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The difference between employees and team members


Creating a team culture starts with the leader.

"Most people work just hard enough not to get fired, and get paid just enough money not to quit." - George Carlin

Do you have employees or team members in your practice? Some may say it’s just semantics, but I think once you read a little further you will see the difference. If you feel you have employees, then most likely they are not loyal, dedicated staff who have “bought in” to your practice. Employees are there to earn a paycheck and will be the first to leave when a better offer comes along. Team members are committed to you, their team mates, the practice and even the patients. They have an ownership and take pride in their work, their accomplishments and are always looking for ways to improve.

If your staff needs you to tell them over and over what to do or you must lead them by the hand constantly, you have employees. Team members take direction, they show initiative and they look for ways to be productive member of the team. Employees wait to be given a task and sometimes complain about it, then possibly accomplish it and wait for the next task. There is a big difference between obedience and commitment. Team members like to work together to discuss ideas, create a plan and implement strategies, while employees share complaints without bringing solutions.

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If you are still thinking semantics, think about this: Who would you rather have working with you? You may be asking yourself, “Where do I find these team members?” The first place to start is with you, the practice leader. Creating this culture of a team as opposed to workers starts with a leader who has the vision to build a team with the same values and work ethic as their leader.

Most dentists won’t admit they contribute to the unhealthy culture in their practice, but here are seven ideas to help you determine whether you have employees or team members.

Share your purpose

Have you shared your practice vision, goals and purpose? You can’t engage your team until they know what you’re working toward and how you plan to handle any challenges you might face.

Give them a purpose

Once you have shared your purpose, talk with your team. Let each one of them know what or how he or she will be expected to contribute to help the practice reach its overall goals.

People over profits

When your team is valued and appreciated, they will buy in and be committed to your purpose. If you treat them with respect, acknowledge their accomplishments, and give them the tools to learn and grow in their roles, you will be building a team that will help your practice grow well beyond your expectations.

Make your team accountable 

When the dentist and/or leadership of the practice holds their team members accountable, the less that leadership has to do. Whether dentistry or management, they can focus on what they do best. Ironically, if a team knows that its leadership will keep them accountable, they are more likely to make each other accountable and have each other’s backs creating a team that has a comradery that is undeniable.

No “I” in team

Make your team members feel like they are part of a team. Have team meetings, invite them to share their thoughts and truly listen to what they are saying. Rather than always saying “I” want to do this or “I” want to implement that or “I” want to change this, consider asking them what they think about these ideas. Try saying, “We are considering….what are the team’s thoughts on this?” The more your team feels included, the more committed and loyal they will be and they will take more ownership and may contribute to solving issues.

In-house customer service

We talk a lot about exceptional customer service for our patients, but what about our team members? Providing exceptional “in-house customer service” will help to ensure loyal, committed and engaged team members who want to succeed. Think about this for a minute: Your customer service is only as good as your least engaged team member. What does this mean? It means having a purpose and intent with every experience you have with your team members at every level. An engaged team member will work twice as hard for you than one who is not.

Team building 101

Create opportunities to build your team. Take interest in your team members. Talk to them. Create a culture of comradery and show them you appreciate what they do for the practice. Consider fun, casual gatherings for lunch or after work celebrations. It only takes a small gesture to show your team you care about them as “YOUR TEAM” and not just as employees.

Take the time to create a culture of team in your practice and you will improve performance, loyalty and overall morale. You can convert employees to team members by starting with you. It is a process that takes commitment and of course effort, but all things that require these provide exceptional results.

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