Recently, I read a post on LinkedIn from Leadership First that said, “The biggest concern for any organization should be when their most passionate people become quiet.” This quote got me thinking about the team members of our dental practices. First, with today’s dental employee shortage, we, as dentists, as leaders of our practices, need to do all we can to retain our team members. Secondly, we need to do a better job building a cohesive team where everyone’s gifts and talents, collectively and individually, are recognized and appreciated. Most importantly, we need to do all we can to help them our team members feel fulfilled and successful.
Inherently, we know we need to do this, but somehow doing this becomes forgotten or a low priority. Often, for whatever reason, our dental practices become chaotic. In our state of busyness, we become blind to what is most important, our team. In our state of frenzy, our main goal becomes “getting through our day” rather than “getting from our day.” In this state of despair, we lose our sense of joy and fulfillment. With our busyness, we become physically and emotionally rundown leaving us with nothing left to share with our team members. As we live in this “survival mode” for a prolonged period of time, we become blind to what is happening around us and as a result, everyone starts to feel neglected, isolated and unappreciated. Team members, instead of working together, become silos. Ultimately, the chaos, the lack of praise, and the lack of appreciation lead them to search for another job, one that’s more satisfying, one where they can contribute in a more meaningful way, and one that’s more fun.
If the words that you’ve just read describe you, here are a few steps you can take immediately to rectify your situation. First, stop, pause, and do a self-assessment. Look at the “big picture” of your practice and ask yourself some tough questions. “Is my practice a fun place to work? What is my overall mission and purpose? Am I effectively leading and managing my team and my practice?” Once you’ve taken a hard look at your behavior and your present situation, next take the steps necessary to improve your current state of affairs.
In all of our practices, whether solo or group, it’s imperative that we nurture our teams and make them a priority. At this moment, you may be feeling overwhelmed with your situation because you haven’t figured out the “big picture.” It is normal to feel this way; often, figuring out your mission and your purpose takes time. For now, set aside time to take care of your team. Schedule one-hour lunchtime check-ins with each of your team members and do it as soon as you can! The reason I’m suggesting lunchtime meetings is due to the fact that at this time, your regular schedule probably is already jam-packed. Determine the time and the frequency of your future meetings, and block out these times in your schedule. During your meetings, ask your team members thoughtful questions like “How are you doing? Are you happy in your work? Are you feeling satisfied and fulfilled? Do you feel appreciated? What can I do to support you in your work and with your goals? What changes would you like to see made to improve the work environment of our practice?” These are few suggestions, but use your creativity and come up with your own list of questions. Your goal should be to let your team
member do most of the talking, to share their heart, their joys, their concerns, and their desires. The best thing you can do during these conversations is acknowledge their feelings and listen. Do your best to keep the conversation focused on them. In other words, don’t talk about yourself! At the end of the meeting, together set some mutually agreed upon goals for improvement and schedule your next check-in. Be sure to tell your team member how much you appreciate them. Point out specifically what you admire about them. Let them know that in the future, they can talk with you at any time. The overall goal is to tap into their hearts, to help them feel more joy, more satisfaction, and more fulfillment from their hard work.
We need to do all we can to retain our great talent. Remember that being busy is different than being productive. If your feeling like a hamster on a hamster wheel, know that you have within you the power to change things. Ask your team to help you. Share with them your desire to create a practice that is a great place to work. Tell them and show them regularly how much you appreciate them. Set goals, hold each other accountable, and go forward together. Remember that with a team, together everybody achieves more.
Let today be the day that you “stop the madness.” Don’t let the busyness of your practice continue to blind you. Take steps to improve how you communicate with yourself, your team, and your patients. Remember that communication is more than just the words we say; it also involves body language and tone of voice. In your day to day work, remember to keep focused on your team as well as on your patients’ teeth. If you notice that one of your passionate employees becomes quiet, recognize it as a signal that something is out of alignment. As the leader of your practice, make sure you act on it immediately.
When you have an involved team, one that is passionate, inspired, and motivated to help the practice achieve its vision, you’ll have a happy, productive, and fulfilled team. The fog or the blindness from your busyness will clear and your work will become more fun for everyone. You’ll have energy left at the end of your day and there’s a high probability you will retain your precious employees for years to come. Your stress will be less, you’ll feel fulfilled, and at the end of the day, you’ll be living out the words from the hymn Amazing Grace, “I once was blind, but now I see.”
Dr. Robert Maguire DDS, MASCL is a dental speaker, coach, practice consultant, and DISC trainer, passionate about leadership and communication. If you’d like more information about Dr. Maguire and how he can help you improve your practice, visit https://www.thefulfillment.coach/ or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.