Why are some dental practices flourishing and others aren't?
Without a doubt in some dental practices morale has never been lower. The perfect storm of the depressed economy, uncertainty of how government will interfere with health care next and the increasing cost of running the dental business have combined with the repeated attacks from box-ticking faceless bureaucrats to leave many dentists and their teams on the ropes.
Yet there are many dental practices that are flourishing, demand is increasing, turnover and profits are up year on year and team members are happy to come to work - and it shows.
So why haven’t the attacks by the death eaters of the CQC, GDC, HTM, CPD and OFT resulted in the fall in morale that afflicts others?
The old saying goes, “Some people make things happen, some people have things happen to them and some people say ‘what happened?’”
One of the things that I find is that the practice principals know what is important to them and their team and they exhibit the fundamentals of good leadership; quite often without understanding how they are doing what they do. So what do they have in common?
- Passion - the intrinsic motivation.
- Vision - that they are able to communicate to their teams and patients.
- Values - a values system that illustrates how to get to that Vision - it’s the thread that binds everything together.
The definition of passion is the intrinsic motivation where we understand motivation to be the driving energy that catalyses behaviour. The leader is motivated to lead and the followers are inspired to follow. The leader’s role is to create an environment that allows intrinsic motivation.
That’s easy enough to say but how do the good do what they do? Here are a few tips:
- Engagement. Involve your followers.
- Know your team. Find out their passions at work and beyond. Know them and let them know you - increase a sense of belonging.
- Ensure you have resources and guides. There is no organisational or functional barrier to performance.
- Know objectives and team goals. The “facts” of what must be accomplished.
- Make the “facts of life” known. Inform upfront what is expected of team members. What are the boundaries, constraints, rules, goals and measures present at work?
- Provide choices. Engage team members in how to move forward to achieve what’s expected.
- Enhance skills. Provide training, coaching, mentoring and peer support.
- Constantly engage the team. Share your knowledge. Been on a course? Tell them about it. Need to make changes? Share the reasons and ask for help in implementation.
- Evaluate. Team as a whole and individuals need to be evaluated regularly. Concentrate on performance rather than rewards.
The vision & how to create it.
What the vision is:
- Basically a better place than we are in today.
- A clearly communicable picture of the future.
- Steeped in value, philosophy and structure.
- Provides direction and establishes purpose.
Some questions to ask yourself to determine:
- What does your team do?
- Why do you do it? Why do you exist?
- How does your team change lives? If not why not?
- What makes you and your team unique?
- How do these characters help?
- If you had a magic wand what changes would you make to your team?
- What barriers exist to impede your team’s ability to reach what you want to do?
- What threatens your existence and performance? Be specific
- What opportunities could your team grasp if you wanted to?
- What do you want the team to look like next year? (The same is not an option).
Part of the leadership is to construct a vision in words that are clearly understood by all team members. The leader must walk, talk and act the vision.
Finally what are the values of the business?
- What distinguishes your organisation from others?
- What values and beliefs make you unique and special?
- How do your values support and validate what you do?
- What values are needed for growth and development?
- Are you being honest with yourself? Are you willing to instigate change to incorporate a value that is not present now or are you willing to do the hard work of cultural change if needed?
- Are you able to define your values so that they are clear, specific and in context?
A few words on values, they go beyond descriptive words, having a deeper meaning, an application and a passion for adhering to them. The leader and team must be willing to change from the current set up if necessary. If there is a dichotomy between values statement and application then there must be a system to acknowledge. One of the causes of problems in a lot of businesses (especially in health care) is the willingness to be blind for the sake of expediency. If you do embrace a proper discussion of values within your practice you will be in the minority - many find it much too challenging.
Finally a few words on leadership.
- It is instinctive - there are many different ways of showing leadership and to define is elusive.
- Imposition of leadership is everywhere without thought.
- Leadership is nebulous - it is artistic not scientific.
- We need leaders at all levels.
- If you want followers then you have to be a leader.
- If you want success then you must show leadership.
- In order for a team to have high morale they must have a leader they know, trust and respect whose leadership qualities reflect their authenticity.
PS Keeping up with the Joneses.
Way too often I see practices without leadership that appear rudderless and consequently lacking in direction. They react and (usually late) to external challenges. They are frequently consumed with what the other practices are doing and are either trying to copy or sulkily resenting the actions. Plough your own furrow - you know what is right, as Oscar Wilde said “be yourself - everyone else is already taken”.
The good leaders always look on the bright side of life. If there isn’t a bright side then they get working and polish up the dull side!
Author: Alun Rees
This article was fiorst published in 2013