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Become a Better Leader and Your Practice Will Thrive
By Sally McKenzie, CEO

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Operating a successful dental practice is about so much more than honing your clinical skills. While providing top-notch dentistry is critical, you also have to focus on building relationships with patients, managing the business side of the practice and providing team members with the guidance they need to excel in their roles. In essence, you have to become a leader – and that’s something many dentists struggle with.

You likely didn’t learn much about how to effectively run a business or lead a team when you were in dental school. Most dentists aren’t naturally comfortable in this position, which ultimately hurts their practice. If you want to reach your full potential, you really have to embrace your role as practice CEO.

Sound intimidating? Not to worry. If you invest in training, like McKenzie Management’s course for Dental CEOs, you’ll learn the skills needed to be an effective leader. To get started, here are a few tips to help improve your leadership skills so your practice can thrive. 

Create a clear vision. It’s surprising to me how many dentists haven’t taken the time to develop a vision for their practice. The ability to articulate where you see your practice in the future is vital to your long-term success.

I suggest sitting down with your team members to develop a practice vision. Including your team in the process will show them you value their opinion and gives them ownership of the goals you set. They’ll be more motivated to truly excel in their roles, helping to boost practice productivity and revenues.

Provide team members with the guidance they crave. This should come in the form of detailed job descriptions, training and continual feedback. Without this guidance, team members will feel lost – leading to inefficiencies, frustration and low team morale.

Remember, team members rely on you to offer them direction. Make your expectations clear, and give them both constructive and positive feedback whenever you can. When you do, you’ll notice vast improvements in performance and even job satisfaction, which are both beneficial for your practice.

Be open to suggestions. Part of being a good leader is listening to your team members when they have ideas to improve the practice or when they bring up concerns – and then taking action. Make sure team members know they can bring suggestions and problems to you at any time and you will take them seriously. Create a safe environment where their voices can be heard, and team members will be more motivated to help you meet practice goals.

Stay passionate about dentistry. When your practice is struggling, it can be difficult to remember what you love about being a dentist, and why you decided this was the best career for you in the first place. It’s easy to focus on the stress and lose sight of all the great things that come with the job.

To be a successful leader, you truly have to love what you do. If you’re starting to lose your passion for dentistry, it will show through interactions with your team members and patients. It might even hurt patient retention numbers and send team members looking for another job – doing more damage to your practice.

How do you stay passionate, even when you’re struggling? Keep learning. Invest in continuing education courses to learn new skills you can add to your list of services (which will also help attract new patients and give current patients reasons to keep coming back). Attend tradeshows to learn about new products that can help your practice grow and network with other dentists.

And, of course, don’t forget to take time for yourself. If you only focus on your practice, you’ll burn out in no time. Exercise, visit with family and friends or spend time enjoying your favorite hobby. Basically, maintain a healthy work/life balance and you’ll be much more effective when you’re in the practice.

Embrace your leadership role. Like it or not, you are the practice CEO and the one team members turn to for guidance. When you offer that guidance, you’ll start to see significant improvements in their performance and ultimately your bottom line. When you become a better leader, your practice will thrive – and you’ll finally meet your full potential.

Next week: Sharpen your leadership skills to grow production. 

For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side

Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com
Interested in having McKenzie Management Seminars speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.
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Belle DuCharme, CDPMA
Instructor/Consultant
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Is Your Practice Culture Hostile?
By Belle DuCharme, CDPMA

True story from an Office Manager Training client:

I was interviewing for an Office Manager position in a large pediatric clinic. I was told by the managing dentist: “Let me give you some good advice. You are highly qualified and have a nice persona, but you will not survive in this practice. My people will eat you alive and spit out the bones.” Of course, I didn’t get the job. Is there such a thing as being ‘too nice?’

Jae Smith (name has been changed)
Office Manager

Dear Jae,

I believe the managing dentist felt you weren’t a good “culture” fit for his practice and was doing you a favor. All businesses, and that includes dental practices, have a culture that defines them – whether they are aware of it or not. Many dentists, as I have witnessed, tolerate chaos and disharmony and enjoy watching employees “duke it out” for leadership or just getting their way.

These dentists seldom intervene and let the chips fall as they may. The dentist doesn’t want to lead the group, so those bent on leadership usually prevail. With this type of management, there comes a time when a line must be drawn in the sand or boundaries must be placed.

According to recent statistics from The Society of Human Resource Management, more than 1 in 4 Americans deal with an on-the-job bully.

While there are no general civility or anti-bullying laws in place at the federal or state levels, companies that want to vanquish bullying in the workplace can adopt their own guidelines or codes of conduct. That begins by enforcing a policy statement asserting that all people, regardless of race, gender, background, belief system or position in the company, will be treated with respect, dignity and civility. In addition, the policy should state that any type of bullying that demeans, diminishes, defames or belittles a person through rumors, lies, devious and selfish acts, unilaterally boastful comments about self and derogatory comments about others, antisocial or aggressive behavior, or any acts that create a hostile work environment will not be tolerated.

A recommended book to read: The Bully-Proof Workplace: Essential Strategies, Tips and Scripts for Dealing with the Office Sociopath (McGraw-Hill, 2017)

The introverted, non-confrontational dentist will usually retreat to his/her office when there are disputes between staff members, hoping they will work things out between themselves in a civil manner. Often there is a truce and one person backs down, but that is not always the case. When patients are in earshot of disagreements and can see, hear or feel practice tension, they are likely to find a friendlier, more patient-centered practice.

As the dentist and CEO of your practice, you set the tone and culture. Take a moment and examine your own behavior to ensure you are setting a good example. As a leader in your organization, you are a role model and others will follow you. Make sure all employees have written job descriptions that spell out their position in tasks and areas of authority over other employees. Some strong employees will be the “Office Manager” even if this is not their responsibility.

Discuss bullying behavior and its consequences openly with your team. Review the most appropriate ways of addressing it and stopping it. Some people that bully don’t see their behavior as being the problem. Get help from a professional counselor and have a conflict resolution coaching session during a staff meeting or a “lunch and learn” break. 

Don’t remain silent and walk away when you witness bullying behavior. When someone exhibits bullying behavior and gets away with it, it reinforces the behavior and may cause it to escalate.

Designate yourself or a trusted Office Manager as a person who people can report to for help. Just make sure you and/or the manager are not part of the problem by allowing bullying behavior to continue. Take a stand for your practice by making it a bully-free work zone.

Need help establishing good practice systems? Call McKenzie Management today for our professional CEO or Business Management Training.

If you would like more information on McKenzie Management’sTraining Programs  to improve the performance of your team, email training@mckenziemgmt.com

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