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15th April 2015

Positives or negatives?

positivity concept on blackboardOK, hands up. How many of us have taken part in practice meetings and had the time dominated by finding more problems than we started with, or the meeting deteriorating into a niggle session about individuals? There is a natural rule that meetings tend to dwell on the negatives and rarely look for the positives. This is something we can change, the rule isn’t written in stone.

I have seen it quoted that focusing on positive issues, "helps groups stay focused on their larger purpose and the outcomes of each meeting. The tools and techniques foster an environment where people can contribute and feel valued. Creative problem-solving and collaboration flourish within the structure of the meeting."

So how do we do this?

Some simple rules for meetings

  • Create a friendly environment, built on openness and equality. This is easy to do, by forming a circle of chairs with no-one at ‘the head’. This way, everyone will feel part of the proceedings and feel open to talking without being intimidated.
  • Have an agenda and stick to it with timings. Discussion running over can be put back to the end if it’s possible for people to stay, or left open till the next meeting.
  • Start at the published time, regardless of who isn’t there.
  • Make a rule that only one person talks at any one time. A ‘talking stick’ helps, whereby only the person with the ‘stick’ can speak and passes it onto someone to make the next comment. We have used a stick of celery for comedy effect!
  • Start a ‘Niggle Book’ - a comments book kept in the staff area in which people can write down worries, niggles and complaints. As part of the agenda, only niggles recorded in the book can be discussed at the meeting. This limits the amount of time spent on negative issues. It also allows the Practice Manager research time and come with some answers to the worries before the meeting!
  • Make sure ALL mobile phones and laptops are switched OFF.
  • This is the most important part of a practice meeting, and sometimes the most difficult: have an agenda item, every time, based on a positive aspect of work. It might be about disseminating an example of ‘good practice’ someone has come up with. It might be an ‘employee of the week’ award. It might be congratulations on achievements. However, it has to be positive and it has to occur every time. People will very soon begin to work towards being nominated.
  • End at the published time.

Look for positives outside the practice

It’s always a good idea to look at what other people do, as much for the examples of good practice as it is to look for the things to avoid. Don’t be afraid of copying other people – there’s no Copyright on good working practices! Most people find it flattering to be followed in this way.

Everyone looks on CQC as the tiger with big teeth, but believe it or not, it is wanting to be a part of this process too. Janet Williamson, of CQC has said that they want dentists to learn from well-performing peers. To this end they are:

Looking for examples of ‘notable practice’ during inspections.
Asking us for criteria for notable practice in order to be able to catalogue aspects we might be interested in.

Contact the CQC team on if you want to put forward ideas. These ideas might be from your own surgery or that of peers and colleagues. The intention is to regularly publish case studies that will inspire change.

Dr John Shapter – QCS Expert Dental Contributor

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