In my free time, I make it a point to attend CE courses outside of the Heartland Dental offered courses. My travel gives me the opportunity to speak with a lot of non-DSO dentists. It is not uncommon to find that I am the only Heartland Dental supported doctor at these events and usually the only DSO (Dental Support Organization) supported doctor. We discuss market concerns, new products, things we’ve implemented in our offices that we liked or that didn’t work well. We discuss patient retention, supplier costs and quality, and we discuss the level of success we are experiencing in our markets. The number of dentists with offices that have become stagnant in their production is astonishing. What I hear most often identified as the road block to their success is their team. They all end up saying: “My employees come in, do the minimal amount of work, and go home.”
Like many things in life, within the problem, we find the solution. If you identify your Business Assistants, Dental Assistants and Hygienists as your employees and not your TEAM, then that is the problem. If you fail to understand and acknowledge the importance of the roles that your “employees” play in the success of your office, then they will also fail to understand and acknowledge their importance and the importance of their coworkers. As the leader of your office, it is imperative that you understand the value that every one of your team members brings to the office. Not one person on your team is negligible to your success and the success of the practice. The language that you use to define the other people working in your office defines the value that you give them. The value that you give them defines the value that they give themselves. If they don’t believe that they are important for the office, then the success of the office won’t be important to them.
I have been practicing dentistry since 1991. I started in a group practice as an Associate Dentist, then became a partner. In June of 2015, my practice affiliated with Heartland Dental, our nation’s leading dental support organization. In the process of affiliating, I realized that Heartland Dental had the same mindset I had. Supported offices across the country do the same thing that I do in my practice; they acknowledge their in-office support staff as a TEAM. Together, everyone achieves more—and it shows! Through continuing education and professional development, Heartland Dental shows the dentists they support how to lead and how to express the value that they have for their teams every day. A Heartland Dental supported office team knows that it is a part of something greater and that their daily efforts are what make the difference. We celebrate all of that together. All supported offices celebrate our unified success.
If you’re struggling to create a positive work culture, and you don’t know where to start, here are six things that I do every day to show my appreciation and dedication to my team:
- Be the best leader you can be. I arrive first every day (at least one hour before our first patient) and lead by example throughout the day. I have no problem helping to clean operatories or prepare instruments for sterilization when a member of my team needs some help. So, when another member of our team could use some help, each person in that office knows that there is no task beneath them if it benefits the team.
- Challenge them to grow. I expect each member of my team to continue to grow and develop in their position every day. We challenge one another to constantly improve and learn as much as possible.
- Lead the Morning Huddle. Set the tone for the day and your expectations for both your team members and for the practice. Review your monthly goals every day, celebrate your success and identify opportunities for you, your team and your practice to improve.
- Trust your team. Make it a point to NOT micromanage. Ensure that every team member knows what is expected of them and strives to do their best.
- Address issues quickly. Problems always come up when people are working together, but don’t let them take over. The sooner an issue is addressed, the faster your team can start moving forward in the right direction.
- Show your appreciation. Though it is beneficial to celebrate the wins, it doesn’t take a huge announcement to express that you appreciate a team member’s efforts. Tell them that you appreciate their hard work, when they go above and beyond with a patient and for being a member of such an awesome team. Everyone wants to know that they are appreciated. As the leader of the practice, it is your responsibility to make this a part of your office culture.
For my practice, the culture and reciprocated value that my team has for one another is what has made the difference. Over the last 12 months, our office went from a three-doctor practice to a one doctor practice. To make sure that all of my team members could stay employed, I knew I would have to step up and give it my all. It was going to take a top-notch plan and the respect, commitment and trust of every individual member of my team. I am happy to say that it has been a year and my team is the happiest they have ever been. Each person has grown considerably in their role. Every Morning Huddle, we talk about what went well and where we can improve from the day before. This gives us a time to celebrate our successes and to define opportunities to make our office better. Morning Huddle is a prime opportunity to show that you care for your team, that you have the best interest of the practice and the patients in mind, and that, when you work together, there isn’t anything that you can’t accomplish.