Small Steps Create Big Impact:
Becoming a More Effective Dental Leader
Wish: You want your staff to act cooperatively, promptly, rationally.
Truth: In all likelihood you’ve got at least one disgruntled employee who complains, causes friction, avoids work, or calls in sick because the baby was up all night.
Wish: You just want to do dentistry, and you start the week feeling in control.
Truth: In all likelihood, your hope of getting everything on your task list done vanishes soon after you arrive at the office.
Wish: The last thing you want to deal with is the ‘problem’ of having employees.
Truth: Like it or not, you are the dental office leader and it’s your job to deal with people problems. Unfortunately, few of those can be solved quickly. Worse, some are totally beyond your control. But you DO have influence over many factors that affect your staff. And if you want to run a productive, profitable business, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your behaviors are positive ones.
If you’re like most dentists, you underestimate the impact you have personally on the habits and effectiveness of your team. As the leader, you have the authority to authorize, encourage, or impede most aspects of their working day. This places you in a position of power and responsibility. Leadership development is often less about making big changes, but more about small modifications in your behavior. In turn, these kinds of shifts can create significant improvements in outcome. Consider the influence you have on your team by looking at those automatic, insidious habits you demonstrate to employees.
For example, what impact would you have if each morning you told Jessica, the Clinical Assistant, how she had set up the tray wrong? Or you rearranged the instruments without saying a word?
What if you emphasized to Carol, the Hygienist, that you needed her to pick up the pace, to pay attention, so she could work faster in order to fit in two more appointments?
Would Jessica or Carol be pleased by your attention? Would they look forward to these little chats and prepare simple questions to clarify aspects of their work? Or would they develop a habit of hiding each morning to avoid your reminders?
Of course you would never be so destructive, if you thought about it. And you must. Many seemingly simple habits can have a huge impact upon your rapport with your team.
Here’s another example. Suppose you often voice public appreciation for self-sufficiency and initiative displayed by one or more employees? After all, you’re trying to be supportive. Then suppose - as a busy dentist - you respond abruptly to questions and interruptions? Think about it. Probably your team will leave you alone. They will not raise problems. You will be left in the dark. They won’t question your instructions, and ambiguities will exist. They will feel unsupported and fail to develop loyalty.
Simple behaviors can result in a quagmire of errors, misdirected activity, and utter frustration. Leaders need to hear about problems. Your employees will only tell you if they see you as approachable. Model interest and curiosity about what they are doing. Tell them this repeatedly. Ask questions from a position of open-mindedness. React positively when you hear of problems in-time rather than too-late.
Look carefully at how you behave and whether problems are due to your previous inattention to the human factor. You might be the problem andthe solution.
Next article: Small steps to motivate employees.
Dr. Haller is available for to help you strengthen your leadership and team impact. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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