Leadership Essentials For Every New Dentist
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Upon entering your first “real” dental practice either as an associate or as an owner, with your dental degree in hand and requisite experience on your resume, it’s likely that one thing became abundantly clear very early on: The learning process had only just begun. There is a whole lot more to this career in dentistry than most young dentists ever imagine.
Almost without warning, many are tossed into leadership roles seemingly overnight. And it’s that part of the job requirement that often leaves new dentists shaking their heads in bewilderment. Certainly, there is a lot to learn as a leader, but here are a few essentials to follow from day one as “The Boss.”
#1 Never Assume
Assuming that your staff knows what you want is the most common pitfall in leading employees. Spell out your expectations and the employees’ responsibilities in black and white for every member of your team from the beginning. Do NOT convince yourself that because they’ve worked in this dental practice for X number of years that they know how you want things done. They don’t, and they will simply keep performing their responsibilities according to what they think you want unless they are directed otherwise.
For example, your scheduling coordinator may be very experienced in scheduling according to how other doctors want their days structured, which may in fact be very different from how you want your day scheduled. Most good employees want clear direction, and it’s tremendously frustrating for everyone when the staff is forced to guess at what you want. So speak up.
#2 Staff Success = Your Success
Recognize the strengths and weaknesses among your team members. All employees bring both to their positions. The fact is that some people are much better suited for certain responsibilities and not others. Just because Brittany has been handling insurance and collections for the practice doesn’t mean she’s effective in those areas. Look at results. Brittany may be much more successful at scheduling and recall and thus better suited for those duties. Don’t be afraid to restructure responsibilities to make the most of team strengths. Invest in training early and often to build loyalty and ensure excellence.
#3 Give Feedback Often
Along with clear expectations, direction and guidance, employees crave feedback. Don’t be stingy. Give praise often and appraise performance regularly. Employees want to know where they stand and how they can improve. Verbal feedback can be given at any time but it is most effective at the moment the employee is engaging in the behavior that you either want to praise or correct.
If the assistant emphasizes to Mrs. Patient just how much she is going to absolutely LOVE her new veneers and steers the patient clear of second guessing this investment she is about to make, thank her! Express your sincere appreciation and emphasize the value of the assistant’s contribution to the practice. Similarly, if employees need constructive feedback, don’t be shy with that either. If the front desk helper is talking about how gross she/he thinks that whole implant thing is, she/he needs education and constructive direction.
Nip problems in the bud or you’ll suffer numerous thorns in your side. If an employee is not fulfilling her/his responsibilities, address the issue privately and directly. Be prepared to discuss the key points of the problem as you see it, as well as possible resolutions.
Use performance reviews to motivate and encourage your team to thrive in their positions. Base your performance measurements on individual jobs. Focus on specific job-related goals and how those relate to improving the total practice. Used effectively, employee performance measurements and reviews offer critical information that is essential to your efforts to make major decisions regarding patients, financial concerns, management systems, productivity and staff in your new practice.
Every member of your team is as an extension of you. They will affect whether you have enough money to pay your bills. They will keep your schedule on track or off. They will tell you what you don’t want to hear when you don’t want to hear it. They will be a source of great joy and satisfaction as well as anger and frustration. But no matter what, your success as a dentist is dependent upon your ability to lead them effectively.
Next week, the numbers every new dentist must know.
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