Leadership steps for the modern digital dental team

July 23, 2012

So you want to get your office going digital? Maybe you want to integrate digital radiography (only 50% of offices are currently digital) or maybe you want to finally go to the totally digital record and at long last get rid of all those charts.

So you want to get your office going digital? Maybe you want to integrate digital radiography (only 50% of offices are currently digital) or maybe you want to finally go to the totally digital record and at long last get rid of all those charts.

If that is the case, good for you…oh, and welcome to the 2000s. Seriously though, progress is a good thing and you should be excited to be on this journey. Let’s face it, working toward a totally digital office can be stressful-especially if you feel that you are on this journey all alone.

As a matter of fact, the one way to make this journey is most certainly not on your own! There are reasons everyone refers to the office as a dental team and this is absolutely one of those reasons. Making serious changes to office procedures and infrastructure requires a team effort. Dramatic changes such as office protocol require everyone to be on board.

Tone setter

Even though we all refer to the office as “The Dental Team,” it goes without saying that the team doesn’t function well without a leader. Because of that simple fact, it behooves the office that’s looking to make progress to have this progress implemented and led by a true office leader.

If you look at successful companies since the industrial revolution, you will find the most successful of those were lead by people who had and articulated a true “vision” for the company. Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, and recently Steve Jobs, were all leaders who articulated a particular vision for their companies. Employees loved and followed these men because of their singular leadership and because they guided their companies where they wanted them to go.

Believe it or not, you are the Steve Jobs of your office. I’m serious about this. Your staff members are there because they believe in you and because they believe in what you are doing. As such, your team is looking to you to provide the path and the guidance that will lead them.

Because of that, it’s important that you, the doctor, embrace your role as leader and do all you can to provide guidance along the path. Here are some suggestions to get you going toward the goal of having a digital office-or as I prefer to call it “nerdvana.”

Have vision

When it comes to your office, your staff members depend on you to tell them what it should be like. What I mean by that is simply, if you don’t know where you are going, how can your staff know how to get you there? It is imperative to have a plan that you can share with staff so it can be properly implemented.

Have an “all hands” staff meeting and determine or articulate your office goals for the foreseeable future. Make sure to write these goals down, as written goals tend to be accomplished much more frequently. 

Have the staff work through the potential problems of whatever changes you envision, create action items on what should be done to prevent these problems, and hold staff accountable for these action items.

Accountability will create tremendous respect from your staff. They need your guidance and will welcome you helping them achieve their goals.

On at least a monthly basis, have another “all hands” staff meeting and review the action items and the goals you are aiming toward. Make sure progress is being made toward the goals and the action items from your original all hands meeting are being met.

Consult with experts

No one wants to be on a journey alone, and a technology journey really isn’t any different than a physical one. No matter what tech changes you are implementing, find people who are knowledgeable about them and bring those folks on board. Individuals who have knowledge about the changes you are planning to implement will provide a safety net for your staff and help provide a comfort level for them as they progress on the journey.

We routinely bring experts in for re-training just to make sure the staff comfort level stays steady…and this is from an office that is high on the adoption curve.

Get the staff on board

As silly as this sounds, this may well be the most important piece of advice I can give you. Your staff is the most valuable investment you can make in your practice. You can (and should) make the decisions, but it is up to your staff to implement them.

It’s important to give them the “whys” of your decisions, but to also let them help you reach those decisions. When an individual is included and agrees with the decision making process, they have “buy in” with the changes being made.

This means they have a vested interest in making sure the changes succeed.

So tell your staff members what your vision is and ask them for suggestions. You’ll be amazed how “into it” they can be. If you are implementing a technology that directly impacts them, such as digital radiography, make sure to give them hands-on time with different systems.

Bring sensors into the office and let the staff try them on each other as well as a few trusted patients. What you are looking for in these encounters is true honest feedback. If a staff member will be required to use a new technology, make sure he or she is comfortable with the choice the practice makes. This will ensure an easy and enthusiastic adoption curve.

Only as good as the team

By providing your team with all the information necessary and by including them in the decision making process, you take them out of the realm of employees and bring them into the inner circle of trusted compatriots. This means your vision and theirs are intertwined into a process that ends up in success for the practice!

It’s important to provide leadership, but a successful leader knows that to get where you want to go, everyone needs to be working to go in the same direction!

About the author

John Flucke, DDS, is Technology Editor for Dental Products Report and dentistry’s “Technology Evangelist.” He practices in Lee’s Summit, Mo., and has followed his passions for both dentistry and technology to become a respected speaker and clinical tester of the latest in dental technology, with a focus on things that provide better care and better experiences for patients. He blogs about technology and life at blog.denticle.com.