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12.5.08 Issue #352 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Unlock Your Team’s Leadership Potential
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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In business it is often said that what got you to where you are today won't keep you there. As you well know, being an excellent clinician requires ongoing training and education; it doesn’t stop with your DDS, DMD or specialty degree. Moreover, not only are you responsible for providing quality care, you must also manage an entire team and monitor multiple systems.

Your staff looks to you for leadership and guidance, but too often dentists set themselves up not only as leaders but as the only people with answers. Do all eyes turn to you every time there is a question or problem? If so, you’ve placed a virtually impenetrable ceiling on practice potential. If individuals on the team are not encouraged to solve problems and demonstrate some measure of leadership themselves, personal and professional growth is stymied for everyone (including the doctor). But leadership doesn’t just happen—you have to cultivate it in your team.

To do that likely requires that you let go of some of the very beliefs and behaviors that enabled you to achieve success in the first place. Where you’ve been insisting on control you may now need to relinquish it to provide an opportunity for employees to step in. Everyone needs to be open to adopting new mindsets and skill sets. It requires changing and adapting in order to realize the vision that you have for your practice and it requires encouraging others to take risks and grow as professionals. That begins with taking an honest look at each person’s strengths and weaknesses.

Encourage everyone on your team to identify two or three of their greatest strengths and weaknesses. Ask them to work with each other as they do this and to gather feedback from others on the team who will be honest and constructive.

Next, ask each member of the team to identify the three or four critical activities that are essential for personal success. If Joelle the assistant’s critical responsibilities are communicating with patients, turning over rooms and anticipating the doctor’s requests during procedures but she is routinely interrupted with questions from the newly hired business employees, she cannot excel in her critical activities. Consequently, she cannot grow as a leader in this area of the practice. Identify the tasks, procedures, weakened systems and lack of training that hamper the team members’ individual leadership abilities.

Insist that employees lead each other by example. Individuals seldom realize how their actions affect the behaviors of their teammates. Employees both consciously and subconsciously look to each other for positive or negative behavior examples. If one person continually blames others when things go wrong, so too will others on staff. If one employee routinely comes in late, others will be more likely to do the same. Negative behaviors unravel leadership potential. Don’t ignore them; address them.

Cultivate a leadership mindset. Ask your team to consider what they would do if they were the ultimate decision maker. Urge them to make recommendations that will benefit the practice’s overall performance, even when it means changing the way they do things. Insist that they speak up even when expressing unpopular views. Hold your own thoughts until others have voiced their opinions. The boss’s words can instantly blanket the room in stifling silence. Never put down a team member’s opinion. Even if you disagree with someone’s suggestion or recommendation, try to build on it rather than knock it down. Embarrassment will shut down the flow of ideas immediately. Dissenting opinions and different ways of looking at problems to identify solutions are critical. Playing it safe could cost the practice patients, profits and, eventually, staff.

Support your team in their efforts to use their creative problem-solving skills to develop best practices for serving patients and moving the overall goals and objectives forward. Use experience to teach and use failure to coach. Teams must be given the chance to learn from their mistakes or they will never have the courage to lead in their areas. Don’t let the ghosts of former failures haunt you or your team. An idea that was ahead of its time two years ago but which failed may be exactly what you’re looking for today.

Finally, get out of the way and let your team members take ownership and leadership of their areas.

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