Aspire to Inspire: Team Building for Your Practice
More than any other article I have written for this newsletter, the Aspire to Inspire column generated the most feedback (December 15, 2006 http://www.mckenziemgmt.com/archives.htm)
Dental offices from coast to coast emailed to let me know that the movie activity generated enthusiastic and meaningful discussions in their office. Some dental leaders were especially savvy in facilitating discussions beyond film titles. They were able to evoke ‘teaching moments’ from their staff members. Regardless of the specific film, the most important ‘take-aways’ were the learnings that employees had about themselves, and how those translate into improved performance. Here are just a few examples.
The comments I received underscore the importance of going beyond the simple answers. If you want to be an effective leader, you need to be curious. Have an exploratory mindset. Take an interest in your employees’ comments and actions. What are the themes behind their words and behaviors? And how do those impact your most important practice goals?
You don’t need to have a Ph.D. in psychology to be an inspirational leader. You do need to have an interest in people and a willingness to put aside your beliefs and values to discover those of your staff members. When you connect with employees on this meaningful level, you build trust. Getting people to talk about what’s important to them is powerful in solidifying relationships and team cohesion. Plus it gives you a glimmer into who they are, and what they need for job satisfaction (i.e. longevity and commitment). Those kinds of discussions also give you opportunities to emphasize how those values make the practice strong.
The most beneficial outcome of building trust with and between your staff is that you enable them to engage in healthy conflict. Employees are more willing to disagree, to exchange ideas without reservation, because they know it is safe to express themselves. In those spirited but constructive discussions will be truth, not politics. When there is honesty, it propels the team forward. When there are politics, people argue to win…and everyone, including you, loses.
Find ways everyday to learn about your staff. Facilitate dialogues that move your staff from ‘either-or’ thinking to ‘and’ thinking. The more they expand their perspectives to accept and understand diverse views, the more cohesive they will be as a team…and the more efficient, productive and profitable your practice will become. Here’s another example I received.
The most strident discussion originated from the two assistants who could see no purpose for science fiction type movies. “They have no basis in reality”. Two of the hygienists took exception with this and there was a protracted and vociferous discussion with the assistants from the opposite point of view. I think it will be continuing………
Leveraging relationships into trusting partnerships is the foundation for an effective dental team. As their leader, you must help them to establish trust. Then you need to demand healthy debate. Set the example by modeling acceptance of conflict in real time. For example, when employees disagree, make a comment like, “I am so glad you are bringing this out. Let’s talk about it some more”. Handle conflict with confidence. Be willing to be uncomfortable for the moment. Keep in mind that the discussions need to be about ideas, not personality.
Dedicate time for team building activities. It might be an off-site retreat or just a portion of your weekly staff meeting. Here’s an activity that can enable your team to share, to be vulnerable, and to build a more trusting environment.
Each member of the team pairs up with someone they do not know well. In dyads, one at a time, they finish the following sentence stems about each other.
And congratulations on aspiring to be an inspirational leader!
Create the right environment that sustains profitability through employee commitment.
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