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Attitude and culture trump every other consideration including clinical excellence in the New Dental Economy. A few years back I read one of the best books on leadership in a dental practice that I have seen. Dr. Joel Small, an Endodontist in Plano, TX, authored Face to Face: A Leadership Guide for Health Care Professionals and Entrepreneurs. I loved it, and you need to order it on Amazon and take the time to act by reading and absorbing the education waiting in these pages.

I apologize to Joel if I don’t do as good by his book as I hope, but I wanted to gel down 4-5 aspects that he covers in a down and dirty, 1, 2, 3 listing of facts and knowledge to live by in creating culture and becoming the leader you always thought you would be. I will say that when you purchase and read Face to Face, “act”, you will see that I took some of his concepts and reordered them and gave them an Abernathy twist.

Transactional Management vs. Transformational Leadership

• Rules and Regulations Vision Driven, core and value based
• Fear based: Carrot and Stick Embraces change
• Mandatory compliance Shared values and purpose
• Quid Quo Pro Committed team
• Creates groups of people Empowers the team and doctors
• Purely results based Creates a culture of values & results
• Poor morale and negativism

While most businesses begin in a Transactional Management style, the goal is to grow and mature into a Transformational Leadership style. Listed below are the reasons.

1. Compels commitment rather than just compliance. You get their heart and their mind.
2. Improves staff retention. Nothing says more about poor leadership than high staff turnover.
3. Means not needing to manage your staff but only observe and manage the process. This might just be the most important epiphany that great leaders learn.
4. Insures the leader remains part of the team. We must understand that while we wear many hats (leader, owner, doctor, boss, etc.) the culture must consider us part of the team and not above the systems and protocols we as a team live by.
5. Understands that our first job is defining what is “core” in our vision for the practice.
6. Creates a harmony fostering a deep commitment to the office.

At the root of failing to do “whatever it takes” is a “rhetoric reality gap”. There is a direct contradiction between words (rhetoric) and actions (reality). We say one thing and do or don’t do something altogether different. This is a terminal failure if you intend to be a leader with actual followers. The actions rather than the words provide meaning to the experience. It is not a matter of saying things right. Rather, it is a matter of consistently saying and doing the right thing!

Dr. Small makes a point of defining leadership through a list of adjectives.
1. A leader is acutely self-aware.
2. A leader is fully engaged: Lead by actions: Engagement and Commitment.
3. Disengagement means emotional absenteeism and burn out: Lack of energy, passion, focus and clarity. This is the primary trait I see in frustrated struggling doctors and practices.
4. Communication: We are 100% responsible for our communication with others. What I mean to say is irrelevant, what is heard is truly relevant. The message delivered and the one received should be the same. Perception is reality.

Central to embracing change and moving from where you are to where you would like to go is engaging in learning leadership. That’s what is so neat about it. There are few if any “natural” leaders. The greatest ones all say and can name a mentor that moved them along the leadership education process. Take the time to listen to audio programs on leadership, read the best books, and begin to stretch those leadership legs. There is never perfect timing and there are no worthy goals that don’t come with challenges. This is how you Summit: Practice management done right.

Michael Abernathy, DDS
972.523.4660 cell
[email protected]

PS. For your convenience, and to eliminate an excuse for not acting, here is a link to the Amazon page for purchasing Dr. Small’s book. Just do it!