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One night at sea, the ship’s captain saw what looked like the lights of another ship heading toward him.  He had his signal man blink to the other ship:  “Change your course 10 degrees south.”  The reply came back:  “Change your course 10 degrees north.”  The ship’s captain answered:  “I am a captain.  Change your course south.”  To which the reply was:   “Well, I am a seaman first class.  Change your course north.”  This infuriated the captain, so he signaled back:  “Dammit, I say change your course south.  I’m on a battleship!”  To which the reply came back:  “And I say change your course north.  I’m in a lighthouse.”

A business can be paralyzed by indecision.  This includes the dental office.  Your staff needs clear direction to keep motivated.  You may not always make the right decision,  but at least you are doing something.  Businesses that fail are the ones that don’t change with the times.  As author Tom Peters in  A Search For Excellence says, “Successful businesses don’t analyze things until the opportunity passes, they keep trying new things and quickly discard the ones that don’t work.”  Cut your losses quickly.  As the old saying goes,  “Only a fool never changes his mind.”  The opposite of this would be what Mr. Peters calls,  “Paralysis by analysis.”  Realize that not making a decision, is making a decision!   You have decided to accept the status quo and not make a change.  Once you accept this fact, actually making a decision should be somewhat easier than procrastinating.  Place a deadline on yourself so that you must decide.  This becomes especially important when we face problems.  This entire article is dedicated to being decisive in handling our day-to-day  problems.  You should realize that worry is a major symptom with most problems.  Remember, worry is nothing but negative goal setting.  You are actually filling your mind with constant thoughts of what you don’t want to happen.  The problem is you become what you think about most.  Let’s deal with those problems quickly.


A good rule to follow is to allow yourself a firm time limit for confronting a problem person (staff/patient).  Three days is a reasonable cutoff time.  If you haven’t found a “right time” within three days, make time.  This forces you to keep problem solving current.

Conflict does produce anxiety.  Nothing is going to alter that fact.  Keep in mind, however, that most anxiety is anticipatory.  Recognize that once the confrontation is under way, your anxiety level will drop in response to the orienting process of your brain.  The critical stimulation involved in talking, listening, and thinking will ease your discomfort.  Once you realize that a confrontation is necessary, try some of these statements on yourself to get you past the initial anxiety:

“I’ll feel better when this is done.”

“The earlier we face a problem, the easier it is to fix.”

“If I do this early, it will start my day off on a positive roll.”

“I’m not trying to inflict pain; I’m trying to make a necessary course correction.”

“It may be nothing; find out early.”

“Do it now!  Waiting only wastes time and makes things worse!”

“I’m a problem solver, not a problem evader.”


Chances are, at some point, you are going to be faced with someone who is quite angry.  Angry patients are very much like a ticking time bomb.  If not handled properly, they could  explode at any moment.  Here are some simple suggestions you can follow to help defuse potentially explosive situations:

  1. Don’t Lose Your Cool. Remain calm, and don’t take their anger personally.  This will help you to look at the problem rationally and objectively.
  2. Encourage Them to Vent Their Emotions. Being able to talk about their frustration or anger  will usually help them feel better about the situation.  It makes them more willing to accept the steps you’ll be taking to correct the situation.
  3. Find Out the Facts. Ask questions to gather information.  Assemble the facts, examine them to determine the most appropriate way to approach the situation.
  4. Understand Their Feelings. Part of determining an effective solution is to empathize with customers/patients and do what you can to put yourself in their shoes.
  5. Suggest Ways To Correct the Problem. Completely analyze the situation.  Once you have done that, you should be able to present a solution that will leave them feeling positive about the situation.
  6. End On A Positive Note. After presenting the solution, ask if they have any more  questions, or if there is anything else you can do.  Leave them feeling positive about their experience with you and your practice.


Sometimes, dealing with angry customers/patients can be the hardest part of our business.  However, implementing some of the very simple techniques listed above can help us overcome patients’ anger.  This will leave them feeling positive about the situation and they will know that we genuinely care and have their best interests at heart.


Do not allow a negative statement or have a staff member  bring up a problem unless they have at least two solutions,  one of which costs nothing.  This eliminates much useless bickering.  Complaining does not solve problems, it only heightens the negative.


FIRST:  Estimate the SITUATION.  Determine HOW MANY there are.  List them all.  Take ONE and define it.

  1. Write it out in a clear, complete statement; not a question.
  2. What are the causes of the situation?
  3. What are the possible solutions?  List ALL possible answers.
  4. Which is the best possible solution?
  5. DECIDE!  ACT!!  DO IT NOW!!!
  6. How will it be carried out? WHEN will it be done? WHERE will it be done? WHO will do it? WHAT will be done? HOW will it be done? WHY will it be done?


Realize that attitudes are more important than facts.  A good positive attitude can eliminate PROBLEMS completely by turning them into SITUATIONS  that challenge your skills and abilities . . .  making life into an exciting game.  So play to win and enjoy it.


Team leadership occurs in the hundreds of daily actions and interactions that enable staffs to work,  achieve their goals, and contribute to the successful performance of the dental office.  Team leadership includes not only actions of the Doctor, but also actions by staff members as they work with each other.

Team leadership involves employees both in the major  decisions being made about the design of work processes and in the hundreds of work processes and in the hundreds of small and large daily decisions about how to make the work safer, more productive, and satisfying.  Rather than telling employees how to work, as in obsolete authoritarian management systems, team leadership involves employees in these “how-to” decisions.

Team leadership involves employees in goals and strategy by first thoroughly explaining them so they are understood and accepted.  As employees’ understanding grows, their natural desire to excel will draw them into more participation in the selection of goals.  They will want to influence goals and strategy because they will be committed to organizational excellence.  Excellence in organization must ultimately deal decisively with PROBLEMS.

P.S.  – Take a tip from one the world’s finest stores, Nordstrom.  At Nordstrom, the written philosophy states: