Unlocking your dental practice team’s potential hinges on a few important factors, such as communication, collaboration, and willingness to improve.
A Treasure Chest of Knowledge
When you think of the items in a treasure chest, what things come to mind? Perhaps you think of things like gold, or diamonds, or jewels, things that sparkle, are precious, and have great value. If you receive one of these treasures, the only way to find out what beautiful things are inside is to open it.
In your dental practice, you have a similar treasure chest. It’s called your dental team. Your team consists of special and talented individuals who work alongside you, helping you run your dental practice and care for your patients. Some manage the nitty gritty details of scheduling, insurance management, and collections, allowing you to better focus on what you do best, your dentistry. Others, like your hygienists, motivate, educate, and help keep your patients’ mouths healthy.
Thank goodness for our dental teams. While we’re busy concentrating on perfecting our crown margins, our dental assistants, in addition to helping us see better, are observing the comfort level of our patients. They’re able to monitor a patient’s level of anxiety better that we can. While we are focusing intensely on providing excellent dentistry, they are focusing on caring for and comforting our patients with gentleness and empathy.
Caring for the Patient’s Emotions
As dentists, we spend a lot of time and energy focusing on the technical demands of our work like anesthetizing our patients, making sure the esthetics are right, removing decay in a tooth, making sure the crown margins and contacts are exact, adjusting the occlusion, or placing a dental implant. This high level of concentration often keeps us from seeing our patients’ emotions, the things that are going on “outside of the mouth.” How fortunate we are to have a team that helps comfort our patients and monitor their emotional well-being.
Skills, Talents, Knowledge, and Ideas
Another important aspect of the dental team is that each one of them brings to your dental practice their unique knowledge and skills. Often, they have great ideas that make our practices run more efficiently and productively. Often, our dental assistants are excellent communicators, better able to smooth things over when patients seem upset or have concerns. The new insights and great ideas they bring to our practices are innumerable.
Years ago, my team helped me choose our new dental management software. They helped me streamline my scheduling and work more efficiently. Not only did they help me better manage the practice, but they also helped me with my communication skills, letting me know when I was using too much technical jargon and overwhelming the patients.
Over the years, I’ve seen too many dentists with a “lone ranger” mentality, trying to do it on their own, never asking their team members for their ideas or for their help. For me, not seeking input from your team is like receiving a gift and never opening it.
Here are a few suggestions you can implement to improve your communication and begin to include your team in your day-to-day practice life.
Schedule Time and Seek Their Input
As dentists, we can get so wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of doing dentistry that we neglect to take the time to seek input from our team. Make it a point daily to ask your team questions. “What are your thoughts?” “How could we do this better?” “How could we improve the way we care for our patients?” Make sure that at every morning huddle and every weekly team meeting, you review the previous week or day’s activities, and ask your team for their input and suggestions.
Get Rid of “Command and Control”
The need to always be in control is a serious detriment to your dental practice. Micromanagement breeds distrust and stifles your team’s creativity. It robs people of their self-esteem rather than encouraging them to be creative or take risks. Furthermore, a “bossamantic” attitude alienates team members, which leads to unhappiness, and an “every man for himself” attitude, fostering a culture of individual competition rather than one of team collaboration.
Research shows that happier teams are more productive teams. Allowing team members to use their gifts and talents creates safety and a more relaxed work environment. As a result, team members will feel more confident and take more ownership of their jobs. Magic happens in a dental practice when everyone is empowered to use their talents to provide the best care for your patients. Want to increase your practice production? Give your team more freedom, seek their input, tap into their strengths, and watch your practice grow.
Focus on Excellence
There is no question that doing great dentistry requires intense focus. Daily, we strive to make sure that our crown margins are closed, that the shade is just right, or that the occlusion is perfectly balanced.
Our dental school training can be a breeding ground for perfectionists as we constantly work to learn and improve our technical skills. In short, perfectionism is a curse that poisons us, poisons our teams, and robs every one of their personal happiness. Perfectionists are never satisfied with their work. Consequently, they place unrealistic expectations on themselves and on their teams. Fear is the emotion that drives this behavior; it’s a fear of failure, a fear of not knowing the answer to a question.
Despite our desire for perfection, we live in an imperfect world, and as human beings, none of us are perfect. From our daily living, we know, firsthand, that “things don’t always go according to plan.” Focusing on excellence rather than perfection gives everyone on the team permission to do their best every day. We know firsthand that “stuff” will happen, and that some days will be better than others. Want a happier and more productive team? Strive for excellence rather than perfection.
Use After Action Reviews
In my office, when things didn’t work out as planned, we used After Action Reviews (AARs), to analyze situations, solve problems, and produce better solutions. Most often, we used AARs during our morning huddles and weekly team meetings.
With an AAR, we simply asked ourselves 4 questions: What happened? What was supposed to happen? What was the reason it happened? What will we do differently next time to achieve our desired result? For example, if the lab called to say that they needed a new impression, instead of playing “the blame game,” we used AARs to figure out what happened and what we needed to do differently next time to achieve a good impression.
AARs have 2 main benefits. First, with just 4 simple questions, we can solve problems quickly and easily. Secondly, AARs help you and your team stay focused on the situation rather than on “pointing fingers,” a behavior that alienates people.
Looking for ways to improve your practice, whenever possible, seek input from your team when making decisions for your practice. Frequently ask your team members for their suggestions and opinions. When you do, you’ll be amazed at the creative and new ideas they’ll come up with together. You’ll be astounded as you watch your team connect with their work, feel better about themselves, and have more fun. In the end, because of this synergy and spirit of cooperation, your dental practice will achieve greater financial success.
So, what are you waiting for? Open the treasure chest today.