By Larry Wintersteen, BA, MA, CMT

“All happy families resemble each other, while each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
– Tolstoy

It is often said that a Dental Team is like a family. You spend a lot of time together. You experience joy, stress, and uncertainty together. Like families, Dental Teams are often challenged and comfort zones imposed upon.

Since 1974 I have personally interviewed thousands of tenured and new personnel from various Dental offices. Some of them are comfortable with their professional setting while some are frustrated from the lack of direction and forward motion in their office. When asked, “What is the greatest influence in building success and happiness in the dental office?” a common theme is evident – Leadership Makes a Difference.

First of all, you must distinguish the difference between LEADERSHIP and MANAGEMENT. You cannot manage other people. You can only manage yourself! Through self discipline and dependability, Leadership is born. Therefore, you can lead other people assuming you have sufficiently mastered self Management.

Self Management is the right and responsibility of every team player….not just the Doctor. As a Doctor, it is essential that you lift the sole burden of Management and Leadership from your shoulders. Every member of the team needs to be a manager of their time, their choices, and ultimately themselves. Management then, is a collective responsibility.

Once this responsibility is assumed, your team of Managers & Leaders will bring forth Success, Excellence and Happiness. Each professional in your office should be a beacon on a hill: giving light, direction and hope to the Team and the patients you serve.

STRETCH BEYOND YOUR COMFORT!

You have consciously chosen to be in the people business. When you are in the people business, you are in a changing and demanding environment. The social, political and economical changes of this profession will not allow you to get too comfortable. Dentistry is more than a clinical science. It is also a behavioral art…..an opportunity to touch lives, to build people and to improve your own humanitarian skills.

Take an inventory of your own self Management and Leadership Skills. Review this “Leadership Qualities” list. Check the items you want to improve upon:

I like/enjoy my profession.

  • I enjoy working with and serving patients.
  • I appreciate my team players and enjoy them.
  • I help people discover how good they are.
  • I have defined and shared my professional goals with loved ones & team.
  • I am willing to invest time and money into our team’s personal & professional development.
  • I create consistent opportunities for open and safe communication through trust and risk.
  • I make time to review and to plan realistic steps for SUCCESS.
  • I have defined what SUCCESS means to me.
  • I set the standards and ultimate goals of the practice…..but, I include my team in HOW to reach these goals.
  • I assume ownership of MY OWN attitudes, behaviors, and activities. I know that change and growth starts with me.
  • I listen and study carefully…..before I make a decision or reach a conclusion.
  • I keep a healthy balance between my work, my play, my family and my personal development.
  • I “practice what I preach” (efficient, honest, punctual, organized, kind, fair, etc.)
  • I keep confidences.
  • I look for and provide opportunities for STRETCH PERFORMANCE.
  • I tattle on my team players if I see them doing something nice/right/special.
  • I recognize and reward the worth of staff.
  • I promote Quality Control through positive reinforcement.
  • I possess many qualities of a child: enthusiasm, imagination, spontaneity, forgiveness and a strong desire to learn new behavior and skills.

Now that you have completed the SELF EXAMINATION – take time to prioritize and identify specific ways to bring forth change or growth. If appropriate, you can openly discuss these 20 Self Examination items in a joint staff meeting. Do some perception checking through each other’s senses and opinions. Be good for each other and to each other.

Remember, you have the ability, the influence, and the right to make a difference in your Practice and Profession. Effective Leadership will ensure your team, just as a happy family, will “resemble each other.” You will be unified in commitment, loyalty, quality, and purpose. Your time spent together will be uplifting, your joys will be enhanced, your productivity enlarged, and your stresses minimized. MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

Leadership requires real friendship amongst those that work together and creates an environment for building and developing self esteem.