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Nancy Haller, Ph.D.
Leadership Coach
McKenzie Management
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Be a Trust Builder
By Nancy Haller, Ph.D.

Teamwork is a hot topic in dental offices. It’s likely that when you advertise for a new staff member, you include “teamwork” as a job requirement. During the pre-hire interviews, you probably ask prospective employees if they are “team players” and it seems that everyone says: “Yes, I am!” So why is it that when they actually join your team, they tend to pursue their own self-interest? They resist or challenge the ideas of others most of the time. They fail to communicate important details to co-workers. They isolate themselves from teammates.

Dental leaders say “teaming” is the one thing they need more of. But before you can be a team builder, you must first understand that trust is at the core of good teamwork. Trust is the foundation. The reason that trust is so important is because a lack of it increases project completion times, drags out decision making, and delivers poor communication. Low trust takes away from the bottom line. So your job is to be a trust builder. In fact, the primary goal of a leader is to enable their team to trust.

Unfortunately, many dental leaders confuse trust with the namby-pamby virtue of being “nice” and overlook the fact that the most effective teams experience disagreements and tension from time to time. What enables trust is not “niceness” but respect. Trust is less about employees liking each other and more about them respecting one another so they get the job done and the practice is successful. Building trust doesn’t happen automatically. It requires attention and it takes a development path. Here are 10 basics to help you to be a “trust builder.”

1. Insist that employees know what you are trying to achieve. Share your vision with them and put it into simple, easily remembered words and phrases. Repeatedly remind people, and periodically ask them to recite the mission. The purpose is that it becomes second nature, a mantra, to everyone on your payroll.

2. Create ground rules. These are basic policies about conduct as well as clear job descriptions. Be sure team members know exactly what is expected of them.

3. Understand that running a productive and profitable dental practice is a complex group effort. You can only succeed if everyone takes responsibility for his/her chunk. Hold people accountable to the rules.

4. Ensure everyone participates. It’s easy for groups to be dominated by the most extraverted personalities. Don’t let that happen. Introduce the element of equal “air time” by going around the room to hear from each employee.

5. Accept that everyone on the team is fallible, and that when mistakes happen the team will work together to fix it.

6. Provide employees with the information and resources they need to get their jobs done. Coach them to be flexible. Change is constant and the need for adaptation is crucial.

7. Find ways to prioritize the work so that even if you can’t accomplish everything you set out to do, the team stills has a viable, successful outcome.

8. Maintain a positive, constructive attitude. If things are going poorly, help identify what’s going wrong and propose solutions.

9. Be vulnerable. Actively seek opportunity to connect with your employees on an individual level by being the first to share appropriate, personal details. Put yourself out there and watch the magic as people willingly open up with their own personal information and experiences.

10. Affirm employees and value their contributions. Look for people's strengths and catch them doing things right.

Note that teams are not static. Employees come and go, and each time the trust must be rebuilt. Regular team maintenance is required to sustain trust. No matter how strong the team is, the members are human beings and come from all types of cultures and environments. This not only creates conflict but more importantly, it reduces the level of trust within the team. Personal problems and home situations are the greatest challenge. Include maintenance as part of your leadership routine and plan for it. No matter how many hats or functions are juggled, the maintenance must be conducted just like changing the oil of a car engine.

If you believe you have built a solid team, ask each employee how much trust they have in each individual team member. Consider a 1-5 scale with 5 being high. The responses will enable you to know the strength of the team, and what is required of you to build it stronger.

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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