Managing Yourself as a Leader
Many professionals, dentists included, have found their way to being quite successful in their careers and lives. However, it is commonly the case that the development of a ‘career plan’ or some kind of road map to help us fully self-actualize as people, professionals and leaders has never taken place. Does your “success” align with who you are, or who you want to be? Are you where you want to be professionally or in your personal life? Rather than wait for something to “open up” or “unfold” for you, why not become methodical and proactive about deciding which direction you want to go next? The five steps below outline the work required to begin to manage yourself more effectively toward even greater outcomes.
1. What are my strengths? To accurately identify your strengths, use feedback analysis. Every time you make a key decision that affects your practice, life, or career, write down the outcome you expect. Six months later, compare the actual results with your expected results. Look for patterns in what you’re seeing. What results are you skilled at realizing? What abilities do you need to enhance to get the results you wanted? What unproductive habits are preventing you from creating the outcomes you desire (e.g., making emotional decisions, not weighing your options, or not taking initiative)? In identifying opportunities for improvement, don’t waste time on the skill areas where you have little competence. Instead, concentrate on – and build on – your strengths.
2. How do I work? In what ways do you work best? Do you process information most effectively by reading it, or by hearing others discuss it? Do you “learn by doing”? Are you up on the latest research or techniques? Do you offer state-of-the-art services? Do you accomplish the most by working with other people, or by working alone? Do you perform best while making decisions, or while advising others on key matters? Are you in top form when things get stressful, or do you function optimally in a highly predictable environment? How much control over, or adaptability to, your environment do you actually have? In answering these questions, you really flesh out who you are – your strengths – and therefore where you should spend your energy on this work.
3. What are my values? What are your ethics? Or, in other words, what is your “true north”? What do you see as the most important factors that make your life feel well-lived? Is it financial comfort or success? Is it to provide excellent care to your patients? Is it to develop and sustain quality relationships? Or more personally, do you value intelligence, humor, work ethic, timeliness, accuracy, compassion, etc.? Do your practice’s ethics resonate with your own values? If not, your career will likely be marked by frustration and poor outcomes. Write down your personal values and closely examine whether you are aligned with these or not.
4. Where do I belong? Consider your strengths, preferred work style, and values. Based on these qualities, in what kind of dental practice environment would you fit in best? Find the perfect fit, and you’ll transform yourself from a merely acceptable dentist into a star performer. Does your patient-base satisfy the reasons why you became a dentist? Are you providing the care or treatment you believe in most? Where/how can you make adjustments?
5. What can I contribute? In earlier eras, dental practices dictated what the dentist’s contribution should be. Today, you have choices. To decide how you can best enhance your practice’s performance, first ask what the current climate requires, or what your patient’s feedback indicates. Based on your strengths, work style, and values, how might you make the greatest contribution to your practice? How can you delegate and enlist the support of others to assist you in your goal? How can you thereby lead the way to your own self-actualization?
These structured steps toward beginning the process of self-management are a start, and a good one. However, these kinds of personal and transformational processes are very difficult to initiate and sustain without support. Do not set yourself up for disappointment by trying this on your own. Enlist the support of a mentor, trusted friend or spouse, or a leadership coach. You’ve gotten to where you are primarily on your own. Use the appropriate support and guidance available to you, and you will see yourself take that next leap, one which you might not even know is ahead of you!
Dr. Gale provides coaching and training to enhance leadership skills, interpersonal communications and team building. If you would like to learn more, contact him at email@example.comForward this article to a friend
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