Effective Leader + Effective Team = Successful Practice
I never cease to be amazed at the number of practice owners who have no comprehension of what it means to be a leader. They know they are the boss, which they believe means when employees screw up, they tell them. Or when things go wrong they scream and yell and make a scene that no one forgets. Or they just shun the whole idea of “boss,” hiding in the operatories or in their offices to just let employees “take care of things.” It’s a scenario that is not uncommon in small business, and the business of dentistry is no exception.
After all, dentists are not trained to be leaders. And if they tend to be fearful, mistrusting or insecure individuals, effective leadership will be all the more difficult to achieve. Few practice owners truly comprehend how to maximize the value of the people who are central to their success. Many will happily assert that they pay their employees a “fair” salary. They provide a few perks, and they deliver good dentistry, so what more “leadership” does the office really need? Sadly, these practices likely will peak at merely average. But for the many, many doctors seeking to improve their leadership skills and their practices, I encourage you to consider what I regard as a few key characteristics of both effective leaders and effective teams.
But it doesn't stop with the doctor/practice owner. Central to the success of the practice is effectively leading a team. Successful teams have a few key characteristics as well.
Effective teams are made up of employees who feel included in the process. They feel valued for their contributions, and they feel empowered to make decisions and take action when it’s in the best interest of the practice. A true team environment encourages individuals to risk speaking up, to ask for help, and share opinions. If staff are sitting in meetings and letting you do all the talking, or discussions are quickly answered with, “Okay, doctor, whatever you want,” you’ve effectively stifled open communication and created an environment in which staff may play along, but they’ve long-since learned that your opinion is the only one that really matters.
Effective team members turn broader practice priorities into individual priorities. They understand that their role affects not just themselves but everyone else. Moreover, they create an environment where they can candidly but respectfully address shortcomings in systems without pointing fingers at each other. Effective teams respect each other and recognize one another's differences. Teams are microcosms of the world in which we live. Everyone brings strengths, weaknesses, and yes, occasionally baggage to the table. Use management tools to understand each other's personalities as well as strengths and weaknesses.
Effective teams have leaders who celebrate success, deliver praise without reservation, and create an environment in which the staff and the doctor sincerely enjoy each other and working together toward the common goals.
Are you ready to improve the leadership of your practice? Call me at 877-777-6151
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side.
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email email@example.com
When I was a child, I wanted a palomino pony. Many little girls go through a horse-crazy phase at some point, but I was passionate about having a pony. My family lived in a rural part of Connecticut and we certainly had room for a horse. Although not rich, it seemed that cost was not a significant factor. I was a responsible kid so my parents knew that I would take care of it. But after what seemed like incessant unfulfilled requests, I decided they were never going to buy me a pony. I moved on to other interests.
In a recent conversation with my mother, I inquired about why I never got my pony. Her answer was, “You stopped asking.” It seems that she and my father were ready to give in and only needed to be nudged one more time. Isn’t this the difference between success and failure - pure persistence! It got me thinking about the importance of business success and leadership resiliency.
Succeeding in the competitive world of dentistry requires creativity, imagination, and most importantly, mental toughness. Resiliency is the ability to ‘bounce back’ when circumstances are difficult. Tenacity. Staying power. Determination. The desire to not give up. Perseverance is the key factor to surviving in these enormously challenging times in which you live and work. Remember that you have no control over others, but you have full control over yourself. Reminds me of a fun story.
There once was a bunch of tiny frogs who arranged a climbing competition. The goal was to reach the top of a very high tower. A big crowd had gathered around to see the race and cheer on the contestants. The race began but no one in the crowd really believed that the tiny frogs would reach the top of the tower. Some shouted out, “Oh, WAY too difficult!! They will NEVER make it to the top” and "Not a chance that they will succeed. The tower is too high!"
One by one, the tiny frogs began collapsing. The crowd continued to yell, "It is too difficult!!! No one will make it!" More tiny frogs got tired and gave up. But one continued higher and higher. This one just wouldn't give up! He reached the top of the tower to the crowd's amazement. When the race was over, a contestant asked how the tiny frog had found the strength to reach the goal. It turned out that the winner was deaf.
There are two points to my pony-story and the frog competition:
1. All of your life you will have many people tell you, including yourself, that it is too hard, you should quit, don't try, etc. Choose to not listen.
2. Being positive works. As a leader you can shape the behavior of your employees' so much better by being positive than being negative.
If you have been experiencing lower productivity and/or a tendency to become overstressed with life's inevitable downturns, evaluate your thoughts. Challenge automatic beliefs. The difference between a business that succeeds and one that doesn't is similar. Great leaders carry on, even in the face of critics and insurmountable odds. Perseverance is about forging on in spite of adversities.
Did you know that Steve Jobs was a college dropout and got fired from his own company? He persevered and created the most admired company in the world. Albert Einstein had a learning disability. Stevie Wonder is blind. James Earl Jones was a stutterer. The great physicist of our time, Stephen Hawking, has Lou Gehrig's disease. When J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book in 1995, it was rejected by 12 different publishers.
The bottom line is you can never quit. Stay focused on your vision and encourage those you lead. You may not have it all figured out, but you have to keep climbing. Learn from your mistakes. Keep an agile mind and an insatiable curiosity. From the top no one will doubt you have succeeded as a leader. It will take constant effort and courage to get there. You will have to trust yourself and trust those you lead. Never give up!
You can learn to be more persistent. Contact Dr. Haller at firstname.lastname@example.org. She'll help you to build your resiliency.
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
Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.
What Messages Are You Really Sending?
It is Monday morning and the entire staff is prepared for the morning business meeting in the back area, away from the patients where they cannot be heard. That is, everybody except the doctor and associate. The doctor does show up in time for the meeting - however the associate is not there. What message does this send to the staff?
First, the staff may think the associate is not committed to the practice, and that the morning meeting is not really that important if people are constantly showing up late or not at all. Morning business meetings are one of the most valuable assets available to any type of medical or dental office. This is the one time when everybody has a chance to sit down and really look at who is coming in, what scheduling concerns there may be, and how to make the day run as smoothly as possible. This may even mean calling patients and altering their appointment by 10 minutes.
Let's look at another scenario. The doctor that owns the practice is on vacation, and the associate is covering for him while he is out. The associate is doing the periodic exams in the hygiene schedule and meeting a lot of the existing patients, which means the associate is having to treatment plan any needed treatment on these patients. The hygienist goes over all of the notes and information s/he can to ensure the associate is informed about the past dental history of the patients. While doing the periodic exam, the associate finds some decay. When he tells the hygienist, he does not sound confident and his mannerisms are weak. What message is this really sending to the staff and patient?
The staff may not feel confident selling the treatment needed because they are not confident in the decision that was made - due to the tone of voice or mannerisms the associate had when stating what is wrong and what is needed to fix the problem. The patient may not accept treatment if it is not presented by the associate with a voice of confidence and non-verbal actions that demonstrate knowledge and honesty.
When the doctor is presenting treatment, it is recommended that s/he state with a voice of authority what is wrong and what needs to be done. This is not the time to question your own judgment. The doctor should also make direct eye contact and inform not only the hygienist, but also the patient with determination and knowledge. If the patient immediately asks the doctor a question, s/he needs to answer the question without hesitation. This is not the time to have a pause while communicating.
Once the doctor is done, it is now up to the hygienist to get the treatment plan to the front office so they can be prepared to go over financials once the patient is ready to leave. The patient should not be escorted out of the hygiene room until s/he has asked: “What other questions can I answer for you about the treatment needed or your mouth?”
Are your patients sitting in the reception room waiting for their appointment, or sitting in an operatory waiting for treatment to begin because the provider was double booked, or too much treatment was provided without enough time? This is sending the message to your patients that you don't value their time. As a result, your patients may start running late to their appointments because they will not value your time, and some may not show at all or even worse seek treatment elsewhere.
If the provider is not allowed enough time for all of the treatment, the appointment may not be perceived at the level of care that the patient expects. The appointment may be a hygiene appointment for a prophylaxis, but now the hygienist is doing x-rays, laser treatment, Velscope and a periodic exam by the doctor, in addition to the cleaning the patient anticipated. Sadly, it is usually the cleaning that will falter, and the patient may notice this in the way their past cleanings have been done in your office, or even at their past dental office. Many patients determine if they are going to stay with an office on how well they perceive their teeth are being cleaned and maintained.
These are just a few ways you or your staff may be sending hidden messages to your patients. Challenge yourself to see what hidden messages are being sent out of your office - when you come into work, don't let yourself go on auto-pilot, and consider what you and your staff may really be communicating to your patients based on actions and non-verbal communication.
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program or call 877-777-6151
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