Dentists have long wrestled with balancing the duties of a clinician with those of a manager. And as a dental practice grows, so do the tasks and responsibilities needed to sustain growth in such a competitive profession. Effective delegation can dramatically improve the efficiency of a practice by helping to build teamwork within the staff. And cooperation and teamwork can contribute to helping staff members to reach their full potential.

One of the reasons why people hesitate to delegate is that they believe they can do things better themselves. However, market forces such as managing the financial aspects of a dental practice, dealing with managed care, ensuring compliance with governmental infection control standards, leading a team of workers, and sustaining growth in a competitive environment take dentists away from productive treatment time. These factors necessitate the proper distribution of responsibility in such a way that it is embraced and accepted by the staff.

Here are some tips on distributing responsibility effectively:

1. Remember that the ultimate goal of delegation is not just to get rid of the work; nor is it just to keep employees busy. The ultimate goal is to increase the output of the team and the practice.

2. Don't delegate the method, delegate the task. Let the person you delegate to determine the method.

3. Ensure that the person delegated to "buys in" to the task, agrees to the time frame, and accepts the responsibility. If one is unwilling to delegate the responsibility, one shouldn't bother delegating the task.

4. Define measurable goals, ensuring that the person delegated to has input into what constitutes accomplishment.

But don't confuse delegating with dumping. If an employee feels he or she is being dumped on, then that is probably because a task has been delegated without adequate authority to carry it out. It's all in the way one delegates. Yes, there's an element of risk in delegating authority. But if one doesn't feel comfortable with that risk, it probably means that the task is being delegated to the wrong person. And if the right person to delegate to doesn't exist, it's time to hire better people.

5. Once the task is assigned, keep your distance. It's okay to ask for updates, but don't snoop or pry. If you feel you must, you've delegated to the wrong person.

6. Require reporting, but not excessive reporting.

7. Follow up only on target dates, or when the project is finished, or when it should be finished.

8. Make sure the person delegated to is accountable for his or her success or failure. Applaud and reward success, discuss and document failure. If necessary, develop a plan together to improve performance.

9. Beware of over delegation to superstars. If one employee is relied upon too heavily, then there is a superstar shortage. And there may be a bigger superstar shortage if the overloaded superstar's workload is not balanced.

10. Finally, do not confuse the "delegatee" with the "gofer". Gofers "go fer" because they have to. Delegatees "go fer" because they want to.

In summary, the basis of effective delegation is trust. If one doesn't trust, then one can't delegate. Prepare a plan to carry out the work, implement the plan, and measure progress. Effective distribution of responsibility will yield leverage by allowing the dentist to become more productive with their time. Enjoy distributing responsibilities effectively and witness increased staff productivity, enhanced practice performance and increased profit.