CULTURE BY DESIGN
We need to look at the first steps in creating a Super General Dental Practice “culture”. You will see as we begin our journey that nothing in great practices happens by chance. Great practices never just happen; they are created. Everything worthwhile is up hill and takes effort. The first step in creating a winning culture is adapting the mantra of a Purpose Driven, Doctor Led, Staff Owned dental practice. The details and expanded explanation of these three tenets are in Chapter 18 of The Super General Dental Practice book, available free at www.supergeneralpractice.com. Surely by now you have already downloaded books for yourself and your team. But just in case you procrastinated, do it now. We will refer to this book many times during our journey. I want to first take on the segments for Purpose Driven and Doctor Led in order to help you create the foundation of an awesome culture.
A word of warning: If you are already tiring of the thought that you will have to do things to reap rewards, stay the course. Everything of value must be earned or it will be squandered. It’s natural to feel this way. It is common for the majority to give up just before the start. But this makes no sense. This is not you. You are better than that. You were the best of the best to make it into dental school. You graduated. Of course, you were surprised at how challenging your new career became. But you are a winner. Knowing that there was never a student on graduation day that crossed that stage, paused to shake the hand of the Dean and have their picture taken, then turned to the crowd while jumping up and down shouting “I just can’t wait to be average!” Why would you now settle for being an average dentist? The average doctor who, as L. D. Pankey said, becomes “the best of the worst or the worst of the best”. By any terms, average should never be a destination. So, take the time and tell me why average has become OK for anyone. No potential dental patient needs another average dentist. No one I know would want to go to an average office. Be the doctor that stands out, stands up, and becomes the remarkable doctor among a throng of average sheeple. You should have a greater purpose than just average.
You will notice that in The Super General Dental Practice book, Purpose Driven comes before both the Doctor Led and Staff Owned segments. Imagine a three-leg stool. Each leg needs to have the same strength and be the same length. Without this, the stool (our practice) will be uneven and difficult to be used for its intended purpose. While you need each in equal portions, purpose should always precede leadership in the order of consideration.
Purpose is that deep seated, true North that guides each of us to becoming more than we ever expected. It affects every action, inspires every vision, and carries us when we are too worn out to act. Purpose is integral to integrity. It perseveres and exists behind the scenes when we knock on greatness and stumble on challenges. Purpose is that small voice that reminds us that life is more than what happened yesterday or today. It focuses our thoughts and actions so that we may become a model for others. An impetus for a quest without compromise. A value that will not change. The Super General Dental Practice book goes into this in great detail, but for our journey let me suggest that there is no greater “purpose” than serving our patients. It is our grand “why”. This “why” is what drives us to get back up and try again. It is motivating. Serving is the basis for what each of us should do in a business where our potential clients vote with their feet and gravitate to those that appear remarkable in a world of sameness. Your purpose will create the perception that there is something special in all you do. It is magnetic when you are perceived as caring and compassionate, competent, and confident. It gives you validity in the eyes of a consumer. You will stand out, while others will just look like any other dentist. Your passion will continue to grow, because your purpose fulfils you to serve in such a way that your patients cannot help but tell everyone they know about your unique office and team.
Secondly, we need to look at accountability in the form of leadership as the second pillar of culture in your practice. Nothing is more common to find than a doctor who “only wants to do the dentistry” and avoids the topics of accountability, management, people skills, and leadership. Once again, The Super General Dental Practice book goes into this in great detail, but allow me to flesh out the big picture. Leaders are accountable. Sadly, accountability is like rain. Everyone knows we need it, but nobody wants to get wet. Accountability for a leader means answering for your actions and the results of your office every day, regardless of the noise that might surround your performance. The bottom line is that accountability means letting your actions rise above your excuses. I dare you to lose your excuses right now and start finding your results.
An exceptional dental leader puts their patients first and it shows. They are serious about their profession. It’s not just a job or a hobby. Dentistry must be a passion in the form of a profession that demands engagement and focus. These same leaders embrace change while guarding their core purpose. Leaders concentrate on being a team player. Yep, you are no more important than any other team member. None of you can excel at your jobs without the other. Leaders create the circumstances where team members choose to change and commit to that leader’s vision.
There is a term called “The Law of the Picture”. In simple terms, it means that people do what people see. 89% of your team members are visual learners, 10% auditory learners, and 1% other. Followers are always watching what you do. Sometimes what you do speaks far louder than what you say. It is common to see a rhetoric/reality gap where there is a vast difference in what you say compared to what you do. Most of us will typically find that it is much easier to teach what’s right than to do what’s right. We should all work on changing ourselves before trying to improve others.
Thankfully, there is a leadership assumption that is true and core. Leadership can be taught, learned, and passed on to others. You will see the importance of this when we delve into the “Staff Owned” practice model. I mentioned this before, but there is something called “the mirror principle”: The first person we need to examine is ourselves. It must be important because I keep coming back to this. Hopefully this does not fall on those who fail to see or hear how important this concept is.
Let me close with a quote from John Maxwell about the truth of life. “In life, there will be lessons. There are no mistakes, only lessons. A lesson is always repeated until it is learned. If you don’t learn the easy lessons, they get harder (pain is the universes way of getting your attention)”.
Find your Purpose and become the Leader you need to be because this is how you Summit in the 180 Degree Dental Journey.
Michael Abernathy, DDS