Consultant content

Leading in the New Normal

Date Posted: 05.05.20 Speaker: Susan McElvy

Allow Imagine Consulting Group to provide gentle reminders of the importance of strong leadership during our new normal. Susan McElvy from Imagine spends time discussing effective communication, the demand for excellent customer service and the necessity of encouragement when our teams return to serve our patients.

Video length = 0:39:05

Susan McElvy
Susan McElvy of Imagine Consulting Group

Matthew Bycroft (MB):  Good afternoon. Welcome to Leading In The New Normal, presented by Susan McElvy of Imagine Consulting Group. My name is Matthew Bycroft, and I’m the Vice President of Sales and Marketing, for Cloud 9 Software. Cloud 9 is a browser-based practice management system for orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, group practices, and DSOs. This year, Cloud 9 Software is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Currently, we support over 13,000 users across 1,500 locations. This webinar is scheduled for 30 minutes. All participant lines have been muted. You may submit questions via the Q&A button, on the left-hand side of the screen. And questions will be addressed at the end of the webinar, as time permits.

It’s my pleasure to introduce our speaker. Susan McElvy is the co-founder of Imagine Consulting Group. She’s been part of the orthodontic profession for over 25 years. She had experience in business management, leadership coaching, team building, customer service, and marketing and branding. Susan has consulted for several of the highest revenue-generating practices in America, as well as many small businesses, Fortune 500 companies, ministries and sports clubs. And with that, please welcome Susan McElvy.

Susan, do we have you on the line?

Susan McElvy (SM): Blu, have you got me?

MB: There you go, Susan.

SM: Thanks, Matt, I appreciate it. We’re trying to get all of this technical work, ahead of us here. We’ll give it our best shot today.

Well, hello everybody, good afternoon. For those of you that I have not met yet, my name is Susan McElvy, and it really is an honor to be chosen, to spend a little bit of time with you today.

Boy, did the Coronavirus, literally stop all of our daily routines. It brought us to a screeching halt in seems like a matter of minutes. When we’re able to return to practice, it will be more important than ever, for your customer service to be on point and also for your leadership to be very strong. People will be anxious to get back to their normal routines, that’s for sure, but they’re going to be extra cautious as well. And I think one thing that you can expect is for them to be looking at your business, through a new set of eyes, through a very attention-to-detail set of eyes.

So today we’re going to cover a few pointers, on leading in the new normal and how valuable it’s going to be for your journey to create a new normal, for your team, for your patients, and for yourself. I’ve been in the orthodontic profession, for over 25 years. However, the past 11 years, I’ve been a leadership coach, and one thing that I know is extremely important, is the skills to be a very strong leader. It’s necessary in any successful business. Initially, when Imagine started to design their workshops, we would design them for doctors, business owners, CEOs, business managers, and very quickly, we determined and discovered that leadership is in all of us. Leadership character traits are something that each of us should obtain and have and use. And today, we’re going to talk about how necessary strong leadership is every day. Regardless of your position, in your business or your practice, leadership is required. Every single day you are given the opportunity, to be a great leader. And whether it’s with patients, parents, subordinates, superiors, with each other, your coworkers, we are required to practice leadership every day. So let’s dive in.

Today, we’re going to go through a couple of, a few talking points, and we’re going to start with communication and leadership and communication, will blend into customer service. And then finally we’ll end with some encouragement. So let’s get started. Communication is definitely one of those things that every time we walk into a practice and we say, can we, you know, if I could wave a magic wand and have one thing different for you, what would it be? And 99.9% of the time most people respond. I wish our communication was better. I wish I knew what he was thinking or she was thinking. And that is, the reason we put a communication section in every single one of our workshops. I am amazed at the number of doctors and business owners that I interview and have discussions with. And they say, you know, my team is not doing things the way I want them to do it. They are not listening to me. I don’t feel like they understand where we’re going, what our vision is. And I will discuss, have you sat down and talked to them about it? Do you have constant ways to communicate your vision with your business? And I am really amazed half the time, they never painted the vision for team member. They’ve never shared their vision or they haven’t communicated how important that person’s role in their business or practice is. So that’s why we’re going to talk a little bit, about communication.

Let’s dive in. So what happens when we don’t communicate? There’s a couple of things that happen here, and we’re going to go through those in a minute, but I’ll tell ya. I’ve had some clients that during this Corona-cation, that we’re experiencing, they’ve had a Zoom meeting once a week, since the pandemic started, they continuously communicated, via text, FaceTime, phone calls, emails. They have a need to see each other’s faces and to hear each other’s voices. And then I’ve had other offices that I’ve checked with. And they’ve said, we’ve not heard anything from our leadership. We really don’t know when we’re supposed to be coming back. If we’re coming back.

And I’m just amazed at the drastic difference in that, where some really stay in constant communication and others, you know, just kind of go radio silent on that. So, the question is, have you ever worked with somebody or for somebody that didn’t communicate? Where are you always wondering? You know, where do I stand? What are my goals? What are the expectations of me? When that happens? You know, there’s a couple of things that are the side effects of poor communication.

Number one, when there’s a void of clear and positive communication, people start to assume the worst, and then they act accordingly. At the root of it, it’s generally always fear, fear of, you know, what’s going to happen. When we’re uncertain, fear and negativity creep in, and it starts to dominate our thoughts. It dominates our behaviors and our actions. This leads to the lack of trust, decreased productivity poor focus, uninspired teamwork, and of course, subpar performance. That’s a lot of things that can happen, when we’re not communicating with each other.

I’ve seen it all too many times in practices, where, you know, you think, you know what the employee is thinking, and then something totally different happens. Especially during this time, we need to be communicating and talking to our people. There’s going to be some ways that we can be really on point with our communication right now. We need to encourage our team to talk, to ask questions, to be honest about their feelings and then offer them ideas. This is a new normal for all of us. A lot of things are going to change with the way that we do business. So when you’re returning, from a format, where communication may have had its challenges, then be very intentional with your communication, that’s going to be key.

Some of the things that you can do, I highly recommend, that you have a one-on-one, with each and every one of your employees, regardless of the size of your team, they all want to be heard, they all want to feel connected. And ask them, you know, how did they handle the pandemic in their house? What were some of the things that they did? You’re going to be able to gauge whether people were really, really particular and, you know, Lysoled everything, everyday, wore the mask, you know, how intense they were about it, or you’re going to find out, you know, whether they really didn’t care. It wasn’t that big of a deal. And you’re going to be able to modify the way you do things accordingly. But I think a one-on-one is really, really important, just to find out what their comfort level is and kind of what their go forward plan is with you as well. You want to make sure that you’re conditioning everybody’s mind to come back and, you know, really hit the ground running.

Another great way to communicate, is start your day off with a morning huddle. I know you’ve heard this for years, but a morning huddle is really, really important and it sets the tone for the day and at the Imagine morning huddles, we do not allow any negativity, in our morning huddles. We want to make sure that we’re setting a really positive tone for our day. If you have information that you need to discuss that you think may be a little bit perceived negative, or maybe it’s a reprimand, that’s that can be done just at a later date and time.

Post-day huddle is a great way to also communicate with your team. It’s a great way to kind of sum up the day and say, okay, what went right? What were our challenges? And how do we fix them tomorrow? I remember one doctor I worked with up north, that had a really, really rough morning, one morning. And he said, I’m not coming back from lunch. I don’t want to come back from lunch. Well, you can imagine it’s not an option for a doctor not to come back from lunch. And not to mention, we wanted the team back, happy too. And I recommended a post-morning huddle. And if your morning is chaotic and you think I do not want an afternoon like this, then communicate about it.

A lot of times just giving your team the floor and allowing them to say, well, here’s what happened, here was the trickle down effect. It can prevent some really rough things happening in the afternoon. And there’s a couple of side effects to that too. You want your team going to lunch in a good mood. You don’t want them fussing about your practice, and then you want them coming back with a fresh mindset as well. I always want my team leaving on a good note.

I remember interviewing a team one time and a certain team member said, I get in my car every day and I call one of my favorite team members and we fuss about the practice every day. And I just think, no, you want a joyful ride home. So you can not communicate too much with your team.

Organize. This is a great time to organize a potluck lunch and have everybody bring things in. I know restaurants are restricted, right now. A lot of restaurants have not even opened. It’s a great opportunity for you to sit down and share a meal with your team and really connect with each other. So don’t allow poor communication to happen in your practice because you, you really want everybody firing on all cylinders right now. Let’s, let’s move on.

Effective communication. There’s a couple of things that go with great leadership on it. Allow me to give you some general characteristics of a great leader, when it comes to communication. Leaders do not allow negativity to creep in. So fill in the blank negativity on that one. We often thought focus on a small negative thing instead of really looking at the big picture. And as a leader, your attitude will absolutely set the tone for the day. It will set the tone for the day, the week, the month, and every situation.

Leaders do not allow negativity to creep in, there are going to be days, when it feels like it is just raining all around you. And as leadership, we need to project a rainbow. So leaders do not allow negativity to creep in. Leaders also stay solution driven. Leaders stay solution driven. Too often in meetings, I hear a whole lot of problems being discussed, and I don’t often hear a lot of solutions being offered. It is a leader’s responsibility to guide everyone back to finding a solution. Even if being solution driven is not your thing or being solution driven in an independent situation. I would challenge your team to approach you with a problem, only, if they have, if they have some solutions to offer you as well.

Way back in the day, when I was in the software business, I worked with a great, great leader named Ward Sloane. He was probably the smartest person I’ve ever met and Ward taught me a lot about being a solution driven person. Ward was just a brain of wisdom and he would absolutely help you work through a problem. If you could prove to him, that you had tried to solve the problem, in every manner, before you needed to use his brain. And I think what it taught me, is a lot of independence, how to work on my own and how to not just come with a problem, but come with solutions offered. So remember, when you stay solution driven, you’re teaching your team to think more, to become more valuable, more self-sufficient, and it’s really empowering them to lead as well.

Finally, leaders understand the power of a positive attitude, absolutely a positive attitude. Remember, in every situation you are setting the tone for that situation, and it’s not realistic to think that you’re going to have positive days, every set of perfect days, every single day. You will have challenges throughout the day. However, a positive attitude is one of those, that really creates a lot of power with it.

And a lot of enthusiasm. A man can succeed at almost anything for which he has unlimited enthusiasm. I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work or put forth a greater effort, under a spirit of approval, versus a spirit of criticism. And I love that quote because a lot of times in our coworkers, we tend to just pick out the negative, just pick out the things that they’re doing wrong. And I challenged the entire audience today, especially coming back, from such a really crazy time and a crazy experience, something we’ve never experienced in our lifetimes. To really see the best in each other and really see the best in your leaders and see the best in your doctors and see the best in your coworkers.

It is so easy for us to go down. I call it the rabbit hole, of what people are not doing. How they’re not stepping up, but if you can swap your mindset to really see what people are doing right and really start communicating that, you know, hey, I saw you with that difficult patient and man, you know, you just handled that so beautifully. I wish I had those words. When you can say, you know, I saw you back in sterilization, really, you know, confident and getting us back on floor.

That is something so huge, for you to start seeing the right in each other. And that will allow you to really start to communicate when they do need improvement. When there is something that you do need to talk to them about, hey, you know, I think we can do this better. They’re going to trust, that you don’t just see the negative. You also see the positive in them. So make sure that you understand the power of a positive attitude. There’s a lot that comes along with it.

Well, my business partner, Cynthia and I are both graduates from Disney Institute’s customer service program.  So you probably won’t ever see an Imagine workshop without a little bit of Disney in it. It’s, you know, customer service is one of those, one of those great services traits that you can build in your practice. It’s really one of the easiest and most quickest ways to grow your business. When we work with businesses that have limited budgets, maybe, you know, limited staff resources and so forth.

One of the first places that we start, is customer service and helping them grow their business, through a great reputation and a great brand of excellent customer service. So I want to offer you a few pearls today, that you can put into practice, the minute you head back to your office.

So here we go, we’re going to start with lessons from Lumiere and it sounds silly, but as a graduate from Disney, I’m always going to use some Disney wisdom. and try to pour that in, you know, into all my friends. So when we return to work, we’ll be toggling between, trying to return to normal, keeping our patients safe, meeting the challenges of seeing everyone that missed appointments, progressing their practice and also abiding by all of these new regulations. And so great customer service is going to be a part of what is so necessary.

So here we go with lessons from Lumiere. Number one, he says to greet with a warm smile. And I always try to say, we are in the smile business. That is our product, we are creating great smiles. And I am amazed, at how many offices I walk into, where nobody is smiling. And so greet with a warm smile, your body language, your tone of voice. It is a wonderful way, for you to let your patients know that you’re glad they’re there. We’re in the smile business, so make sure that you’re using ours, our facial expressions, our tone of voice, our body language. It’s just a wonderful, wonderful way to make your patients feel like they’re back home. Second, be enthusiastic, be enthusiastic about your patient’s visit.

We can get really preoccupied with the day, and of course, getting all of these people seen and back through your practice. So let’s make sure that we are communicating to them. We’re excited that they’re there. They’re going to be anxious. They’re going to be nervous, coming back in. They may be a little bit hesitant. And I think being enthusiastic is a great way to set the tone, for that appointment. Absolutely. You know, if you can, if you’re getting preoccupied and letting your work get ahead of you, then you’re missing a great opportunity to make sure that you’re connecting with that patient. So set the tone for their behavior, make sure they know how important they are to your practice and make sure, you know, they know how grateful you are for them helping you grow your small business.

Number three, keep them entertained is what Lumiere says. It may be challenging at first, as to sink back into your new routines, complying with all of our social distancing and sanitizing, wait times may be longer because conversations are going to go longer than normal. However, it is our obligation and our joy to keep our patients entertained. So if you are a practice that has TV’s everywhere, make sure they’re on, peaceful and pleasant, channels. Make sure your magazines are up to date, if that’s your thing, Make sure that you have some phone charging stations in your practice, just to make things a little bit more convenient. And also I highly recommend, you know, have some nice snacks or something to greet your patients with, when they first return to your practice, have that nice coffee, the water, make your practice feel at home because they are guests in your home.

Number four, kind of goes along with that. Please make your patients comfortable. Making your patients comfortable during this time is job one. You’re going to want to go at their pace and determine their comfort level for handling this virus, read their personalities and make sure that you understand, is it the personality, that direct personality that’s like, get in, get out and get things done, or is it that personality that they’ve been cooped up so long, they really do want to have that conversation and connect with you as a person, maybe heart to heart.So make sure that you are reading their personality well and not disrespecting their time, but also offering them the ability to connect with you.

And finally Lumiere says, invite them back. Most importantly, you’re trying to create raving fans. When I do this segment in a workshop, I say you have a, you have an opportunity to create either raging fans or raving fans. And I hope that you are in the business to create raving fans, make sure that you are inviting them back, that you are glad that they’re there, that you want to make sure they are well taken care of. I love the doctors that give their personal cell phone numbers out. I’ll often say, does anybody ever use it? Maybe 1% of the people use it, but it is just such a great gesture to say, I’m here for you if you need me.

Inviting them back sounds very easy and kind of simple, but I want to give you this statistic. Did you know that it costs six to seven times more to gain a new customer or a new patient than to just take care of the ones that you have? So that’s why it’s so important for them to be greeted with a warm smile, know that you’re enthusiastic about their visit, for them to be entertained and comfortable, and to know that they are welcomed back in your practice. Let’s move on, a little piece of Disney here and then we’ll finish with Disney.

Excellent customer service begins with no boundaries. And what do I mean by that? When we do this workshop, this customer service workshop. I normally ask, what do you think is the job of the custodial sweeper at Disney? Yeah, most of the time I get answers, like they sweep up popcorn, they pick up trash and while that is, two really, really important jobs of the custodial sweeper, the actual answer, which is in the Disney handbook is the custodial sweeper is a human signpost.

So can you imagine, you going into Disney to think that your job was to be the trash guy or the trash girl and to sweep and pick up trash all day, only to find out that you had the most important job in the business. That literally, you can have no boundaries, I love this. The team around you will play many service roles, but all should be working toward one purpose.

So the most important thing here is for your team to know that they are serving your patients. I love the quote from a Disney executive named Keith Gallo. He said, you know, after a hard day’s work, I would go out into the park and, and kind of roam around. He said, even it was to point people to the bathroom or give directions. It did wonders for my psyche to just help people.

And I think, when it comes to serving your patients, you can have no boundaries. We must all be patient focused and step outside of our departments to make sure patients are receiving Disney level care or in their world, it’s Imagine level care. Even if it’s not your specialty, make the patient feel like you are there to serve them and provide answers. Here is where a cohesive team, definitely, definitely shines. It is important that the lesson begin with leadership from the doctor to the business manager, to the treatment coordinator, front desk, the clinical team or sterilization team. There can be no boundaries, adopt the mentality of how can I help?

One of the most important things I discussed in our leadership workshop, is the fact that when something goes wrong, someone goes wrong. A patient does, you know, when a patient is not taken care of, they don’t walk out of the practice going, man, that Monica, she’s terrible. You know, I really can’t stand her. They walk out of your practice and they say, boy, ABC orthodontics. They suck. I don’t want to go there.

We are not viewed as individuals in our practice and that I will repeat. We’re not viewed as individuals in our businesses. We are viewed as one big entity. So, the weakest link reflects on everyone. So as a team you’ve got to ask, is it in my best interest to let that team member hang out to dry or let that doctor look like a jerk in front of that patient? It is not. We’re all in this together. And that’s where we can have no boundaries and make sure that our entire team is shining. It’s an opportunity for you to step up and show leadership within your team and help everyone get better.

I have a young man, one of my children plays baseball, travel baseball. So when I’m not sitting here in front of you, I’m usually on the baseball field, not right now, but hopefully soon. And I’ll tell ya, we look at team mentality, huge with him. And I always use the analogy, you know, you can have bases loaded and two outs and if that kid gets up and strikes out, you’re just leaving a bunch of people on base. It is a team mentality, when you say the phrase, you win as a team and you lose as a team, all the time. And by helping each other out and really having that mentality of, how can I help? You’re going to have no boundaries in your practice and it will promote your excellent customer service.

So finally, I want to offer you guys some encouragement. I borrowed this segment from a great leadership coach and mentor in my life named Mike Linch, Mike Linch pastors NorthStar Church. But he also has a wonderful leadership podcast called “Linch with a Leader.” And if you guys want some great leadership and encouragement, check that podcast out, but here is a segment that he taught me and he said, do you realize the word encouragement is just courage. When you add an E-N to the front of courage, it means to add to, when you add a D-I-S in front of the word courage, it means to take away.

So we have a choice, with our words, whether we’re either encouraging or discouraging with our words, encouraging means to literally call alongside, call one alongside or to call someone to self. To some, it means to add to. Encouraging can include the idea of giving help or aid in the primary sense. And I’ll tell ya, you know, this was one of the most important lines he offered to me. He said, how do you know when someone needs encouragement or encourage? And the answer is they’re breathing. We all need encouragement.

So here we go, there are four ways that we can encourage each other. It’ll be more important than ever. When you return to your practice to really encourage each other. People have struggled in so many ways, during this pandemic. We’ve had sickness, financial difficulties, struggling to educate our children, keep them fed properly, exercise, and all of the psychological things that come along with this pandemic too. And it’s really, really hard to be at home and be sequestered so much, when we seem like we’re a society, more on the go than ever.

And this is a really cool story. I’ll tell you, the night that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in Ford’s Theater. These are the things that he was carrying. I’m going to read this for a minute. He had two pairs of glasses, a small velvet eye case, a clean, eyeglass cleaner, an ivory pocketknife, a large handkerchief with Abe Lincoln, stitched in red on it, a tiny pencil, a brass button, a fancy watch fob and a brown wallet with a Confederate $5 bill. But Lincoln also carried this: He carried eight newspaper clippings that he had cut out and saved, all of those newspaper clippings praised him. Everybody needs encourage- or encouragement.

Everybody needs encouragement. So here are the four ways that we can offer our encouragement. I can encourage by giving. And that would be by giving up my time, my money, my compliments, my services, and my abilities. I can encourage by the things that I say, by what I say. There is a time in all of our lives that we need people to say the right words to us or about us.

We can encourage by what we do. Sometimes we need encouragement simply by that person being present. We don’t need them to say too much, we just need them to be there. And I know some of the teams that I’ve worked with through this pandemic, they were just so excited to get to see each other again, and to just be present.

And then finally, one of the ways that we can offer encouragement to others is by the way we live, by how we live, we are all leaving a legacy. Whether it be a good legacy or a bad legacy, we’re all leaving one, every day with every person, we are leaving a legacy. So you have to ask yourself, what kind of legacy are you leaving? What kind of legacy is each of your team member going to leave? Are you the kind of person that pulls into the parking lot, and people are like, oh gosh, here she is again, you know, gear up, let’s get ready. Or are you the kind of person, that comes in, and everybody’s like, yay, they’re here, that’s awesome. I can’t wait to see them. Make sure that you’re that second kind of person, you know, everybody needs encouragement. This is going to be super, super important for us, to really condition our minds to deliver that right now.

So I’m going to leave you with an encouragement activity.  I’m going to tell you a cool little story first. In the summer of 1904 at the World’s Fair in St. Louis, it was hot and people were really searching for something to help them cool off. A vendor named Arnold, had just what they were looking for. Something new, called ice cream. People lined up, in what seemed like miles to get some of this cool and satisfying ice cream. But there was just one problem. Arnold had no idea what the demand for ice cream was going to be that day and he ran out of bowls.

Right next to Arnold’s ice cream booth was a man named Ernest. And he also had a problem. Ernest was a pastry chef who was making a Persian wafer dessert. Ernest also had a problem. His pastry was not selling. So he noticed Arnold’s problem, and he took some of the warm pastry over there, rolled it into a cone shape and showed Arnold, how his cone would hold exactly one scoop of ice cream. So on that hot day, during the World’s Fair, in St. Louis, the first ice cream cone was born. These two vendors work together, to solve problems and serve a bigger purpose than one man could perform alone.

And I love that story because working together is going to be necessary right now. You’re going to hear a lot of different stories. You’re going to communicate through a lot of different concerns. We’re going to be trying to find what our new normal is and working together is going to be key leadership skill, that all of us have to have.

So here’s your takeaway, take away activity for you, have your entire team sit in a circle, give each member an index card. If you have a bigger team, you’re going to need a bigger card. Have the team member, write their name at the top of the index card and pass the card to the left and have each team member write down words of encouragement, to the person that the card belongs to. Keep it going until it gets back to the owner. I know it sounds simple. I know it sounds trivial. But it is an activity of encouragement and the teams that I’ve performed this activity for. I am amazed that years later, I will return to their practice and they will still have those cards in their break room, on a, you know, on a corkboard or even in their pocket. Remember, people want to be encouraged.

I love this quote here by William Ward. He says, flatter me and I may not believe you. Criticize me and I may not like you. Ignore me, I may not forgive you, but encourage me, and I will not forget you. So please, make sure that you return with an activity of encouragement.

I’m going to tell you that it has been wonderful to spend some time with you today. If you’re interested, in investing in your team, by having Imagine provide you with a leadership, team building or customer service workshop, I would absolutely love to chat with you. I hope every single one of you have a wonderful day today. Thank you for allowing me to spend time with you.

I want to say a special thank you to Matt and Blu from Cloud 9 Software. They have been wonderful to work with, and I feel really, really special, getting to speak for Cloud 9 today. So thank you guys so much and have a great day.

MB: Many thanks, Susan for a fantastic presentation. You shared a number of important concepts and techniques at a time, when we could all use, a strong dose of positivity and practicality. So thank you so much for everything. And thank you each for attending. If you want to learn more about Imagine Consulting Group, please visit If you want to learn more about Cloud 9, you can contact us at Thank you all for attending.

Susan McElvy
About the Speaker Susan McElvy

Susan McElvy is co-founder of Imagine Consulting Group. She has been part of the orthodontic profession for over 25 years. She has experience in business management, leadership coaching, team building, customer service and marketing and branding. Susan has consulted for several of the highest revenue generating practices in America as well as many small businesses, Fortune 500 companies, ministries and sports clubs.