It’s in our nature to make excuses if we don’t achieve desired or expected results. We learned this behavior as a fallback from a very young age – remember when we couldn’t hand in our homework because the dog ate it?
You may hear the same type of excuses over and over again in your office. When you ask about last-minute cancellations you may hear that it’s cold season and people are calling in sick. If you question a co-worker about collections, you will likely be told that there wasn’t time to get to it this month because their schedule was just too busy.
Chronic excuses have a very negative impact on the success of a practice, but the response is the key to breaking these patterns. If your default is a simple, ‘okay’, you really can’t expect anything to change in the weeks and months to come.
Here are some of my favorite excuses and my suggested responses:
- “Everyone is calling in and cancelling because they have a cold.” In the past, we would have assured a patient that they could come in with a cold, we always knew that as a team, we protected ourselves. Due to the past couple of years with a pandemic, it’s easy to assume we don’t have much recourse now when patients cancel. However, the best response is to draw upon an active VIP/ASAP list of patients who are willing to come in earlier for their appointments. Build this software list, make your team members fluid with it, and you’ll have a better chance of keeping your schedule full. When the excuse comes up, ask your team how many patients are on the VIP/ASAP list and whether they have all been offered appointments.
- “I didn’t get to ________ this week because I was too busy.” We all have tasks that we don’t manage to get to. My response to this type of excuse can be applied to almost any task in the office. Try this: “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 week’s work and next week’s work?” By suggesting a solution to the excuse, you’ll activate your team to start coming up with their own solutions. You will also want to implant some accountability into some of the roles so that your team is aware of their expected performance for any task.
- “I thought someone else was doing that.” Without accountability in an office, tasks can be overlooked. Be prepared in advance for this type of excuse. Having detailed job descriptions that include tasks and their timing, 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 need to be completed and handed in daily, weekly, or monthly. If you have multiple people responsible for specific tasks, this can really help as well as provide the needed accountability.
Excuses will always happen. But they’ll dissipate if you empower your team with the solutions that they are expected to employ. It does take a very conscious effort on behalf of owners and managers to build a team culture that promotes solutions consistently. Yet having these systems in place is a large part of the recipe for success.
The best way to get started is to take a hard look at your own world. Are you making excuses for yourself, your family, and your office, or are you finding and applying your own effective solutions? Once you start doing this for yourself, you’ll be in a prime position to lead by example for your team.