Dental Practice Growth: Leadership Matters
A Forbes article notes that “When good leadership is in place in a company, it can be felt throughout the entire organization” and “Bad leadership can also be felt throughout the entire organization―only not in a good way. We couldn’t agree more! In my dental consulting practice, I’ve witnessed first-hand the impacts of both effective and sub-par leadership. When strong leadership is lacking, the organizational culture suffers. This, in turn, impacts patient experience. Having engaged, high-performing employees is also important for ensuring solid business operations. Bottom line: If you want your practice to grow and thrive, you need to have the right leadership infrastructure in place to mobilize the support of the entire team. In this article, we’ll touch on some of the steps you can take and why they matter.
If you’re thinking, “I don’t have time to focus on abstract ideas like ‘leadership’,” we hope that the following examples of the practical, tangible benefits of good leadership may shift your perspective.
Cultivate a Positive Organizational Culture That Fosters Growth and Achievement
The first question to ask yourself is “What type of culture do I want for the practice?” While the answers to this question may differ somewhat across individual practices, I think we can all agree that a culture that promotes a positive work environment, boosting employee engagement and high performance, is highly desirable. So how do you accomplish this?
Establish and share a clear mission and vision statement with all staff. This is a good clarifying exercise for you and sets the tone for all employees.
Cultivate a positive culture. Treat employees and patients in a professional and respectful way. Model a positive outlook and show clear disapproval of destructive gossip and unkind behavior. Never make cutting comments about anyone.
Promote a culture of growth and learning. Demonstrate a growth mindset by adopting a can-do attitude and continuously learning and improving your own skills. Your behavior sets the bar for the rest of the staff. Also, be sure to encourage your employees to grow and learn. In addition to providing training opportunities, you can include professional growth and development as a criterion in employee performance reviews. A growth and learning culture lifts all boats.
Recognize achievement. Countless studies have shown that recognition is highly valued by employees. It also typically boosts contentment. Happy employees are typically more productive than those who aren’t. Additionally, employees who feel appreciated are more likely to appreciate their managers. Oh, and happy employees will typically stay with their employer longer. So, carving out time to notice and acknowledge individual and team achievements is well worth the effort.
Demonstrate Practice Values Through Your Actions
Another key question is “What type of values do I want to reinforce in the practice?” You likely want your employees to value teamwork and respectful treatment of patients and colleagues, as well as practice growth. When you demonstrate key values through your behavior, employees notice and will usually try to adopt similar behavior.
Model teamwork and a caring, supportive approach. Treat employees with respect, fostering excellent performance through encouragement. Avoid a strict hierarchical approach in favor of an attitude of everyone pitching in and helping one another. If a staff member is trying to get out on time to pick up her child from work, offer to finish up for her. Employees feel supported and respected by gestures like these. Remember that how you treat your employees has a direct impact on how employees in turn treat patients.
Adopt a goal-driven approach. Management studies have consistently validated the value of goal setting. Basically, if individuals and organizations don’t articulate specific goals, progress and growth are much less likely to occur. Be sure that your practice has goals and that they’re shared frequently with staff. Working toward goals also helps employees to feel more engaged and part of a larger effort. You also need to monitor progress toward goals or else momentum will be lost and employees will assume the goals are no longer important.
Cultivate Staff Loyalty, Trust, and Longevity
Communicate regularly with staff. A common challenge in dental practices is a shortage of time. Most dentists are hard-pressed to complete procedures while also keeping on top of managing the business side of the practice. Dental practice managers are also typically juggling many tasks each day in a busy office. However, taking time to communicate with staff is crucial, and will save you time in the long run if you’re able to keep good employees from walking out the door. We have two recommendations: 1) Hold a morning huddle with all staff each morning; and 2) Talk to employees frequently, showing that you care. Regular communication makes staff feel like a valued part of the team and helps to generate employee trust and loyalty.
Provide staff training opportunities. Providing opportunities for staff to grow, learn, and develop new skills is a well-documented way to reduce staff turnover. It also helps to improve employee engagement and morale. Plus, most importantly, your staff performance will improve as well!
The tried-and-true strategies presented above have been implemented in all types of organizations, big and small. You might want to start out with some small steps. Just implement a couple of these suggestions and watch the positive changes that will emerge in your practice!