Sticky situations: The right and wrong ways to motivate the dental team

Editor's Note: The following "Sticky Situation" was submitted by Amy Morgan, CEO of the Pride Institute. It is the latest in a string of "Sticky Situations" submitted by the experts at Pride Institute.



Pride Institute. It is the latest in a string of "Sticky Situations" submitted by the experts atEditor's Note: The following "Sticky Situation" was submitted by Amy Morgan, CEO of the Pride Institute.







Dr. Clueless feels that her team is lazy, unmotivated, and she has to do everything herself! She’s about ready to fire some members of her team unless they “get” motivated to think like an owner and go the extra mile.


So what’s a good way for Dr. Clueless to stop feeling this way and start working more closely together? Here’s some advice.


First and foremost, no one can motivate anyone to do anything. Motivation has to come from within! It’s an internal process, a reason to act a certain way based on the good ol’ radio station WII FM (What’s in it for me?). You may not be able to force motivation, but the leader (Dr. Clueless) is responsible for creating a culture that influences people to high performance and promotes motivation.  

Another Sticky Situation: How to handle a screaming match inside the dental practice



This is not just semantics. The best definition of leadership I’ve ever seen is this - “leadership is influencing and inspiring people to WANT to do what you WANT them to do.” The word “want” is the key to motivation. A lazy way to approach creating a motivating environment is the old school “carrot and stick” form of reward and punishment. This model is based on the fact that your team (thinking of them like a bunch of donkeys) will only work harder if you dangle a carrot in front of them or threaten them with a whip if they balk. There are fundamental flaws in this logic that makes this model unusable in today’s self-directed team environment.





I personally believe that it is disrespectful to view your team as donkeys. Seriously, no one on your team ever looked up at the star-filled sky and said, “I want to do a mediocre job for a dentist someday and only commit to do things better if I get an extra cookie!”



Even if you still buy into that way of thinking, what if your donkey isn’t hungry? Or doesn’t like carrots? Or the task that needs to be accomplished is unrealistic, even with the extra incentive?




The problem with a whip (punishment as a potential consequence) is that if you continue to threaten and don’t follow through, you will have a revolt. If you do use the whip, a battered individual eventually gives up and sinks into apathy.


Another Sticky Situation: Should a team member handle the practice's social media?

So if carrots and sticks don’t work, what does?

Find out on the next page...





Look for the intrinsic benefits to better performance, such as tying the requested task to a bigger purpose, highlighting the potential for increased self-esteem, increasing self worth through personal growth, recognizing and acknowledging INDIVIDUALS for their efforts that go above and beyond. This should occur 80% more than the number of times you correct poor performance.

  • Create a compensation model based on practice growth and demonstrated individual merit that your staff understands and can control.

  • When you do reward, involve the individual or the team in the creation, execution, and follow-through and make sure the reward is something they want and the outcome is achievable

  • Never forget, the small stuff always counts! Praise, ongoing communication, a sense of inclusion, and respect are what inspire people to want to come to work. Without it, no amount of reward can ever be enough!

Another Sticky Situation: How to handle a negative online review of your practice

Have a Sticky Situation you need help with? Contact us at Pride Institute offers an array of consulting services, products, and seminars to enhance the of dentists, their teams and ultimately their patients. For more information about our services, speak with one of our client services specialists at (800) 925-2600 or visit