7 min read5 Tips for Developing Your Dental Practice by Investing in Your Dental Team

Carrie Webber, Owner, The Jameson Group

By Carrie Webber, Chief Communications Officer and Co-Owner of Jameson Management & Marketing

You’ve been developing your practice.

Developing your dental practice and managing your dental team has felt like building a brick wall—heavy, hard labor. Except before you got to the heavy lifting, you first had to learn how to make bricks from nothing, weigh the pros and cons of 50 different kinds of mortar before selecting one, workshop how to prepare the foundation for the bricks, and then finally learn how to assemble the bricks and mortar into a wall that won’t come tumbling down. And that mortar you chose? You also tried three different ratios of mix to water before you perfected it so the mortar didn’t slide off the wall.

Who knew becoming a dental practice owner would also require an MBA, a degree in marketing, a psychology degree, teaching experience, a head for HR, and a certificate in hospitality?

You’ve worked hard to learn the things you didn’t know you’d need to know. And you have chosen to work smarter, not harder, and invest in clear solutions to sharpen your competitive edge (things such as a CEREC system, a high-quality digital intraoral camera, and more). Now, you’re out of ideas.

You’ve invested in the bones of your practice, but you’re still not meeting your production goals.

There’s an answer right in front of you, working alongside you every day.

1. Invest in your team.

“You don’t build a business—you build people—and then people build the business.” — Zig Ziglar

Your team is a vital part of your practice. Each member’s successes and failures affect the entire practice. So why wouldn’t you invest in your dental team members? It seems like another work smarter, not harder solution, doesn’t it?

But not so fast. Like many other doctors in your position, you have tried to develop your team. The results have not lived up to your expectations. Nothing seems to change, and you’ve never received a return on the investment of your time, money, and effort. Your dental team members haven’t appreciated your attempts, either.

I’m here to encourage you, though. Don’t give up. For your practice to thrive, your team must excel. Your dental team members must feel as if they are as invested in the practice as you are.

What do you do once you’ve tried everything you can think of to make this a reality, with each attempt falling flat? It’s time for a new approach. Here are X tips to achieving team development that will positively impact your entire practice.

  1. Are your dental team members doing what they love?

Imagine this: You’re a dentist working for someone else. Because you’re especially skilled at fillings, all the patients within the practice who need fillings are funneled straight to you. The only trouble with this is it isn’t very challenging work. More importantly, it isn’t very meaningful work to you.

After weeks of this, you’re starting to feel underutilized. Your mind wanders to all the things you’d prefer to be doing. It’s not that you couldn’t still do fillings, but you’d love to do more.

Now think about your team members’ tasks and roles from that perspective. Is there anyone who has been pigeon-holed? When we put people into a box without offering them opportunities to grow and expand, many will become tired of the same four walls rather quickly. You might see their performance slipping, their work ethic waning.

The solution is to offer your team members the opportunity to do more work that’s meaningful to them. What does that look like? That is something you and your team must discover together because the individual answer is different. The simple act of approaching the issue will increase your team’s satisfaction, though.

In a survey conducted by Harvard Business Review’s Shawn Achor at the Conference for Women, he asked attendees of the conference what sort of value they place on meaning and success in work. Specifically, he asked them to put a number on the importance of finding meaning in what they do. The result was that 80% of those who took the survey “would rather have a boss who cared about them finding meaning and success in work than receive a 20% pay increase.”

2. Create co-owners.

Are your team members invested in the vision for the practice? Have you communicated your vision? Have you explained their role in making that vision a reality?

For those seeking more meaning in their roles, being part of something bigger is an especially appealing thought. When we don’t feel as if we are part of or important to meaningful change within an organization, we look for fulfillment elsewhere. It’s a natural part of human nature.

You can help to fulfill that want by inviting your team members to become owners of their role in the practice’s success. Involving the whole team in striving toward the vision you have for your practice serves as a starting point in creating meaning within even the most mundane tasks your team is performing.

To help you to communicate your vision, their role in achieving it, and how much of an impact they make on the practice, give team meetings a try. Again.

3. Hold dental team meetings regularly.

Most dentists we talk to have already tried holding a team meeting, and it didn’t go so well. The team complained about attending, you were tired of hearing your own voice by the end of it, and nothing you discussed was implemented.

But did you know that businesses who focus on investing in their teams see a greater increase in revenue versus those who focus solely on revenue growth? As a matter of fact, John Kotter and Harvard Business School professor James Heskett conducted a long-term research project to outline the effects of investing in your team culture. They reported that those companies who had invested in a leadership culture reaped the financial benefits. Over 11 years, those with performance-enhancing cultures saw a 682% increase in revenue. That’s quite a bit more than those in the study whose company cultures did not encourage leadership and growth. Those companies only saw a 166% increase. Certainly, 166% growth is significant growth. But it pales in comparison to 682%.

Use team meetings to remind everyone of your shared purpose and vision for the practice. Let them know how their hard work is influencing the practice’s ability to meet goals, grow, and provide patient care in line with your vision. It’s vital to your success that your team is all-in on the vision for the practice.

Team meetings are more than a communication tool: they’re an opportunity to develop your team members into the leaders you need working alongside you.

For tips on how to make your team meetings effective, efficient, and meaningful, learn more here.

4. Set the example.

You’re asking your team members to grow, change, and to step outside of their comfort zone. Are you asking the same of yourself?

Perhaps you’ve been resistant to change. Maybe it’s time to open yourself up to something new. Of course, change for the sake of change isn’t what we’re advocating. So think carefully about change that could benefit your practice, your patients, and your ability to meet your goals and develop your dental practice.

5. Seek outside perspective.

When you’re talking about looking objectively at people you’ve developed a working relationship with, it’s hard not to be biased. Outside perspective such as a Jameson advisor means looking at things through a different lens. While an advisor won’t make decisions for you, getting another perspective on how to navigate the dynamics of your team will help you to make the most well-rounded decisions about your team possible. For example, it may mean that you discover Susie in reception is exceptionally organized and has revolutionized the way your practice tracks and notates patient phone and email interaction, and that she would be a good person to overhaul the new patient intake process.

An advisor can help you to recognize those things in others and in your practice that you’ve been unable to see because you are so close to the situation. Challenging ourselves and perspectives certainly leads to growth.

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