8.24.12 Issue #546 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Nancy Haller, Ph.D.
Leadership Coach
McKenzie Management
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Donít Let Rip Currents Get You
By Nancy Haller, Ph.D.

I love being at the ocean on a summer day. There’s nothing more relaxing than the warm sun and irresistible sea fragrance. Although life feels carefree when I am at the beach, I also am aware of the potential dangers. As I watched lifeguards rescue swimmers from a rip tide last week, I thought about the parallels with leadership.

Rip tides or rip currents do not pull people under the water; they pull people out to sea. Each year American lifeguards rescue more than 60,000 people from drowning. Of these, more than 80% are rescues of people caught in rip currents. People pulled offshore are unable to keep themselves afloat and swim to shore. This may be due to any combination of fear, panic, exhaustion, or lack of swimming skills. Just like rip tides, there may be hidden currents in your practice. If you keep your cool and know what to do, you’ll be safe.

1. Be Aware of the Signs
As the practice leader you can’t afford the luxury of being just “The Doctor.” Trouble may be lurking in your office and you don’t want to be blindsided. Keep attuned to what your employees are saying and doing, because there are warning cues. It might be some petty bickering between the clinical and administrative staff, or a complaint from a patient. Pay attention. When small problems are not addressed in a timely way the results could be hazardous.

2. Keep your Feet on the Bottom as Much as Possible
With your feet firmly on the sea floor you’ll avoid being swept out to sea. You are the boss and the buck stops with you. The responsibility for what happens in your practice begins and ends with you. Be responsible. Be courageous. You will discover that your team truly respects you for it (even if they don’t like it).

3. Expect the Unexpected
When the water of a rip current finds the depression in the ocean floor and rushes back out to sea it gives the appearance of a deceptively smooth surface. Don’t be fooled because things seem fine in your office. A lack of conflict within your team is not necessarily a good sign. It’s better to see lively debate. If people are afraid to disagree with you, there will be undercurrents that can erode your best designed plans.

4. Don’t Panic
Once fear takes over, you lose a lot of strength. Over-expending your energy is akin to ultimate drowning. You need to stay calm. To escape a rip current, you should go with the flow of the water until the current dissipates. Once out of the current, swim back toward shore. The same is true in crisis. If you or your team are experiencing rough seas, your job is to re-stabilize the staff. You’ll need a clear head to know what to do.

5. Call for Help
Rip currents are especially dangerous for people who can’t swim or can’t swim well. Just as you would wave your arms or yell for the lifeguard, ask for help when you need it. The smart thing to do is learn to swim in advance of going in the ocean. As a parallel, be prepared and get training for yourself and your team when things are going smoothly. Don’t wait until you’re in deep water.

6. Take a Breather
It’s impossible to foresee every difficulty. And you can’t control everything. Life is unpredictable and your leadership will flow more effectively by accepting that truth. Know the signs of rip currents in your practice. Be pro-active and take precautions. Most importantly, learn to recognize the signs of exhaustion and take care of yourself. Insufficient sleep, poor nutritional habits, lack of regular exercise and substance misuse all contribute to worsened cognitive performance and brain health.

It’s best to learn how to identify and stay out of rip currents. However, if you get caught in one it’s relatively easy to escape. Call me and we’ll work out a “swim program” for you and your team.

Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at coach@mckenziemgmt.com

Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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