Accountability – It’s Not a Dirty Word
In business, it is often said that what got you to where you are today won't keep you there. The same holds true for the business of dentistry. After all, being an excellent clinician requires ongoing training and education; it doesn’t stop with your DDS, DMD, or specialty degree. And although delivering quality dentistry may be the cornerstone of a first-rate practice, that alone won’t sustain your business over the long term.
Your success is contingent upon much more than the letters behind your name and the quality of your work. That, by comparison, will probably feel like the easy part. Achieving true excellence demands that you marshal the energy, respect, and dedication of a group of people who may be very different from you. They likely have different levels of education, different priorities, different challenges and, most certainly, different personalities.
You depend upon this group to make great things happen in your practice every day. And they depend on you for inspiration, motivation, direction, and accountability. If they are inspired, they understand the mission and the purpose of their roles and why they are essential to the success of the practice. If they are not, they will be mere cogs in your practice wheel, never really connecting their responsibilities to the effectiveness of the practice, not to mention their own success. If they are motivated, they want to deliver excellence every day in every interaction. If they are not, they won’t care and most likely they won’t stick around for long – if you’re lucky that is.
If they have clear direction, they understand your expectations and the measures of success. And if they are accountable, they are empowered to take action. If they lack direction and accountability, they will be quick to point fingers and assign blame when things go wrong – as they will, regularly. Whether you acknowledge it or not, everything in your practice depends upon staff fully understanding what you expect and being fully empowered to deliver on those expectations.
Unfortunately, the word “accountability” has taken on negative connotations in recent years – associated with negligence or incompetence. Staff can be suspicious of the term and view being “accountable” as being “liable.” In actuality, it should be the foundation for empowerment upon which trust and confidence is built among the entire team.
And while clear direction and accountability have been proven again and again to be integral to the success of every office, often they are absent. Why? Because providing clear direction and establishing systems of true accountability require time, energy, and a sincere commitment to do things differently. They cannot be achieved until written expectations for every team member are established. These require specificity, yet many practitioners hold on to vague generalizations. The old “everyone does everything” doesn’t work in today’s demanding workplace. Certainly, you need cross-training, backup systems, and protocols so that other staff can step in when necessary. But individual employees need to know what is expected of them individually, and they must have the tools and training to fulfill those expectations.
Too often, dentists fear specifics because they incorrectly assume that being specific will lock them into something they may not like at some point. Or they shun necessary training and education for staff because they worry that the employee(s) will leave, so the practice continues to languish. In other cases they simply can’t imagine that their teams could handle additional responsibility, so they set themselves up as the wise sage, the only person with the answers. All eyes turn to them every time there is a question or problem. They believe this is the best way to maintain control. In actuality, it is the best way to stymie practice potential.
Certainly, your role as leader is critical. But if you’re consistently stepping in and taking over, by default you set yourself up as the only person in your practice who is truly accountable for outcomes. And if you haven’t discovered it yet, I guarantee you will ultimately realize that approach is to your practice’s detriment.
If you’ve always been the one with all the answers and all the control, creating a culture of accountability will be no small undertaking. It will mean adopting both new mindsets and skillsets. In doing so, you will enjoy a level of success, prosperity, and professional contentment unlike anything you’ve ever known before. And that, doctor, is a promise.
Interested in speaking to Gene about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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