Oral Health Group

Office Management: Delegation Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult

October 1, 2001
by Veronica Wrigley, CDA

1. Admit that you need help–put your ego aside.

The first step in delegation is admitting you need help.


2.Find ONE person to delegate to.

I can’t stress enough the importance of having a “wingman.” Having one person you turn to leaves less room for error and miscommunication. In addition, delegating to one person means there is no question as to whom you have asked to complete a task.

3.Build a strong working relationship with this person.

It is important that your delegate understands you and the stresses you are under on a day-to-day basis. I encourage regular meetings with your delegate — outside of regular staff meetings, so you can discuss issues within the office. You too, have to understand your delegate and know how far you can push and when to take the pressure off.

4.Learn to communicate precisely what you want and repeat it at least once.

Dentists, rather than mumbling under your mask, or rambling something in a hurry when you are running to your work room, sit down with your delegate and communicate. Not only outline what you want done, take the time to explain how you want it done, and when you want it done by. If you’re delegating to someone new, be as descriptive as possible, leave no room for error and have the delegate repeat the task and details back to you.

5.If something goes wrong: FIRST, ask yourself if there was something you could have done differently to ensure the success of the task.

When the time comes, (and it will come) that your delegate does not complete a task properly or is not on time, you must first question your delivery. Were you descriptive enough? Did you put enough emphasis on its importance? Was it too much to ask? Did they honestly try and were just not capable?

6.Perform progress checks frequently–especially in the beginning.

In order to avoid problems, it is a good idea to do progress checks. It is also a good reminder to those who have the delegated tasks that it is important they finish on time and do a good job.

7.Give your “delegate” freedom to make mistakes.

When you have a good delegate, it is nice to “push the envelope” and expect more, but do realize that the more rein you give, the more difficult the projects get, the more control you give that person, the greater potential there is to make mistakes. When the time is right, the person is right, and the cost is not too high, give them the opportunity to make a mistake or two — it is the best learning tool in life. With each success, you are developing a stronger, more capable “wingman”, ultimately allowing you to have more freedom.

8.Praise what’s done right and provide constructive criticism when necessary.

Praise and appreciation, not money and gifts. Although the later have their place, remember that verbal or written praise and appreciation is often (and should be) what it takes to make for a very happy staff person! You can never say thank-you too often and a written note or card goes a long way. The point is that praise and appreciation work.

9. Sit back, relax and do dentistry.

Lastly, this may look like a lot of work and admittedly, it does take some time. But consider this: you can spend your 20 years practicing dentistry and doing everything yourself, or you can spend one year developing your delegation skills and spend the next 19 years getting the best out of your career and your life.

Veronica Wrigley, CDA, has worked as a full-time practice manager for seven years.

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