Strategies for Introverted Dental Leaders
Leadership is a process by which a person influences others to accomplish specific goals and objectives. As such, the basic nature of leadership is interaction between people. This can be difficult for introverted dentists. Introverts are not necessarily shy (although shy people are introverted). The difference is that shyness is about feeling anxious in social situations. Most introverts are not necessarily apprehensive. In fact, introverts can have great people-skills.
• Have you been told you’re too serious?
If you answered “yes” to these questions, chances are you’re an introvert. No, you don’t need psychoanalysis or medication. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you. However, it you want your practice to be more productive and profitable, you will need to “stretch” outside your interpersonal comfort zone.
Science has learned a good deal in recent years about the habits and requirements of introverts. Through brain scans, we know that introverts tolerance for external stimulation is lower than extraverts. Introverts process information better when they can think and reflect. As such, introverts do best when they have time to mull things over, and they can be quite interactive if they balance “people-time” with time for solitude.
Introverts can be outstanding leaders. They generally listen better. Typically they think through issues in more depth than their extraverted counterparts. They are more focused. When they speak they are more concise. In my coaching and leadership training with dentists I have found that introverted dental leaders can be wonderfully warm and witty with their patients – but when it comes to employees, they’re just worn out. Low on interpersonal fuel, many introverted leaders rely on hibernation; they retreat to their office and close the door. Employees are left on their own with little to no guidance, direction or support.
If you’re an introvert, I am not suggesting that you change your private nature. But I am recommending that you shift your behaviors to engage more with your team. These are skills you can develop and practice.
1. Engage with and affirm your employees. Give positive feedback. Ask staff about their families or the purchase of a new car. Conversely, tell them about something fun you did on the weekend.
2. Express thoughts rather than rehearsing ad nauseum. This is especially true when something displeases you. For introverts, problems in the office are internalized. Introverts can spend so much time on inner dialogue that the issues don’t get discussed openly. This can snowball into serious conflict.
3. Seek out opportunities to convey your message to your team. Plan to let your staff know more about your practice vision at staff meetings. Remind them during morning huddles - great ideas can be expressed in short segments of time. Script it. Come up with a few talking points on important practice issues.
4. Add a little enthusiasm to your words. This is a skill you can practice with the help of a tape recorder or with a trusted ally. By putting more “punch” to your communication you will ignite more believability and credibility in your message.
5. Be the first to speak rather than the last. By going first, you’ll be more relaxed as you listen to others. In turn you may actually speak up more.
6. Reduce the amount of time you spend in your office. Walk around. Have lunch with employees at least once a week.
7. Say “good morning” when you come in each day. Never leave without saying goodbye or letting your staff know you’re stepping out of the office for a while.
8. Smile. Misunderstandings are often based on small nuances…like an overly somber facial expression or a frown. When you smile, it shows others that you are approachable and confident. Employees will want to follow.
If you are an introvert, celebrate your strengths. Remember that your natural gifts are essential for team harmony. Your style can be calming and reassuring during stressful situations. Now it’s time to expand your skills. The key is to remind yourself, and as Nike says, just do it.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at email@example.com
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