When we don’t see the desired or expected results, we very often make excuses. We learned this behavior as a fallback from a very young age when we couldn’t hand in our homework because the dog ate it!
In your office now you may hear the same type of excuses over and over again. When you ask about last minute cancellations you may hear that it’s cold season and people are calling in sick. If you ask about collections, you will likely be told that there wasn’t time to get to it this month because they were too busy. Your response to the excuses that you and your team make will actually determine the path for success the next month. If you respond to an excuse with “okay” then you are actually not helping with the plan moving forward to improve the situation for the next week or month.
I am going to provide you with some of my favourite excuses and my suggested responses:
- “Everyone is calling in and cancelling because they have a cold.” In the past we would have asked a patient to come in with a cold as we always knew that as a team, we protected ourselves. Now with the pandemic we are finding that patients are cancelling, and we don’t have much recourse. This is true but our response should be using our software to have a very active VIP/ASAP list for patients who are able to/wanting to come in earlier for their appointments. By building this and having your team members fluid with it you will have a better chance at keeping your schedule full. Your recourse to this excuse is to ask your team how many patients are on the VIP/ASAP list and were they all offered appointments.
- “I didn’t get to ________ this week because I was too busy.” Everyone has tasks that they don’t always get to. You will find that this response can be interchanged with almost any task in the office. My response to this type of excuse would be “I understand you were busy this week, but we need to keep up on the ________, have you scheduled dedicated time next week to do this weeks work and next week’s work?” By suggesting a solution to the excuse, you will have your team starting to come up with their own solutions. You will also want to put some accountability into some of your roles so that your team will know what their expected performance is for any task.
- “I thought someone else was doing that.” Very often when there isn’t accountability in an office, tasks can be missed. To be able to respond to this excuse you need to be prepared in advance. Having detailed job descriptions with tasks and timing for the tasks will allow you to respond to your team member “ I know that task is in your job description, when will you be able to complete it? We can put it on a schedule if that would help you.” Once again, we are providing accountability to take away from excuses. Some larger offices use checklists with details of tasks that may need to be completed and handed in daily, weekly or monthly. This helps when multiple people are responsible for tasks and will provide accountability as well.
Excuses will always happen, the only way to help them dissipate is to empower your team to know the solutions that are expected of them. Building a team culture that will promote solutions takes a very conscious effort on behalf of the owners and managers yet having these systems in place is part of the recipe for success. The first step in this is taking a hard look at your own world, are you making excuses for yourself, your family and your office or are you finding your own solutions. Once you start doing this for yourself you will be in a prime position to be leading by example for your team.