How One Team is Conquering Dysfunction
I recently had the privilege to work with a savvy dental leader and his staff. Although his practice was relatively productive, he wanted to take the business to the ‘next level’. So while the two day retreat was a sizable investment (he brought his team to San Diego from the East coast), he knew that employee performance is directly correlated with practice profitability. In other words, the purpose of training was business-focused, not just a feel-good reward.
Prior to our first meeting, each member of the team, including the dental leader, completed an online survey. This enabled us to ‘benchmark’ the strengths and the weaknesses of the group. Team members also completed a second questionnaire that identified individual preferences and behaviors. During the first morning, we reviewed the detailed report of their team as well as the similarities and differences between team members.
Like it or not, all teams are potentially dysfunctional, even those who are moderately successful. This is inevitable because they are made up of imperfect human beings. So it is extremely rare that a team will score high on the five behavioral challenges that all teams continuously face.
With this particular team, “Trust” was at a moderate level. This was due to their familiarity with one another. Several team members belonged to the same church and attended services together. Others had worked together for many years. All in all, they were like a ‘family’. Furthermore they were kind-hearted and compassionate people who didn’t want to hurt one another.
This conflict-avoidance dynamic was their greatest dysfunction. Stifling conflict actually increases the likelihood of destructive, back channel sniping. Indeed this was the situation. Team members often bickered and griped, wasting valuable energy and time. Instead of addressing important issues directly with one another, they talked ‘behind’ and ‘around’ teammates, afraid that honest communication would be hurtful. Of course the opposite happened. The result was decreased practice efficiency and productivity, as well as diminished initiative and engagement.
During the team building retreat, we also reviewed the unique traits of each team member. There were smiles and head nods as they shared their profiles. The retreat’s outdoor activities highlighted each team member’s special talents. They recognized and embraced the important contributions each team member plays in the ultimate success of the practice. They learned to give supportive feedback to each other. They developed a ‘common language’ by writing two mission statements – one for the office and one for the team. They have a plan to hold each other accountable and drive for results.
Take an inventory of your team.
Although no team is perfect and even the best teams sometimes struggle with one or more of these issues, the best dental practices constantly work to ensure that their answers are "yes." If you answered "no" to any of these questions, your team may need some work.
Facing dysfunction and focusing on teamwork is critical for the dental leader. He /she sets the tone for how all employees work with one another. The team with whom I recently worked showed tremendous courage and discipline, and I commend them. I know they are on their way to extraordinary levels of success! I’ll be sure to keep you posted.
Next article: The five important behavioral challenges that all teams face.
Want to unlock the power within your team? Contact Dr. Haller at firstname.lastname@example.org. She’ll help you take your practice to the next level.
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