What You Do Speaks So Loud That I Cannot Hear What You Say.

Dentists – imagine this scenario: Your day starts with an early morning text from your indispensable dental assistant, who won’t make it to the office today due to caring for a sick toddler. You remember with a groan that you’re down to one handpiece, and you were informed yesterday evening that the office printer was out of ink. You’re running low on gas, and stops to fill up and the office supply store puts you at the office twenty minutes late. Walking in, your hygienist is sitting at the front desk, eating pistachios and leaving the cracked shells on the desk, and is wearing that horrendous “Smurf”-themed smock, which you despise. She cheerfully greets you with a “myfirstpatienttodaycancelled” garbled comment, while letting the phone ring. As you walk to the back, you see your first patient sitting in the chair, bibbed and chatting on her cell phone; you overhear her saying, “no, I’m still waiting” to Your front office receptionist is in the break room making herself a cappuccino with the expensive specialty drink appliance she insisted the “office” purchase. A quick glance at the printed schedule taped outside your office shows a packed day with no lunch break, with a double booking of a crown appointment and a bridge replacement for an especially hard-to-please patient at 11 am. After heaving a heavy sigh, you wonder how you will get through the day.

If only there was someone in charge of all this………

It is now that you realize – you are the leader, the practice owner, the one to whom your staff needs to turn for firm decisions and policy setting. You establish the vision, set the ground rules, deliver the action plan and write the game plays. This is not, you recall, what you learned in dental school.

But how do you BE that leader? John C. Maxwell, an American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker defines a leader as “one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.” Being a leader literally means to set the example for your team. Ask yourself what you want in each aspect of your practice, and what support you need and from whom you need to get it. Write it down. Communicate these with your staff.

In our above scenario, our poor example dentist might establish policies that include having a temporary dental assistant agency number on speed dial, a “no eating/drinking at the receptionist area” rule, a dress code (or purchase office uniforms for staff) and scheduling protocols. But beyond that, it also means following those protocols yourself. Your staff will quickly imitate your actions if you consistently show up late, don’t complete your assigned tasks or deliver inappropriate and unprofessional communications to patients and staff.

Great leaders aren’t necessarily born, although having the innate skills to lead certainly helps. And great leaders needn’t always be visionary, but know how to coach, guide and elicit their teams to reach goals and attain success. Leadership is the “art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it,” Dwight D. Eisenhower once said.

Most importantly, model the behavior that supports the vision and goals of the practice. As the late Steve Jobs once said, “Be a yardstick of quality – some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” By practicing what you preach, leading by example follows naturally. Some quick leadership guidelines to follow:

• Show up on time!
• Be clear in your communications
• Have and attend the daily huddle
• Lead a weekly staff meeting
• Require daily, weekly, and monthly monitoring conventions and checklists
• Assign tasks appropriately and monitor for completeness
• Follow all the policies of the practice
• Schedule appropriate and on-going training for all tasks
• Establish performance expectations for each task with individual accountability
• Rate each individual’s ability to successfully follow policies and use respective tools
• Provide quantifiable feedback to each team member on a monthly basis
• Reward staff for meeting and exceeding performance expectations

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