing a countless amount of duties in front, and behind the scenes. For an OM who runs a decent sized office, there is almost never a moment of running out of tasks to perform. Office managers are the back bone of their team. If you are on your way to becoming an OM, or presently in that role, time management and organization is your most underrated best friend. For new OM’S, it is a learning curve, for established OM’s, It may still be difficult to apply. Without a system in place for running your offices multitude of tasks, you will cause unnecessary stress and exhaustion. A successful easy flowing system that works for you, can increase your ability to steer your team in the right direction, with smoother sail.
To bring you useful time management ideas and tips, we conversed with long time OM, Sina Sena, who is now a Director of operations and full time treatment coordinator. Sina currently puts in more than 50 hours a week, and leads a team made up of 5 doctors, multiple hygienists, and a 24 + full time staff. She started in the dental field in 2015, as an office manager, eventually managing 2 locations simultaneously. Although overwhelming, It taught her how to balance time, delegate tasks and utilize her team further. During that period she went from leading a team of 3, to a team of 15. Over the years she has consulted with dentists, spent time in their offices to review daily operations, and guided them towards increasing productivity and profitability. In that time, she has seen a multitude of offices struggling to keep a schedule full, and deal with turnover. As well, as office managers who were worn down without guidance. Read our Q+A with Sina below, if you’re seeking OM success tips or to master your role further.
1) What are the challenges you feel managers deal with, regarding time interference?
Office managers of dental practices wear many hats. They are the front desk person, answering phones, scheduling, handling financial conversations with patients and more. They are also the manager (leader) and in charge of team building, marketing, payroll,etc. There is only so much time in a day, and it goes really fast.
People come in and want to do just one job, but really in a dental office every person you hire needs to wear multiple hats. Hygienists can confirm their patients, dental assistants can call on cases and do the ordering.
There is also the element of the dentist/owner and their impact on the success of the OM (and team). What type of culture are they building? What do they take on themselves? Are they on board with creating a good work environment? Do they understand that running a business is different than being a dentist? If someone is trying to be an OM for a dentist who is not involved, only wants to hide in an office, is not engaged with the team or patients, and doesn't understand that their involvement is key to the office success, that OM will just be pulling their hair out. Now, if you find a dentist who wants an OM as more of a business partner, and is enthusiastic about their success, then the OM has more ability to get support and assistance to do a good job.
2) As an office manager, what are your top tips for staying sane, while performing multiple obligations simultaneously?
Write everything down! I have a book of sticky notes and a pen in my pocket every day (so wear a jacket or sweater with pockets!). I have a notebook also, that is right next to my desk. I write down everything that I need to do, and cross off as I go. If it doesn't get done, there is no line through it! I learned this from my mentor and it serves me well. It is a habit change, to stop and write things down, (but read Atomic Habits and get it done!) Don't think you will remember to do something, you might not!
Look at all the tasks you need to do, write them all down, every single one, no matter how small. Then find things you can delegate to other team members. People like to have ownership of tasks, it helps with employee engagement and allows people to feel more valued. There are many tasks that can be delegated - and it lessens your workload as an OM!
Take breaks! Get up, walk around. Laugh! Yes there is a lot to do, yes it gets stressful, but dentistry is fun. Rely on your team. Create checklists - it doesn't all have to get done today!
Find things to outsource to other entities, yes it costs, but it could be a benefit! There are companies that verify insurance, help with HR, clean and more.
Prioritize! Not everything needs to get done right at that instance.
3) What resources have helped create an easier life for you as an office manager?
I read ALOT of leadership books and dental books. I have "goaled" myself to read 104 books this year, and so far on track. I am part of different groups for leadership and management also, mostly online. Learning to be a great leader has helped me the most, especially with learning to let go of things and delegate tasks to others. I don't have to do it all and I don't need to know how to do everything!
Don't say YES all the time. An office manager might get pulled in many directions, and many things they are asked to do, the person asking can be given the authority to take care of it. I love to say yes, to be the one people go to. But, I found myself always bogged down with things that didn't need to just be done by me. Give the power to others! Challenge them to take ownership and not just dump everything on your shoulders.
I wake up at 4:00AM every morning - take time for yoga, reading, journaling, and to plan my day. Having some time to myself, before I put my leadership hat on is essential to my well being. I LOVE the office I work in, and I need to take care of myself to be the best I can for my team!
Find groups to be part of. I have a mentor that I don't talk to much, but on occasion I need some advice and I go right to her. I like to be helpful, so I have found sharing my knowledge helps me to review what I do and challenge myself.
4) Can you share an explanation or example of your checklist? How has it helped?
My checklists define my world. They help me to remember how and when to do everything. Just like pilots, checklists are there to make sure nothing is missed. Since I am not only the Director of Operations, but also a treatment coordinator, I have lists to help me get everything done and stay on track. I hold my other coordinators responsible for hitting their doctors goal, I have to hold myself responsible also!
There is just too much to do. From remembering to roll the phones, to sending claims, to calling the cleaning person, to...well the list goes on and on! The checklists should be evolving, and be seen as a way for people to feel accomplished and good about the work they do.
To make my checklists I start at the beginning of the day and work through the end, writing down the various REPEATABLE tasks that take place. Checklists are not for the one off things, but for those items that need to be done daily, weekly, monthly or annually. I have a daily checklist that has all my leadership duties and treatment coordinator tasks combined. I have a monthly checklist that has all the things (like running payroll, planning team meetings, etc). My annual checklist has the big things - renewing business licenses, planning meeting, performance reviews.
In my office I have white boards, that have the super important things that need to be in my view all the time. I think I would be lost with out my white boards and checklists! If anything it helps me feel more organized!
5) Based on your experience, If you can offer one piece of advice to office managers who feel overwhelmed, what would it be?
Only one?:) That's tough. I would say most important - Breathe. Take a deep breath. Organize your day, from most important to the least. If you can have a focus day, than take a day and make it just that. If you can't, perhaps it means coming in an hour earlier one day a week or staying later one day a week to get things caught up.
Utilize your team!
Ask for guidance and assistance. Find a mentor! This is a game changer for a lot of us.
Decide if you want to be a manager or a leader. Managers get overwhelmed, because you are managing people. Leaders learn how to empower others to help and engage! Be a leader!