May 2020
Volume 41, Issue 5

How to Re-engage a Disengaged Team

Carrie Webber

Dentists and team leaders constantly wonder how to get their team more involved, whether it's participating in meetings, working to meet goals, or helping to grow the practice. Stimulating team engagement in a dental practice can be frustrating. There is a difference between team members who lean in and do meaningful, impactful work and those who simply show up and do what they must to receive a paycheck.

Sometimes leaders and owners who are seeing disengagement in their teams are experiencing "the bed they have made for themselves." Choosing not to address behaviors that lead to disengagement may result in the need to regroup and reset expectations.

What instills a higher level of engagement among employees? According to research from The Institute for Employment Studies based on employee feedback, employees consider involvement in decision-making, the ability to voice their ideas, and the opportunity to develop within their job to be key components that drive engagement.1

Team Meetings

Productive daily huddles and team meetings can help drive engagement. When there is team buy-in of the dental practice's vision and goals, there is a better likelihood of achieving those goals. Involving team members in goal-setting gives them a sense of co-ownership and is likely to elevate their drive to help achieve those goals. Here are some ways to proactively revitalize team meetings:

Plan ahead. Think through topics in advance so that the meeting is organized and readily executed. Create an agenda to share with the team ahead of time for any necessary preparation.

Rotate facilitators. Have a different team member plan and lead the meeting each time. This instills greater engagement through necessity and responsibility.

Start on time, stop on time. Avoid the tendency to start late, because this dishonors those who made the effort to be on time. Respect everyone's schedule by stopping on time. If something on the agenda wasn't covered, table it until the next meeting.

Use the "faucet and funnel" approach. Turn on the "faucet" by having a 5-minute brainstorm or fun question/discussion topic that everyone participates in. The primary purpose is to get everyone participating and creative juices flowing. Then turn to the "funnel" approach, whereby the meeting hones in on specific topics and the team focuses on training, troubleshooting, planning, goal setting, etc.

Connection Time

Employees who have a personal development plan and have had a performance appraisal in the past year have much higher engagement levels than those who have not.1 In addition to performance reviews, connection meetings with individual team members can help enhance engagement and rebut apathy. These are casual one-on-one meetings where the dentist or practice leader spends focused time with each team member, nurturing their personal engagement in their roles in the practice. Dentists/practice leaders might ask the team members how the leadership can better support them and what they see as opportunities for improving the practice. Moreover, it allows the dentist/practice leader to cast vision for where the practice is heading in the coming months and ask for the team member's commitment to be on board for the journey. Listening to team members and involving them in the overall vision and goals gives them a sense of ownership and provides a platform for them to share.

Casting Vision and Setting Expectations

The dentist's vision for both the practice and performance expectations must be clearly communicated to the team, otherwise the dentist has no one to blame but him or her self. The leader's vision must be communicated and standards and expectations set. Once leaders set the standards of excellence, they must personally commit to reflecting them and consistently hold the team accountable to those standards. In short, the leader must set the standard, reflect the standard, and expect the standard.


Motivational conversations at the right time in the right settings gain the best results. Formal performance reviews must be in place in order for connection time and team meetings to produce results. Dentists/team leaders may need to reflect upon their own consistency in executing the key pieces of leading and managing the team and build from there. Time spent involving, connecting with, and developing the team can make the difference in setting expectations and driving engagement overall. If the practice culture has settled into disengagement, now may be the time to reset and revive.

About the Author

Carrie Webber
Co-Owner, The Jameson Group (jmsn.com), a dental management, marketing, and hygiene coaching firm


1. Robinson D, Perryman S, Hayday S. The Drivers of Employee Engagement. Report 408. Brighton, UK: Institute for Employment Studies; 2004.

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