How to Reward Your Staff Without Spending a Chunk of Change

One of the biggest stresses we hear from business owners we work with is “I want to appreciate and reward my employees, but looking at my overhead, I am not sure I can afford to reward them”. They further explain that they sometimes lack motivation to reward staff in part due to the lack of appreciation felt in return. As an example, in talking with a client at the end of the year he explained, in relation to the end of the year bonus, or a Christmas present, “ sure I can give them some money, or a present, but I never hear a word of thanks. It’s like it’s expected!”

One of the biggest issues businesses, and organizations of any type, have to deal with today is the lack of financial resources. We are in a new “world” where profits are slim. This is creating a tremendous amount of stress within organizations . Resources are tight all over. At the same time, their workload and responsibilities have increased. More demands + fewer resources become a perfect recipe for stress. And stress over the long haul leads to burn out and discouragement.

Communicating Meaningful & Impactful Appreciation

Here is what research shows are effective ways to communicate appreciation and encouragement to your team members, without having to spend a lot of money:

  1. Make sure your communication is personal and fitted to the individual rather than utilizing general communication across the organization. The key component to effective appreciation and encouragement is the sense by the recipient that you mean what you say and that you took time to think about them personally. Conversely, we have found that a global “Thanks for a good job done” email to a wide range of people across the organization actually generates a negative response from most team members, given its impersonal nature and perceived minimal effort to complete. What about considering a personal acknowledgement to each team member once a week. Catch them doing something right and thank them.

  2. “Speak the language” of the person whom you are trying to encourage. If the action we take to communicate appreciation to our colleagues isn’t what is important to them, we have wasted our time and effort. Communicating encouragement and appreciation which is impactful must “hit the target” for the recipient. We offer or clients the MBA Inventory – to identify each team member’s preferred languages of appreciation and to specify the actions most valued by them. By learning a person’s language of appreciation you can give and receive feedback and appreciation in a way that can be effective.

  3. The languages of appreciation people value the most don’t have to cost a lot of money. Sure almost everyone would like a bonus or a raise – but for most organizations that is not possible. The ways that people experience appreciation in the workplace fall into five categories:
    • Words of Affirmation
    • Quality Time
    • Acts of Service
    • Tangible Gifts
    • Appropriate Physical Touch

    Most of these don’t cost anything financially (even tangible gifts don’t have to cost much). For example, some of the most cited ways employees report feeling valued include:

    • Receiving a note from your supervisor complimenting you on the good job you are doing.
    • A team member stopping by your office, spending a few minutes with you to see how you are doing.
    • Obtaining some help from a colleague who notices you are “buried”.
    • Getting a gift certificate after you have worked long hours to complete a big project (for example, to go to the movies.)
    • Having your co-workers give you a “high five” after you have successfully completed an important presentation.

Each person has their own preferred “language of appreciation”. And within each language, there are specific actions that are most valued by that individual. None of these actions cost much money. But the key is to be able to use the right action with the right person, at the right time, and with a genuine spirit of appreciation. Then your actions will “hit the target” and be effective in encouraging those with whom you work.

Call us today and we can share with you the benefits of learning more about languages of appreciation.


Having Fun At Work?

What's your fun factor?  An engineering firm in town recently "played" for an hour. Yes, engineers can play!  They had 40 4th graders visit the firm to see what engineering was all about.  Each engineer designed a package containing a raw egg which was dropped from a Genie lift. Lightest packaging to keep the egg from breaking won.  They weren't done yet....Then dropped a tomato, a squash, a cantaloupe, and finally a watermelon. Do the kids love engineering?  Did they retain learning?  Absolutely!  What are you doing to make your staff meetings fun? We can help! Let us design a fun, interacitve and educational meeting for you!

Conflict....Good or Bad? How to Have One Without the Other

Thanks Sesame for inviting us to present the webinar today!  Fantastic turnout and responses!

Great webinar you guys!  One of the best I've attended!

Very well done

Thank you for a great webinar. Loved learning about "soft skills" in relation to conflict.

Unmet expectations?  What a great observation for improving my communication!

Best of all we delighted in sharing our information with the Sesame clients!  You rock!

Learning from Zappos: Creating World-Class Customer Service


Doctor, what would you do if a new patient walked through your door and instead of wanting to know right off the bat what your fees were, what insurance you accepted, what your office hours were, or whether you could validate their parking ticket, this person asked you to describe your practice culture? How would you feel? Surprised? Confused? Excited? Bottom line … would you know how to answer the question?
In his book, "Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose," Tony Hsieh, CEO of (online sellers of clothing, shoes, accessories, and housewares), talks a lot about culture and how it has played — and continues to play — an integral role in Zappos’ phenomenal growth and success.
Hsieh identifies three common mistakes small business owners often make in their own pursuit of success:
  1. Not building engagement and trust with employees before customers. Would you be comfortable printing everything your employees, patients, and colleagues have to say about your culture? If not, what would it take for you to get to that point where you would be? Your business reflects the culture and values that are already in place, whether you have defined them or not. Wouldn’t you rather take charge of defining and shaping those values? 
  2. Focusing on networking, rather than creating friendships. Rather than trying to network in the traditional sense, it’s better to build "friendships" where the friendship itself is the reward.
  3. Return on Investment vs lifetime value of a customer. Business owners often focus on return on investment (ROI) instead of viewing the lifetime value of a customer as a moving target that can increase if the business owner can create more and more positive emotional associations with the brand, and do it through every interaction a person has with us.
Zappos considers its culture to be its biggest asset, and the firm manages accordingly. Almost 50% of an employee’s performance review is based on how well the employee embodies the company’s 10 cultural core values:
  1. Deliver WOW through service. WOW is a short simple word, yet encompasses many things. WOW requires differentiation ... doing something beyond what is expected. Does your service have an emotional impact on the receiver?
  2. Learn to not fear change. Embrace it with enthusiasm ... encourage and drive it. Plan for it. Ask, “What is the 1% improvement I can make to change myself/the company for the better”?
  3. Create fun and a little weirdness. Laugh at yourself, look for fun and humor in your daily work. This encourages everyone to think outside of the box and be more innovative.
  4. Be adventurous, creative, and open-minded. If you are not making mistakes, you are not taking enough risk. Are you pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone?
  5. Pursue growth and learning. Are you a better person than you were yesterday? Are you stretching self/others? Do you understand the company vision?
  6. Build open and honest relationships with communication. A key ingredient to strong relationships is developing emotional connections. At the end of the day it’s not what you say or do, but how you make people feel that matters the most. In order for someone to feel good about a relationship, they must know the other person truly cares about them, both personally and professionally.
  7. Build a positive team and family spirit. The best team members have a positive influence on one another and everyone they encounter, and strive to create harmony with those with whom they interact.
  8. Be more with less. Never lose your sense of urgency in making improvements. Don’t settle for “good enough.” Good is the enemy of great. Be innovative, use mistakes as learning opportunities. Ask yourself, “How can we become more efficient?”
  9. Be passionate and determined. Passion and determination are contagious. Are you passionate about the company? Are you passionate about your work? Do you love what you do and who you work with? Are you happy/inspired? Is this the place for you?
  10. Be humble. Are you humble when talking about your accomplishments? Do you treat large and small with the same amount of respect as they treat you?
Ultimately, Hsieh says, it’s all about being happy, which comes from being part of something bigger than oneself. In fact, studies have shown that “connectedness” plays a large role in both happiness and productivity. For instance:
  • The number of good friends an employee has at work is correlated with how engaged the employee is. 
  • Engaged or connected employees are more productive.
Happiness doesn’t come primarily from within,” Haidt says, “but rather from between.” 
So what does this all have to do with youand your practice ... or any dental practice, for that matter? To answer that question, consider  the following nine ways Zappos instills a culture of great customer service. (Note: Doctor, if it’s underlined and in italics, it applies to you!)
  1. Make customer service a priority for the whole company/dental practice, not just a department/front or back office. A customer service attitude needs to come from the top/doctor down.
  2. Make WOW a verb that is part of your company’s/practice’s everyday vocabulary.
  3. Empower and trust your suppliers/dental supply reps. Trust that they want to provide great service … because they actually do!
  4. Realize that it’s okay to fire customers/patients who are insatiable, or abuse your employees.
  5. Don’t measure call times, don’t force employees to upsell, and don’t use scripts. None of which excuses you from properly training your employees!
  6. View each call as an investment in building a customer/patient service brand, not as an expense you’re seeking to minimize.
  7. Have the entire company/practice celebrate great service. Tell stories of WOW experiences to everyone in the company/at regular staff meetings.
  8. Find and hire people who are already passionate about customer/patient service.
  9. Give great service to everyone: customers/patients, employees and suppliers.
If you would like help in bringing a culture of world-class customer service to your practice, please contact us today. We can bring our many years of experience in leadership and teamwork to your office, and work with you and your staff in creating and honing your own WOW dental practice!

"Do overs"~ what a great idea!

I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Wayne Anderson  of Take Shape for Life speak this weekend.  He talked about the ability to have each day be a "do over".  We can do something differently today than yesterday if we want a different result.   AH HA..... What different results would you like today?  You have the opportunity to do it differently! Just do it!

New Perspecitves

How often do we forget to cherish what we have?  My husband and I spent a recent Saturday hiking locally in our Wenatchee foothills. Having been in Sun Valley on similar hikes we were comparing the two regions of the beautiful Northwest.  The conversation began  with how lovely Sun Valley is, the ambiance of Ketchum, Idaho and draw to that area.  Then almost magically we said " Yes, but look at what we have right here at our back door!" Gaining 1000 feet of altitude allowed us to see our valley with different perspective.  How often do you step outside your business, family or region to appreciate what you have? 

The Bumps in Our Pathways of Life

"A small trouble is like a pebble. Hold it too close to your eye and it fills the whole world and puts everything out of focus. Hold it at a proper distance and it can be examined and properly classified. Throw it at your feet and it can be seen in its true setting, just one more tiny bump on the pathway of life."

- Celia Luce

For me 2010 has been a year full of bumps. Some of them major, some of them minor. When life puts bumps in your life's pathway what do you do to ride over them? What are your life's shock absorbers? 

Creating a Culture Of Service Excellence

Working with an array of businesses in Wenatchee, WA, we surprised and delighted business owners with tools and information pertaining to establishing trust in the work place, E-Gap analysis and the concept of WOWing the customer.  Like Disney, your business can be as engaging, offering an experience rather that selling a product.  Which do you prefer as a customer?


Interested in learning more about E-Gaps, creating trust in the workplace? Contact us today. 

7 Essential (non clinical) Steps for Sustainable Dental Team Success

You’ve heard the expression: “Knowledge is power”. But is it really? Is it really the solution to the majority of our daily challenges?

Yes and no. By itself, knowledge is not power. Power comes from how and when knowledge is applied, and who applies it. And the true power is with the ‘who’ – the right person with the right perspective and right attitude.

 Let’s consider how this applies to a typical dental practice. How often does a dentist make changes to the ‘systems’ in their office, believing this is the way to solve problems. “If our systems are more efficient, our problems will be solved.”  

As a result of this thinking, doctors spend a lot of time and money updating and implementing their office systems, them sitting back and waiting for ‘things’ to change.

Do they?

Conflict Resolution: Moving From Conflict to Gaining Clarity

Can Anyone Make Conflict Go Away?

You walk into the office thinking “business as usual” and you enter your AM huddle. Silence abounds, eye contact is lacking and verbal spurring begins with little quips here and there.  You think, “here we go again, I hope this issue resolves it’s self quickly so everyone can settle down”.  Amazingly, by noon people seem to be over it.   Unbeknownst to you the issue has been stuffed in closet for an appearance at a later, even less convenient date. 

Resolving conflict to gain clarity and team effectiveness

In most offices, conflict just seems to be a fact of life. We've all seen situations where different people with different goals and needs come into conflict. And we've all seen the often intense personal animosity that can result if the issue that is creating the conflict is not addressed.

Understanding The "Interest-Based Relational Approach" to Conflict Management

In last months article we increased your awareness of conflict styles and the opportunity for conflict to be welcomed and used in building team to gain clarity.  We looked at the five styles of conflict to assist us in gaining clarity:  Avoidance, Assertiveness, Collaboration, Competitiveness and Compromising, and reviewed the benefits and weaknesses of each style. In this article we will introduce you to another clarity gaining tool.

The second theory about conflict resolution is commonly referred to as the "Interest-Based Relational (IBR) Approach". This conflict resolution strategy respects individual differences while helping people avoid becoming too entrenched in a fixed position.

What Goes Around Comes Around: Keep practice communication on track with the Awareness Wheel

Congratulations! You have just completed a very productive morning schedule. You’re feeling great! Your career in dentistry is just what you dreamed it would be….Or is it? 

You reluctantly walk into a staff meeting (not your favorite part of owning a practice) and “it” begins. You remind your hygienist to take digital photos on recare patients. In a flash, arms go up, eye contact intensifies, her face turns red and she frantically replies, “I don’t have time.” Communication quickly comes to a standstill and you decide that it just isn’t worth spending more time on this issue. You retreat and decide you will do it on your own (or not at all). This recurring breakdown of communication has confirmed to you that staff meetings ARE a waste of time!

Go South I Say!

Going south was really going west for my husband and I:

 You may be familiar with Leavenworth, WA.. A Bavarian town, population 2000    nestled at the foothill of the Cascade Mountains in Washington State.  Among the sausage and bratwurst vendors and nutcracker stores is a new restaurant, South.  I heard about it during spin class at the gym.  Here’s what was said:  “healthy food with great flavor, fun atmosphere, something different”.  

In helping business run efficiently and effectively I am always interested in how other businesses work so on a date we went!  Here is what I observed: 

Wait staff having fun with each other, owner ( I assumed at the time) mingling with the crowd and helping where needed, observing him move silverware, greet people, get someone a drink and the like.  He did what was necessary for guests to have a full experience.  The wait staff was excited about the food, made valuable recommendations, checked in to see how we were doing, and anticipated our needs. There was no Bavarian theme, they stood out as unique and were confident about the south of the border menu.  Appropriate music was playing; staff was dressed for the environment (casual yet professional).

 Here’s what totally blew me away:  Upon departing the restaurant the owner came outside to personally thank us for dining with him.  He cared we were there and showed it!  Will I go back?  Absoultely! Will I take friends?  Absoultely!  

How do you show your clients you appreciate them or do you take them for granted?  Is your team excited about what they do and do they transfer that enthusiasm?  Does your office stand out in some way?  Are you unafraid to be different?  I encourage you to visit South for a dining experience.  Ask for Pierce….or maybe you won’t have to!  He’s there waiting doing what ever he can to make sure his business successful!

What's in a Water Bottle?


What’s in the water bottle doesn’t really matter! It’s about the customer service!


I have a workout partner who I meet at the gym most mornings at 5AM! Yes, that’s the correct time. One day I left my favorite water bottle at the gym and wouldn’t return for two days due to my travel schedule. Upon returning I checked with lost and found to discover all contents of lost and found had been gathered and sent away. To my dismay, I responded to Doug at the front desk “You need a new system on how long you hold on to lost items” to which he replied, “I understand your frustration”. Please know, it’s not as much about the water bottle but the system. What if it had been my iPod or something of greater value?


Next day: Email from Jenny, manager! “Sorry about the water bottle, we’ll look at the system”.

Next day: All front desk personnel at the gym are talking about my water bottle and acknowledging its loss.

One week later: Lisa, exercise manager and without being asked, has been through all gathered lost and found from Gold’s Gyms in the area to find my water bottle.


Morale of the story: When was the last time you changed a system due to important feedback you received? When was the last time you told someone you understood how they felt and REALLY listened? When was the last time you had courage to talk to your supervisor about an issue and helped make a difference? Doug, Jenny and Lisa did just that! I’m a East Wenatchee Gold’s Gym Fan and committed to their success.


Shari hangs out with Ciscoe Morris

What is Ciscoe an expert at? If you’ve heard of him you know. Exactly! He LOVES plants and has made plant and gardening his life’s work. How about you? What do people think when they hear your name? Are you living your life with passion? Are you having fun? I had fun with Ciscoe! I’m a member of the Cracked Pots and Bloomin’ Idiots. Can you tell from the picture??? Yes, it’s fun! So is Ciscoe.

Remember a “sale” takes place when there is a transfer of enthusiasm. What’s your enthusiasm level today? What are you doing in your practice or life to transfer enthusiasm? Play. Make work fun. Life is short.

Make a fresh in S.T.A.R.T 2009

Each year we ring in the new year with our resolutions- to get to work on time, to communicate better, to be more productive, to spend less, manage our time better. Yet as the weeks go on we find ourselves back in our same patterns. For example, maybe this year the winter weather will get in the way of meeting your resolutions related to production goals. The snow falls, we cancel a day or two of work and we easily slip into the “oh well, here we go again” mode. 

Let’s look at four areas that can assist you in accomplishing and exceeding your goals for 2009: 

Self Evaluation: How are you doing?

We are all part of several different teams. Workplaces consist of teams. A family is a team. Your group of friends is a team. But every team is made up of individuals and the most productive teams flourish when each team member is working toward the same goal. We invite you to ask yourself the following questions to assess whether you are acting in a self-directed or team-directed mode.

Are You a Part of the Team?

There are several significant distinctions between a group and a team. A group is typically a collective number of people who have come together for a variety of different reasons. Usually, the members of the group are focused on their own interests rather than the common good of the group. A team, however, is typically comprised of a collective number of individuals who have come together to advance the team as a unit and who share the same goals.

Understanding and Being Understood

Have you ever had a conversation with another individual and wondered if you were understood at all? Have you at times had a conversation with yourself and wondered if you understand yourself? Communication is a tool that we take for granted and don't get the opportunity to build skill in very often- but it is the most important tool in the toolbox for vision development, time management, strategic planning, facilitation, team building, interpersonal communications, conflict resolution and leadership skills.