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Be a true dental team leader in 10 steps

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” (*John Quincy Adams)

Are leaders born or made?  Some people are born with the personality that compels them to lead, but that doesn’t mean that all others are doomed to a world of following the leader.

Dentists seeking to open a new practice or dentists that are building an existing practice must have concise goals of where they are going. They must establish a path to lead others.  The road to creating the practice of your dreams starts with a vision. The vision must be shared with the  dental team for all to work towards the same goals. The concept encompasses the culture for the practice that you want to create and that you will be living in every day.   Want a dental practice that is energized and fun? Or are you looking for elegance, top of the line like the Ritz Carlton? Perhaps you want a peaceful, serene practice with soft nature sounds and a spa-like feeling.

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Sterile white walls, vinyl covered office chairs and a magazine rack reek of dental practices our parents dragged us to for torture.  I don’t believe this is part of any dentist’s dream practice, yet so many practices that lack direction or vision have this look.

Read: dental staffing trends >>

If you are a general dentist, will you be providing services like implants, endodontics or orthodontics in the house or will you be referring these procedures to local specialists?   Treatment other than the standard, preventive, fillings, and crowns require a team of specialists too that have a level of experience and skill in these areas of care. The business coordinator or office manager is trained in filing claims for specialties, and cross coding for medical claims, and the assistants must have advanced schooling and training to be able to assist in these procedures.

Learn about styles of leadership.  The authoritarian leader makes the rules and the others follow not by choice but by decree.  In a more shared leadership style, there are meetings where all of the team are free to give their ideas and opinions, and the dentist or management listen and decide the outcome.  In practices that lack leadership, you will find more discord and chaos as the team members vie to get what they want by out talking or outmaneuvering their peers.

Lack of leadership spells trouble in many ways.  Without sight or goals to achieve people come to work, do their jobs as they see fit and leave at the stroke of 5:00 pm.  These practices suffer from low production, low collection, and low morale, which results in a higher turnover of staff.

Once you have determined the vision and culture of your practice and have taken a long look at what kind of a leader you are or want to be you can begin to look to hire the right team.

When talking to your team about goals and vision, articulate it clearly and with enthusiasm and optimism.  Empathy, understanding of other’s needs, excellent listening skills are the hallmarks of great leaders.

Here are some great ideas to establish your leadership skills:

  1. If you doubt whether you can lead, learn to lead.  Attend training or hire a leadership coach.
  2. Write down your vision, mission statement, and goals for the next year, five years, and ten years out. Build sound business systems to support the vision and goals.  If you have trouble building sound systems, talk to ethical verified dental consultants to help with the foundation. Good leaders know their limitations and when to ask for help.
  3. Walk the walk and talk the talk.  Keep your word. Your actions must match your words to establish trust and strong leadership traits.
  4. Have conversations with your team about the vision and culture you wish for the practice.  Get them involved to celebrate successes and new challenges.
  5. Build a culture for the patients by creating an excellent experience for them in your office.
  6. Teach (after you learn) the practice benchmarks and the systems designed to measure whether the practice Is in growth or decline. When the entire team understands the business side of dentistry, this will empower them to take corrective action for a positive change.  People show up when you enlighten them as to why.
  7. Learn how to give positive feedback.  Performance reviews can go very badly when they come across as punitive or degrading.   More people have quit their positions after receiving what they consider an “unfair and uninformed” review.
  8. Make further education, seminars, and courses part of each team members goals.  Take the team on group training and workshops designed to build teamwork and understanding.
  9. Show appreciation to your team by saying “Thank you for a job well done.” Establish incentive programs for stellar service based on the financial state of the practice.  Rewards can be something besides raised salaries; there are other ways of compensating for good work.
  10. Build your team so that you can delegate non-clinical tasks to those who you feel can deliver.  A good leader develops people to their highest level of performance with guidance and trust. Read more about dental recruitment shortcuts here.

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As a leader, you want to know where to find the best people for your practice without going through the hoops of job boarding or the expenses and no guarantees of an employment or temp agency.  Cloud dentistry (clouddentistry.com) has 24/7 access to profiles and provides real-time communication with the type of applicants that suit your needs.

Read: dental office checklist to boost production >>

Leadership is challenging yet rewarding if you have given yourself the time and patience to grow and to learn.