Building a Dream Team
Clear expectations and ongoing training can make yours more than just a collection of players
You don't have to be interested in sports to understand that a "dream team" is characterized by so much more than just the strong "job skills" of its players. At a fundamental level, they must have an excellent character, attitude, and work ethic; be coachable (ie, willing and able to learn and develop); be good team players, be committed and accountable to doing their parts to the best of their abilities as individuals for the greater good of the team; be more committed to the team's goals than they are to personal gain; and demonstrate a desire to be challenged so that they can continue to grow and improve.
So why do some practice owners think that assembling a collection of individuals with all of the right job skills to work at their practices automatically results in a great team? It does not. Here are four essential steps to building and developing your own dream team-one that is high-performing, genuinely cares about patients, is capable and committed to delivering the best experience possible, and shares your goals for growth and the long-term vision of the practice.
Step 1: Set and Communicate Goals
Your team can't support your goals if they don't know what they are, much less be held accountable for them. Setting and communicating goals for growth and tracking progress signals to the team that you are performance-driven and results-focused and gives them the opportunity to partner with you in achieving success. To be impactful, this communication needs to go beyond conversation, so ensure that all goals are written down and formalized.
Step 2: Invest in Patient-Centric Team Training
You can't set new expectations without also providing training on how to meet them. Team training that is specifically designed to help grow the business has nothing to do with clinical job skills; it has to do with teaching individuals to work together as a high-performing team to execute efficient systems and processes that consistently deliver an excellent patient experience, increase case acceptance, and generate referrals and new patients. All of these things have been shown to grow the practice, and they are the core training areas that we typically focus on when we start working with our clients and their teams. The return to your practice's bottom line is why team training should always be viewed as an investment with a guaranteed positive return.
Through training, you will quickly learn everything that you need to know about your team, such as who is coachable and who isn't. You will also identify your lowest performers who need to be replaced. In this manner, you're always investing in your better team members, which continuously raises the collective performance and morale of the entire team.
Make training an ongoing growth strategy. Initially, you may be motivated to use one-time team training to address a crisis or fix something that's broken; however, effective periodic training results in so much more. It clarifies and reinforces expectations, inspires engagement, and establishes accountability systems. It also keeps priorities top of mind, drives continuous improvement, creates more efficient and effective ways of doing things, and keeps you at the leading edge. And most importantly, it improves the patient experience and increases patients, revenue, and profits.
Step 3: Create a Culture of Appreciation and Recognition
Demonstrate that you recognize how much easier and better your practice and your life are because of the efforts of your team members. Reward individual and team performance in both small and big ways with, for example, events and activities, incentive payouts, small but thoughtful gifts, or even cards to show your gratitude. Just by spending time with your team, having conversations, and sharing off-site experiences, you show them that you genuinely appreciate and care about them as people.
Team training is also an important culture-building activity. It shows your team that you care enough to invest in them for their own professional and personal betterment, not just for the benefit of the practice.
Step 4: Develop a Generous Spirit
Develop a generous spirit with your staff, your patients, and your community. Find a purpose that your team wants to get behind-something that they can be passionate about and that makes them feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves. Individuals perform better as a team knowing they are collectively working to accomplish something significant, such as by participating in charitable causes and service organizations. Beyond that, your patients will love you for all you do and gladly refer others to a practice that gives back in meaningful ways.
Progress, Not Perfection
The process of building and developing a high-performing dream team is a never-ending one that requires effort throughout the life of your practice. No matter how good your team becomes, you are never "done" with these steps. You just keep getting better at executing them, which drives continuous improvement. Think progress, not perfection.
As the practice grows and expands, you'll need to effectively scale processes to keep up and develop more team leaders to spread out the work and ownership of responsibilities. And as your team members grow, they'll need and want new challenges and development opportunities to live up to their full potential. Life happens, and you will lose good people, even those in leadership roles. You and the entire team will need to adapt and adjust, and others will need to grow into the open positions. When new people come on board, they'll need to learn your way of doing things, what it means to be on your team, and understand your expectations.
In the sports world, a team is led by a single head coach who is supported by assistant coaches and trainers who are all subject matter experts in crucial areas. As an independent practice owner, you are the team's head coach. Your role is to provide a compelling vision, inspire the team to follow you, and set expectations. It's also your responsibility to assemble the necessary resources to enable your team to achieve success. You graduated dental school with clinical expertise but little to no instruction in all of the other areas on which the success and growth of your business depend, such as practice leadership, administration, customer service, training, marketing, and new patient generation. To acquire this knowledge, leverage others who have the necessary expertise, just as head coaches surround themselves with others who help build and support their dream teams.
For example, you can avail yourself of professional trainers who are experts at teaching individuals to excel as a team in ways that benefit the practice, the patients, and the team members themselves and who ensure that the intended behavior changes "stick," so you get the desired results. In addition, be coachable yourself (ie, willing to learn and grow) by getting business management and leadership training from someone who is experienced at teaching doctors how to grow their practices in ways that they never even considered or thought possible.
Building a dream team takes time, but you'll be impressed with what your team members are capable of. When you invest your time and energy into helping them be the best that they can be, they can help you make your practice the best that it can be.
About the Author
Jay Geier is a world authority on growing independent practices to keep for a lifetime of revenue or sell for maximum value. He is the founder and CEO of Scheduling Institute, a firm that specializes in team training and doctor coaching to help people live up to their full potential and uncover the blind spots that are holding them back from that potential. For a limited time, Jay is offering a complimentary analysis to Inside Dentistry readers so they can find out if their practices suffer from any blind spots that are holding them and their dream teams back from reaching their full potential. Go to www.schedulinginstitute.com/inside to request your complimentary analysis today.