Today, Dr. Passes primarily uses a coach to train his staff, get refreshers, and keep his practice on track with their goals.
team development, team connection, patient experience
In December 2019, after five decades working in dentistry and ten years working with the same coaching company, Dr. Harvey Passes decided it was time for a change...
The coach he found the most success with had left the organization and the coaching had gotten stale. “I’d had a very good coach who I had a good run with, but after she left I got bumped around to different coaches,” Dr. Passes said.
Frustrated, he wanted something different. However, he didn’t want to give up having a coach because he believes the people at the very top of their game got there and stay there, at least in part, because of a coach. “I don’t care if you are Michael Jordan or LeBron James or any of these superstars, they still need a coach,” Dr. Passes said.
Before he opened his dental practice in Great Neck, NY, he was an entertainer. He sang, wrote songs, played guitar, and even had a recording contract with Columbia Records. But his mother wanted him to be a dentist, so at her request, he applied to dental school at N.Y.U.
“My fourth-grade teacher was Paul Simon’s mother,” Dr. Passes recalled. “We all grew up in the same neighborhood, so music was all I wanted to do. The big surprise was when I got into N.Y.U. It was the only school I applied to— so I decided to see it as an opportunity.”
After graduating from dental school, Dr. Passes became a bit of a celebrity in dentistry for the clinical applications he developed for the holmium: YAG laser and for pioneering treatment for dental phobia. He co-founded the Academy of Laser Dentistry, was the third president of the Academy and the President of the Dental Society. With a reputation for innovative work, he developed new techniques in dentistry, presenting them on TV and radio as well as lecturing on them all over the world.
But despite his success as a dentist, the entertainer in him never left. Today he is known as “The Singing Dentist.” He also has his own television show, which he’s hosted and produced since 1997, where he interviews people from all walks of life. “It’s made it fun and exciting for me,” Dr. Passes said. “I sing to my patients while I work. My patients love it because when I sing to them, they feel everything is okay, and that there is nothing to be worried about—if I stop singing, they think something is wrong. I entertain to an audience of one and it’s all worked out very favorably.”
Dr. Passes revealed that he did “okay through the years” but once he got a coach, that’s when he saw significant improvement. “I knew nothing about business,” Dr. Passes confessed. “Like most dental students, we’re taught how to fix teeth, not how to run a business. I tried to learn the business, but I wasn’t good at it.”
However, something was missing from his current coach. “I’ve learned that a good coach adds much value,” Dr. Passes said. “So I decided it was time for a new one. I rarely make these decisions alone—my team is like my board of directors—they did the research and found Team Training Institute (TTI). We then went into our conference room, hammered it out, and all decided we wanted to try TTI.”
Unbeknownst to Dr. Passes, the coach who had helped him make powerful transformations before, Sherri Hollenbeck, was now working for TTI. “Now Sherri Hollenbeck is my coach again!” Dr. Passes said. “She is nothing short of brilliant. I rely on her and my team loves her.”
When he first started with coaching, Dr. Passes needed his coach to help him figure out how to run the practice to get him the results he wanted. Today, he primarily uses a coach to help train his staff, get refreshers, and to keep his practice and team on track with their goals.
“You’ve got to know what your goal is and how to get there,” Dr. Passes said. “A good coach will help get you going in the right direction and when you go off track, they push you back on. Every now and then, my team and I get lost and TTI is extremely good at getting us back on track.”
Here are the top strategies that Dr. Passes feels contribute to his success:
Utilize Relational Business Practices
Your dental practice dealings can either be transactional, where the focus is on making a sale, or relational where the focus is on building a relationship with the patient to win them for life. “When a dental office is relational, that’s when the service can grow,” Dr. Passes said. “The attachment of the two parties becomes more unified, more successful, and frankly takes on a more meaningful appreciation for each other. So, I’m big on relational business actions. When I came to TTI, I found them to be more comfortable and enabling to have a relationship.”
“With TTI, they don’t just say, ‘Do these things and your practice will grow,” Dr. Passes continued. “They really got to know everybody on my staff. I can call them up and speak to them and not feel I’m being spoken to but spoken with. They really embraced my feelings and how I like to conduct myself in this world. This is extremely important to me, and it makes a big difference. I’m also extremely impressed with Dr. Meis. You’ve got the best of all worlds. He has a tremendous amount of experience in both his transactional business behavior, as well as relational business behavior.”
Work with Approachable Coaches
In the past, Dr. Passes struggled with being able to get the support he needed. “There were layers between the leader of the coaching organization and myself,” Dr. Passes said. “Whenever I needed to speak with the leader, too much time would go by and I’d end up being forced to come up with a solution. With TTI, I’ve found that both Wendy and Dr. Meis are extremely approachable. Where I’ve needed clarification, I could speak directly with Dr. Meis or Wendy. They are both terrific.”
Put systems in place to grow. Putting good systems in place is one of Dr. Passes’s secrets to growth. “Without systems in place, you truly cannot move on,” he said. “All you’re going to do is just wing it for decades. I did that. I just winged it and things weren’t great. It wasn’t the right way to do things.” Systems allow you to consistently deliver your dental service the way you want so that it lives up to your standards. Patients receive the same level of service each time. Plus, you’ll be more effective at managing your employees and monitoring task completion. “Systems work,” Dr. Passes said. “When you have systems, you can always refer to them and make sure nothing is missed.”
Develop a Winning Team
“The big stars in my life are really my team,” Dr. Passes said. “I’m not doing this because I want it all for myself–that would be a HUGE mistake. Let your team be the winner. Because when your team is the winner, you win.”
Here are five ways to create a winning team that carries out your vision:
#1: Get Them to Adopt Your Beliefs
“Your team is everything,” Dr. Passes explained. “As the dentist, you must spend the time doing everything in your power to have the team adopt your beliefs. If they don’t have the same beliefs and aren’t using the same strategies, you will all be going in different directions. You all have to get on the same bus, take different seats of strategy, importance, and delegation.” Dr. Passes accomplishes this through ongoing training and regularly scheduled meetings.
#2: Never Stop Training
As far as the team is concerned, training, training, training, and when you’re finished with training, give them some more. Training never stops,” Dr. Passes said. “Where TTI comes in is the hard part of teaching people. I can train a resident on all the dental stuff. That’s easy. But when it comes to teaching people character, how to address patients and others... a lot of stuff, TTI comes in and is always mentoring my staff. And when I hire someone, TTI comes in and trains them to do the job the way I need it to be done. Whether it’s my assistant, administrative, my clinical division, a new resident, or the whole office, we go over all the different things that are necessary to run a successful practice and TTI fosters that kind of instruction and is there for them when something goes wrong.”
#3: Meet With Your Team Regularly
“Most people do not have the ability to sustain what needs to be sustained to get a good result,” Dr. Passes said. “You need your weekly injection of sustenance to keep you going so you can continue doing the right thing. So we take every Wednesday morning and shut the office down from 10 AM to 11 AM in the morning and everybody goes to dental church.”
During these “dental church” meetings, he goes over everybody’s numbers, reviews programs, discusses problems people might be facing, and allows everyone to speak freely about anything without repercussion or ridicule. “Everybody has numbers that they’ve got to report,” Dr. Passes said. “If you did well, we applaud you. If you didn’t, we all find out what happened and how can we all pitch in to make it better. In our meetings, everyone’s free to discuss anything, but it is not a time to complain or cut someone down. An individual shouldn’t be afraid to speak his or her views without fear that someone’s going to say, ‘That’s stupid’ or ‘Why don’t you shut up?’ None of that occurs in my office because there has to be psychological safety. It’s a session for growth and development. After that’s done, then we go over different learning programs. We teach verbal skills and go over how to deal with certain patients who have made life really unbearable... we just go over so many things so that when the team member gets involved with one of these patients, they’re equipped, they’re mentally, and emotionally equipped to handle all the stuff that’s going to go on.”
#4: Empower People to Give Patients the Experience of a Lifetime
“I learned later in life the importance of empowering people,” Dr. Passes said. “Training them and empowering them to do whatever it takes. I make it clear to my team members that I don’t want them to be a puppet and a parrot. I want them to find their own voice and their own way to express what they believe is a good patient experience... And if you ask anyone in my office, they will explain the importance of trying to give an experience to patients, the likes of which they’ve never had before.”
For example, under normal circumstances, when a new patient comes in, the patient care coordinator gets up from her chair, walks over to the new patient to greet them by shaking their hand and giving them a gift. Instead of pointing to a coffee/tea/water bar, she asks to serve them. Or, if something goes wrong such as a laboratory doesn’t come in on time or a patient has to wait, his staff is empowered to fix it. “Things happen,” Dr. Passes said. “I tell them, make the cure bigger than the problem. For example, if they are waiting for more than 15 minutes, we apologize, explain what happened and give them two movie tickets and say, “We know your time is valuable, here are two tickets so you can enjoy some time on us. Everybody is empowered to spend money or whatever it takes to help improve a patient’s experience.”
#5: Require Team Members to Take Personal Responsibility
After training team members, Dr. Passes has team members be accountable and responsible for their results. “Everyone reports their numbers,” Dr. Passes said. “We do a huddle every morning to go over what happened the day before, and that’s been excellent.”
One of Dr. Passes newest team members describes his experience working with Dr. Passes and TTI like this: “It’s like a corporate office with a heart... my definition of corporate means you have systems, not that nobody cares or that all we care about is a number... we have systems in place that are a part of a good corporation and the relationship with the patients is so humanistic, so caring... I’ve never seen the way you do it and everyone embraces it which is fantastic.”
Dr. Passes says he discovered after spending years trying to figure out what he could do to be different, that the best way to be different is to be more human and caring. “Most health offices, medical doctors included, stink at this,” Dr. Passes said. “Their staff stinks. It’s terrible. What we’ve tried to do, which is extremely important and that TTI wholeheartedly embraces, it to be different by showing people, not telling them, but showing them that you care. By doing that, the power is unbelievable. TTI’s coaching helps ensure that this continues in my practice.”
“I got involved with TTI and found them to be extraordinary,” Dr. Passes continued. “I find their involvement very hands-on into what’s going on in my practice. Not just in the business, but all aspects of it, so I’m really glad I joined.”