Managing an office takes strength of character, a metric ton of patience, a ridiculous amount of tolerance, and teamwork. How do you feel about your own success? Are you struggling to get by, or are you breezing through? We all know the skills office managers are known to possess to keep the dental practice running smoothly and successfully. But, after having multiple conversations with dental office managers over the years, it’s clear that there is more to managing an office than the usual skills and traits. It all starts with attitude. How do you handle that overwhelming feeling of managing an office of people, all the patients, and all the paperwork? Are you always stressed, always at the end of your rope, always snapping at people? The attitude needed to be an effective office manager does not always mean you have to be a workaholic or so dedicated you can’t take a day off; actually, it’s the exact opposite. Already, I can hear the office managers I’ve discussed this with vehemently disagreeing. They feel that if they dare to step away for even a second, the consequences will be dire, and it will be their fault. The reason for this seems to be a consensus: they’re in this alone. The truth is, you’re not. And giving a hundred and ten percent to the job does not mean you sacrifice yourself for it. Here are just four important points to remember to be a more effective office manager. 1. You are human, first Plain and simple: you are human, first, and an office manager second. This means that sacrificing your health, your sleep, and your sanity is unfair to the human part of you that needs to keep all three of these things intact. If you aren’t sleeping properly, or exercising, or relaxing when you need to, you can’t be an effective office manager. Everything to follow directly connects to this very important point. If you want to be more effective, more productive, and give a hundred and ten percent, you have to focus on you first. 2. You are not alone As a human, you need to eat healthy, exercise, and get a lot of sleep; but there is also one more crucial ingredient—others. Most importantly, developing a good communicative relationship with the dental owner will ensure you feel less like you are doing this all on your own with no backup. Make sure that, either as a new dental office manager or a seasoned one, you understand exactly what is expected of you in your position and what goals you and the dental owner want to achieve together. Alex says it best in his book, Responsible Dental Ownership: Balancing Ethics Through Purpose: When the dentist’s vision, or purpose, is clearly defined, communicated, and imbued in the office manager, both dentist and manager end up doing whatever it takes to ensure there is progress toward that vision. (25)1 3. You only have two hands I see it with office managers in every industry—they are asked to be in two places at once, or do three jobs at a time. Realistically, it’s impossible. I actually had an argument with my own boss when she expected me to be at the back of the store and the front at the same time. “How do I do that?” I asked her. She had no answer. And of course, she didn’t. Because being in two places at once is impossible, unless you clone yourself (no one should be asking you to do that, either). After trying to take on tasks from the boss and others around me, I now work by one simple rule: Whatever the boss asks of me, I comply. It’s part of the job and I have no issue with it. However, if anyone other than the boss assigns me tasks, it is my obligation to ask questions and make sure I can fit whatever that task is into my schedule. What do you do when tasks are assigned to you but they are not from the dental owner? Do you just say yes and add it to the pile? You are already busy with effectively managing the dental office and all seven key elements:
- Hygiene appointments
- Tracking future treatments
- Accounts receivable
- Maintaining a safe and inviting work environment
- Patient education
- Handling practice finances
- Zlatin, A. (2018). Responsible Dental Ownership: Balancing Ethics and Business Through Purpose. Charleston, SC: Advantage.