Never the Same: Leading Through Change (Yes, Think COVID)

Carrie Webber, Owner, The Jameson Group

Leading Beyond COVID-19

My husband Jess and I own and run our business together. For the rest of my life, I will vividly remember the continuous intensity in which we have worked in the COVID “pause” in dentistry. It often felt like one continuous day – morning, noon, and night — working on our business, working on securing stability, working to support and comfort our team, and working to support, mentor, comfort, and help stabilize our clients. 

About halfway through the most urgent portion of this continuous intense experience, we started having conversations about our business – what it was like before COVID-19 and what we wanted it to be after. We began to shift our focus from protection and stabilization to evolution and adaptation.

Many of you may be able to relate to where we were. There were pieces of our business we wanted to change long before COVID came to camp out in our world. There were visionary shifts and approaches to our services we wanted to move forward with, but we were either so locked in “the way we’ve always done things” or simply had a lack of capacity on our full plates to do the work to change, so we never took those necessary steps forward. COVID forced the questions and the work out of us, and because of it, our business will permanently enter into a new version of what we do and how we do it.

It feels…freeing. To finally make the move. To finally push through the barrier. To finally do the work we have talked about, dreamed about, wished about for years and see it coming to life. That is a feeling I wish for all of you.

Questions for Growth

Here are the questions we asked ourselves, and I ask you to sit in a quiet place, reflect on the past several months of hard, intense work you’ve put into your business, and shift to looking forward into the future and do the vision casting and strategic planning that will ultimately lead you to the decisions and direction you have been yearning for all along.

  1. What if this new version of how we work is long term?  
  2. How do we do this work in a healthy, happy manner and find fulfillment in this environment?
  3. What were you wishing was different before COVID that could be a game-changer now if you did the work to implement the change?
  4. What is holding you back from evolving into a newer, more fulfilling version of your practice/business reality? 
  5. What steps do you need to take to make the move?

These are difficult, sometimes painful, clarifying questions. What I found when we started reflecting back on our business is that we had allowed systems, processes, and a version of our business to exist that downright drained us. We often felt we were in a reactive state more often than we were proactive. Do you ever feel that way?  

Proactive or Reactive?

Listen, it is not fun to face your demons and finally decide to go to battle. It takes 100% belief in the next step. 100% clarity. It takes support from others – a circle of champions for the cause. You must provide clear forms of communication to those who have entrusted their professional journey to you – your employees. You have to communicate it over and over and over again.

You have to be responsible for figuring out the solutions and new processes and to make the moves. You have to take responsibility, not only when it works, but when it doesn’t. You have to come to terms with, and have acceptance that, no matter what may come to pass, this shift is a necessary move. This is the reality of leadership through change.

In our world of dentistry, I have heard comments like the following from clients through this season:

  • I really thought about dropping some of our insurance plans like I’ve always wanted to, but then we decided to just deal with this right now; it’s enough.
  • We always wanted to go paperless but never really had the time to work on it, and now, we need it.
  • My team wasn’t strong or cohesive before; now, I really feel the disconnect, and I can’t get them on board with me.
  • My marketing hasn’t been working for quite some time, and now, I really wonder what could I be doing differently?
  • I need systems, and I need someone to help me figure out how to do this better. There has to be a better way.

The Model of Success

What’s interesting to me is that what we, at Jameson, have taught for 30 years, the Model of Success, is EXACTLY what practices need to be practicing now. It is fascinating that this model, created for the sake of reducing stress and chaos in a practice while also increasing productivity and profitability, now fits into the puzzle as the solution for how to continue to be productive while also safely caring for our patients in the COVID era.

The Model of Success we teach at Jameson is a practice management design that supports the patient, the doctor, and the team. We believe in “taking care of people.” Yes, we believe in taking care of patients. After all, that’s what you are there to do. We then take that one step further in that we believe in taking care of the dental team as well.  

Total success cannot and will not be yours if:

  • You are not healthy and happy
  • You are not providing dental treatment in a manner that supports your physical, emotional, and financial well-being
  • You are seeing so many patients that you feel you do not have the time to provide quality care
  • You are not charging fees that are equitable for the services you are providing.

So, What Is the Model of Success?  

The Model of Success criteria are as follows:

  1. See fewer patients per day
  2. Do more dentistry per patient (when and where that is appropriate)
  3. See the patient for fewer appointments
  4. Minimize the number of team members in the practice
  5. Maximize the talent of each team member
  6. Increase the profit
  7. Share the profit
  8. Reduce stress

Now, here is my challenge for you. As a business owner, mentally walk yourself through the systems, the performance, the team, the processes, the results, the patients, the dentistry, every aspect of your practice. Think of it before COVID, currently in COVID, and envision what “ideal” would look like to you after COVID – in the future. Don’t think about the “yes, but,” “what if,” or “we could never” scenarios in this time; allow yourself permission to dream. If it were easy, if you could snap your fingers, if there was a magic wand, what would “right” look like in your business?

Write it down.  Create your ideal practice vision.

Next, take your practice and run yourself through the Model of Success criteria and ask yourself these questions for each of the criteria:  

  • Are we doing this to the best of our ability?  
  • What could we do differently to achieve this?  
  • What is the first step toward accomplishing this?  
  • When will we start?

Yes, You Have the Power!

Here’s what you must remember, even during these challenging times we find ourselves in today: Something led you to dentistry. What is it? Why dentistry? What drives you to continue to serve, to practice, to lead? Tap into that.  

You have the power and the capacity to make your reality better. I believe this. You have the power to build up a practice, a team, a patient family, a type of dental care that reflects your passion, purpose, and vision of a fulfilling career – yes, even in the midst of COVID-19.  In fact, the closer you are to practicing in the way that is right for you, the easier it will be for you to get up on Monday morning, wear the N-95 mask and face shield, and do the work. But you have to come to the place where you know you are going to take the leap, make the decisions, make the changes you have deep down always known you needed or wanted to make, and move forward. Have a memorial service for your business of days’ past, and introduce the new version of yourself for the future.  

  • Where are you now?
  • Where do you want to go?
  • How will you get there?

What does “right” look like for you? Let’s get you there. Let the fire you are going through refine you to the point that you emerge from the challenge a better, stronger, more clarified and more purposeful practice leader. Now is the time to make the changes to make your journey purposeful.

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