When Good Intentions Go Awry
By Nancy Haller, Ph.D.
You may be committed to developing a strong team and a more productive work environment - but we all know that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Building a trusting and high-performing team is a process and it's important to avoid the potholes along the way. Many a well-meaning dental leader can inadvertently create an unhealthy workplace, so here are five common pitfalls to keep in mind as you navigate your route.
1. Too Much Enthusiasm
You're passionate about dentistry. You love the work you do and you want to inspire your staff to be upbeat. Certainly, enthusiasm can arouse individual and team spirit. And enthusiasm can be contagious. But enthusiasm in and of itself isn't going to motivate anyone. To be a truly inspirational leader, you need to see things from the eyes of your employees. Use your enthusiasm to engage others, but ensure you take their perspectives into consideration. Talk with your staff, individually and collectively. Be open to their suggestions and be ready to listen to new ideas. Furthermore, make the effort to get to know the people around you. This creates a positive atmosphere that motivates, encourages and gives confidence.
2. Believe You Already Have A Strong Team
You held a team retreat “a few years ago” and everything’s fine. Be careful with this thinking. Although you were astute in recognizing the benefit of a team “event” - stay attuned to the on-going dynamics. People are complex and “esprit de corps” needs to be stoked, just like a good fire. It’s much like attaining good health. Once you’re there you need to continue to exercise and eat nutritionally. Don’t be complacent. Reinvigorate your employees with training or another retreat. A healthy workplace is a journey, not a destination.
3. Make Changes Without Asking Employees
Human beings need to feel a sense of control and autonomy over their life to perform best. And when we feel a share in the creation of something, we have stronger commitment to make it work. Invite your employees to provide input before you make any significant changes. Be aware that what one person thinks is significant may not be an issue for someone else. Something as benign (and well-intended) as replacing the old copy machine can send your Front Desk employee into a spin…because you didn't seek her ideas prior to buying it. Involve your staff in joint decision making. Give them the resources to make the changes necessary. Support the changes. When you let them have control over their job their performance will increase.
4. Mandate Consensus
Consensus is a risky goal. It's unrealistic to think you will ever have unanimous agreement on every aspect of the practice. In fact, the process can be detrimental because it reduces effectiveness. Employees tend to waste a lot of time in meetings and decision-making activities. Remember that diversity of thought is important for a high-performing team. The key is to strive for healthy exchange (respectful debate) followed by buy-in even when there are differences. Your responsibility as the dental leader is to support your employees and coach them to learn and grow. Help them to work effectively by harnessing their diversity.
5. Surface-Level Civility Is The Goal
There’s a lot of evidence about the negative impact of personal discord on team productivity. Civility is a key condition for teams to be successful. However, “can’t we all just get along” does not replace the need for genuine collegial trust. Enforcing politeness without underlying respect actually exacerbates negative feelings and erodes relationships. At first glance, surface-level politeness and trust may be indistinguishable. But over time, other uncivil behaviors will emerge - excluding colleagues, gossiping, passive aggressive actions. Civility is a good starting point. In fact, you may need to issue sanctions for disrespectful behavior as you help your team to sustain politeness while developing genuine respect for one another.
Your employees have a tremendous impact on your practice. You know the importance of transforming them into a high performing team. Focus on employee development and avoid these pitfalls on your way to a more successful outcome. Call me at (877) 777-6151 if I can help.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at email@example.com
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