07.03.09 Issue #382 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@ mckenziemgmt.com
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Coaching vs. Therapy Confusion

Having been a therapist and a coach, I admit that the difference between the two is not always clear-cut. Many therapists are coach-like in their orientation and the two disciplines do share some common ground. Both can work with high functioning individuals who are facing difficult situations, and both professions focus on helping people make changes and accomplish goals that really matter to them.

Although I spent many years in psychoanalysis myself, when I was a practicing clinician I was drawn more toward behavioral forms of therapy. I often say, I’m not a ‘shrink’…I’m an ‘expander’. For me the joy of my work comes when people change the way they think and act. I am direct and practical. I love to see results, and to get there quickly. Therefore coaching is a natural fit for me and the way I like to work.

But the question still remains, how would a person know if he or she should pursue coaching or therapy? To help distinguish the two, I thought I’d share some real-life examples of clients I’ve coached.

Dr. Tom
A true entrepreneur, Dr. Tom works in a family practice. He saw the growth potential for the business, however he faced enormous challenges in influencing his father and sister (both dentists). There were huge differences in their temperaments. Dr. Tom is the youngest of the group but clearly the work-horse. He wants to establish the practice ownership but there are power struggles about who’s the boss. He sought coaching to improve his leadership competencies, particularly as applied to aligning his father and sister with his vision. He needs to identify their motivation for tightening operations and business systems. Of course there are emotional issues involved, but the focus of our conversations is for Dr. Tom to develop the skills to influence his family constructively and deliberately. He’s currently working on that.

Dr. John
For Dr. John, the catalyst for coaching came when his Office Manager noticed discrepancies with deposits. But this was just the tip of the iceberg. There was high staff turnover; employees were hired quickly and resigned repeatedly. Exit interviews identified Dr. John as a “moody micro-manager.” On the positive side, Dr. John had good values and the need for integrity in the office. He had a highly effective chair-side manner, particularly with children in difficult situations. He disclosed that he had a mid-western background and a very strong work ethic. He drove himself hard. Coaching was focused on extending Dr. John’s patient skills to his staff. When an employee did not act in accordance with his standards, he learned to take time to think before responding. He asked questions and remained outwardly calm and objective. He stopped voicing strong opinions, especially negative ones. By improving his reactivity, he was able to give feedback to employees, to teach them what he wanted them to do and how he wanted them to do things. He increased his team’s loyalty and their longevity. He also increased his bottom line by stopping the revolving door.

Dr. Keith
Like many dentists, Dr. Keith’s goal was to be more productive and profitable. Patients loved the care they received in the office. The practice was in a good geographical area with lots of opportunities for expansion. Dr. Keith is a “gentle dentist” with a compassionate style. He thinks of the patients’ best interests. The trouble was that Dr. Keith didn’t think of his own interests. His communication style was indirect and he took responsibility for their financial situations. Consequently he under-prescribed treatment, which ultimately back-fired and reduced his image of credibility. He also talked too much. He loved to educate and teach, but unfortunately his expressiveness in the operatory impacted patients negatively and backed up the schedule terribly. In my work with Dr. Keith I learned that his wife was the Office Manager. There were marital tensions between them, largely related to the way each of them wanted to run the office. Because their interpersonal issues were outside the scope of coaching, I referred them for couples’ counseling. Sometimes coaching is not the answer. However, when they resolve their marital friction, or Mrs. Keith resigns as Office Manager, Dr. Keith and I will resume coaching.

Many of the doctors with whom I work want to learn to communicate more objectively. Other common categories of coaching topics are training and developing employees, promoting trust and collaboration within the team, and developing a culture of feedback in the practice. In the process of working on these goals we do talk about emotions. In fact, I have coached dentists who have had rather volatile tempers. One was referred to me after throwing instruments. I want to help you to raise your work satisfaction and your bottom line. Give me a call and we’ll have a brief, complimentary discussion about whether coaching would help you to do the same.

Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like information about any of her practice-building seminars, contact her at coach@mckenziemgmt.com

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