Special Issues
September 2015
Volume 11, Issue 2

Creating an Outstanding Team

The keys to fostering an efficient, energetic dynamic

Cathy Jameson, PhD

A great team works like a well-oiled machine. Each person must be able to do his or her part quickly and competently, and when everyone is functioning effectively, the machine moves forward toward everyone’s common goals. It is by nurturing the strengths of each individual and positively reinforcing the right behaviors that the whole organization is strengthened. This piece will outline some of the ways that leaders in a dental practice can shape their teams to perform at the utmost of their abilities.

Getting the Right Group Dynamics

In his book, Good to Great, corporate leadership expert Jim Collins writes, “We thought that people were a company’s greatest asset. We were wrong. The right people are a company’s greatest asset.” Investing in the development of those “right” people is the most profitable action a leader can take, and the rewards of such an investment have a positive impact on the entire team. Because each team member has the opportunity to make or break patient relationships, which is a practice’s bread and butter, fostering individual excellence is essential.

A great team is also made up of a combination of different personality styles. The strengths of one person may support an area of weakness in another. By understanding the personality differences within the team, the team can learn how to function best as a whole.

Once everyone on a team has the appropriate skills and works together well, fostering and maintaining that excellent group dynamic is essential. As a team leader, you should never accept negativity from your staff, which saps the energy out of your practice and can spread like wildfire. Attitude truly is everything, especially in a patient-facing profession such as dentistry.

Missions and Responsibilities

Creating a mission statement that reflects who you are, what you do, and is grounded in your values is imperative for not only keeping the purpose of your practice in mind, but also communicating to your team what your institution is all about. When anyone on the team is making a decision, they should ask themselves if the result of that decision will help to fulfill the mission of the practice. Additionally, by making sure that everyone is on the same page via the mission statement, team members can confidently contribute their own ideas and goals to the practice. In turn, this ensures that everyone feels involved and essential to the organization, which is a key element in both motivating and leading a team.

Once everyone is on the same page, team members can hold themselves and each other accountable for their on-the-job responsibilities. Each role is connected to all the others, and everyone must succeed individually for the team to thrive. To facilitate such a practice, job descriptions need to be revised and updated on a regular basis and should include clear expectations of what, how, and when responsibilities must be completed. End results are always included in an effective job description. A team member cannot be held accountable if he is not clear about expectations and if the results of his work are not monitored.

Importance of Communication

To foster quality and long-lasting relationships, effective communication is paramount. In the author’s experience, communication is the bottom line of success within a dental practice. It must be noted that communication isn’t simply speaking in away that gets your message across; it includes listening with respect rather than with judgment.

Communication also helps solve minor issues in the dental practice before them become major problems. Every business encounters issues, but the difference between a successful practice and one that is struggling is that the successful practice is able to solve its problems quickly, efficiently, and without hurt feelings. Identifying issues and addressing them head-on is crucial because the longer a problem is ignored, the worse it is going to become. Developing an effective problem-solving system is a vital part of a creating a healthy work environment.

Additionally, by having open lines of communication, team members know that problems will be met with an honest discussion and possible solutions. Being able to offer continuous feedback is also quite valuable. You may not always agree with another person, but you do need to be willing to listen to that person’s ideas without being critical, which will squelch creativity and stifle participation.

Getting It Done

The most effective dental teams are able to make sure their days are productive, and several factors play into making this a reality. The first is the ability to make timely, well-informed decisions. Gather the facts related to a decision, but know when enough is enough. Personal and vocational development guru Zig Ziglar said that most people are stifled due to “paralysis by analysis,” meaning that someone may avoid making a decision for reasons such as fear of failure, a poor attitude, perfectionism, fear of hurting someone, or even lack of confidence. Procrastinating when making decisions is not good for your business, and if you’re paralyzed by your options, make a concerted effort to overcome your trepidations.

Another way to ensure days are spent productively is to avoid frustrating the team by holding meetings but never following through on the decisions made during these gatherings. Dental offices do not have time to waste in meetings that have no purpose or result.

And, of course, there will always be situations where the expertise of the team isn’t enough to make an informed business decision. As such, you should surround yourself with professionals who support the building of your practice. Invite experts to provide training and education for clinical, technological, marketing, communication, and management endeavors. Build dynamic relationships with these experts, who can be a major part of your progress and growth.

Employee Happiness

Feedback and positive reinforcement are the most desired reward in the business environment. People will leave your practice for a lack of appreciation long before they will leave for money, and they feel honored when their work is acknowledged and appreciated. Ask your team what motivates them, and together identify how those desired motivators can be integrated into the fabric of your practice.

Focusing on the Future

Focus and energy are the two key elements of an outstanding dental team. There is no limit to the achievements you can reach when talents are focused on a common set of goals. Every day, on your way to work, throughout the day, and on your way home, pause for a few seconds and reflect on what you appreciate. Intentionally nurture gratitude, which will increase your well-being and happiness. When you exude gratitude, you will attract more of the same.

Each person on a team is as important as any other, and fostering an environment of gratitude will keep everyone on equal footing. No matter what your role in the practice, you are valuable and necessary for its success. Know that you are “on purpose” in a wonderful profession where each and every day you have the privilege of making a positive difference in the life of another human being.

About the Author

Cathy Jameson, PhD, is the founder of Jameson Management, an international dental management, marketing, and hygiene coaching firm. The Jameson Method of Management, developed by Cathy, offers proven management and marketing systems for helping organizations improve their workflow and efficiency in a positive, forward-thinking culture. For more information, visit www.jamesonmanagement.com.

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