ACCOUNTABILITY and LEADERSHIP
Surely you have gotten your free copy of the Super General Dental Practice: www.superdentalpractice.com. Go to Chapter 18, The Purpose Driven, Doctor Led, Staff Owned Dental Practice and be sure to read it before reading this piece on leadership. The great thing about leadership is that there really are no “born” leaders. It is learned, modeled, and taught. No one pops from the womb being a great leader. I would even argue there are no great leaders that have reached the pinnacle of the leadership ladder. There are only better leaders than they were yesterday, because leadership is not a destination, it is a journey. In this section, I want to make an argument for taking the time and engagement it requires to become that better leader. I want to give you a logical reason to pursue this short-cut to success. It is truly, the road less taken. It makes common sense to pursue this goal, but sadly it is not commonplace in dentistry.
Leadership makes great business sense.
- Increases productivity and profitability through a consumer driven and focused business. Well run, managed, and led practices always have the highest production and lowest overhead. Any statement you could make about a great practice will be found in one with great leadership.
- Management problems will decrease. Staff issues, not clinical issues, are the #1 cause of stress. Strong leadership is the number one reason for decreased stress and a complimentary increase in consistent growth.
- As clarity increases, ambiguity decreases. Leaders communicate the culture’s core ideology. They define a vision and what is core for the practice. They embrace change while guarding core principles such as honesty, integrity, transparency, and clearly model what they expect from their employees.
- Cultures with clarity of purpose and values are self-policing. Staff Ownership, along with Purpose Driven, and Doctor Owned culture go hand and hand with the principles we will discuss in leadership. When your team is committed to your vision, not just compliant with it, you will see the ownership culture not allow mediocrity in action or in any employee. They truly treat the office as if they owned it and are proud of the services and products they deliver.
- Improves staff retention and recruitment. You become a magnet for exceptional talent. Staff consistency is the barometer that every office should be measured by. Poor leadership is apparent in staff turnover and poor attitudes along with a lack of commitment on the part of each team member. More importantly, your patients notice this and think: “What’s wrong here?” This limits case acceptance and practically eliminates referrals.
- More fulfilling environment. Adequate pay, great bonus, consistent recognition and appreciation are the keys. If you find yourself stressed about not being able to attract or keep good team members, look no further than the culture of your practice. By omission or commission, we create the results we are getting. Everything you do is precisely designed to give you the results you are getting. The buck stops with the leader or in this case the owner of the practice. When making changes, always begin with yourself.
Note: You have heard me say this before but it bears repeating. Money is a poor motivator and rules and regulations are a poor substitute for values and purpose in a culture. Results-based culture fosters compliance rather than commitment creating low morale and constant turnover. People only “commit” to the things that resonate with their own perspective of right and wrong. Great leaders are remarkable in their passion to their vision for their practice. Your commitment and unwavering dedication to continue down the path of improvement is contagious. People follow those who truly believe in what they are doing. Leaders are compassionate servers. They live to serve their clients and the people that work with them.
Leaders have followers. If you believe you are a leader, take a look over your shoulder and see if anyone is following. If there is no one back there, you are just taking a walk. Think back to those individuals in your past that acted as leaders for you. If we are honest with ourselves, each of us has had a mentor or many mentors or leaders that never knew that you tried to emulate them. These leaders and mentors could be considered “silent leaders”: People in your life that taught by doing. Modeling the things that made them great leaders, teachers, and examples for you to follow. There is a lost art in leadership, far more important than the words you utter. Every minute of every day, you are on display for others to follow. It is up to you as to what you teach them. You cannot, not lead. Any time you do anything, there are people watching and learning from your actions. I would hazard a guess that most staff members learn more from your actions rather than your spoken words. You could say that customer care is job number one, yet if they catch you not modeling what you preach, it will fall on deaf ears. We have all heard, “practice what you preach”. This is silent leadership that reverberates into every nook and cranny of your culture. It is silently building it up or tearing it down.
I had dozens of calls from doctors during the COVID pandemic telling me how disappointed they were in how their own teams failed to rise to the occasion. Many team members stayed home and basked in their government funded $600 a week vacation. Others made up excuses as to why they couldn’t work or would delay any return. Bottom line, when the going gets tough, your culture or lack of it becomes apparent. You need to ask yourself when others disappoint you in their words and deeds: “What part did I play in this”? Is it their fault or does it fall on your side when your team does not step up? Has my team decided that my actions in the past have been louder than my words? Is there an integrity breakdown in the office starting with my performance and accountability shortfall?
Most offices suffer from a rhetoric/reality gap. This is where what you say falls far short of what you do. Leaders are only as good as those who follow them. In the Super General Dental Practice, I describe this type of practice as Purpose Driven, Doctor Led, and Staff Owned. This formula only works when each of the three driving forces of unlimited practices are at equal strength. You can’t have one without all three. You can’t have a Super General Dental Practice without every one of them. Each of you stand on the precipice of a catastrophic downturn or an unprecedented opportunity to take your practice to another level of success. Key to this will be the component of silent leadership. You need to step up your game, re-engage in your practice, and embrace change. The purpose of the 180 Degree Dental Journey is to give you a tried-and-true path to excellence; a do over button.
It’s “back to basics” while putting on that “whatever it takes” mentality we had when we first started our practices. The first step is to be that person everyone wants to emulate. Do what you want others to do. Hold yourself to a higher standard of clinical and leadership excellence. Deal with the challenges. Stop procrastinating. Eliminate mediocre staff and fine tune your systems. Secondly, partner with your team and share the power, ownership, and decision making. Your vision should be transformational leadership that breeds commitment from your team, and not just compliance. Cast a vision of the future that includes their efforts as key and essential. You will go no further than the one person on your team with the lowest commitment to that vision. Make sure you are not that person.
Over the course of this journey, I am going to describe strategies for expansion, growth, and profitability. While we delve into these strategies and use the data and benchmarks as a report card for your practice and adjust where you fall short. Strive to do better. Create the practice you always thought you would have.
This is how you Summit.
Michael Abernathy, DDS