Over the next 6-9 months, we will bring you one of the most interesting coaching outreaches I have ever heard of. It is called the “180 Degree Dental Journey”. A few years back in Portland, Oregon, an Endodontist hired me to create a “never done before” 6-month coaching experience for their GP dentist referring doctors that would literally reshape any dental practice. A course so interactive and comprehensive that it will allow challenged practices to make a 180-degree shift in strategy and results: Whether they struggled with day-to-day survival or just wanted to take their already good practices to a new level of greatness. It developed into a strategically based, results oriented training that encompassed six individual half day seminars with monthly to do lists, and companion materials to support the monthly training. It is literally a full court press, no holds barred assault on mediocrity in a dental practice. Forget where you are, decide where you want to be and go get it. As it turned out, it became the blue print for “The Super General Dental Practice” book.
I am going to take the same information, follow up materials, and bullet points from each of these six four-hour seminars and convert them to articles and occasional Zoom meetings with other options for those that want a deeper dive into significance and success in a dental practice.
During the first session there in Portland as I looked over the crowd, I was surprised at how few of the offices had brought their teams. It was especially surprising owing to the fact that we had stressed how important their staff’s attendance was. In fact, I had mentioned in several of the 8-9 contacts we had emailed to the potential attendees, that if given the choice of having the doctor or the staff, I would rather have the staff in attendance. During the seminar we approached this topic by helping them to see that the entire team is an integral part of any change, and without participation, they will not embrace any improvement in the office’s systems or results. From the podium, my first thought was that the doctors didn’t see the value in the staff’s attendance. I assumed that they felt that they could listen, filter, and bring home to the troops the portions that they felt were pertinent to their situation.
If this were the case, there are several fallacies in their reasoning. I want to give you a reason to involve your team in reading every article that we send in this series. Based on your feedback, I will be able to expand the topics as well as ensuring greater participation in your team. Take these next facts to heart:
Failure to be where you want to be is always the Doctor’s fault. Like it or not, the economy, staff, systems, dental IQ of the patient, competition or location are a distant second to the leadership and vision of the doctor. By “omission” or “commission” the doctor’s actions have created the situation that they now find themselves in. It is always the doctor’s fault: He or she hired the staff, allowed the systems, and encouraged a corporate personality that has created the current results. In this journey, the first person to work on, and the first thing to change, is the doctor. Without this revelation and subsequent commitment to change by the doctor, the practice is doomed to repeat their past mistakes. I like to call it “dead practice walking”. The practice is doomed, it just hasn’t happened yet.
The doctor is repeating a flawed and failed strategy. One form of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting another result. You have attended seminars without your staff and tried to bring back some technology, system, or idea only to fail to implement it. It is a mistake to think that your ability to sell this change will equal the effect of actually being there in the first place. Immersion in the original presentation/articles is what excites the imagination to help everyone embrace the new idea or system. You have always failed to perform with this strategy in the past, so admit it and change your own behavior and reap the results of a “team” effort.
Everyone filters new information. As you the doctor sit thru a presentation, you filter the information based on your past training, what you currently do, and your limiting beliefs. It is a fact, that if we survey doctors attending a seminar, we will get drastically different ideas of what was taught. Many doctors are confounded when forced to read the actual speakers words a second time that cover the very topic they have misheard or misprocessed. When confronted with this inequity of understanding it is obvious that the doctors miss many of the salient points being made by the speaker because of inattention or internal turmoil with the philosophy of the system being presented. If it is a challenging topic they just check out at times. If we add the staff, there is a more uniform understanding, recall, and implementation of every aspect of the lecture. If you think about it, we are all affected differently by the implementation of any system or change. It creates empowered ownership with the listeners. Once you get back to the office, you will see a dramatic reduction in the time it takes to implement, and that means you also see an improvement in results sooner. Remember that there is no learning without application.
Many doctors are too “cheap” to bring the staff. It follows that if you do not share these articles, or encourage/require you team to read the articles, discuss them in an open forum during a staff meeting, and watch any Zoom meeting, you are cheap. Cheap in the sense that you won’t spend the time, effort, or engagement to improve your circumstances. You get what you deserve, not what you want.
A missed opportunity rarely presents itself again. I’m getting older. Who else is giving you this type of information? Who else do you know that can actually do what they ask you to do? I guess it is human nature to put off till tomorrow what we can and should do today. Since this series of articles and Zoom meetings are an effort to step over mediocrity, you could almost use the previous sentence to define it. We need to adapt the attitude of “Ready, Fire, Aim”. By a selection process that I truly do not understand, it appears that dental schools like to attract and reinforce a student that has a natural predilection to procrastinate; an “analysis paralysis”. If you are waiting for everything to be perfect before you act, then you will never grow or progress. That time will never come. That’s why faith and positive expectancy are so important. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
While the original 180 Degree Journey progressed, the lack of staff continued to rub me the wrong way. I finally just stopped and asked why they did not bring the staff after being encouraged to do so? One doctor said it, and most confirmed it. Here is what was said:
“We tried to get them to come, but couldn’t talk them into coming.”
Are you kidding me? You asked them to come? They had a choice? Whose practice is this anyway? I was dumbfounded, not speechless, but really dumbfounded. What has your practice evolved or defaulted into? Let me rephrase that: What has their practice evolved into (because I guess they are the boss now)? You worked hard to make it through dental school, you graduated with a huge school debt, you added to that debt with your investment of opening an office. You’re the doctor, business owner, leader, and the buck-stops-here person, and you’re telling me that your employees decided they did not want to come?
I guess deep down, hidden beneath our social graces, resides a side of us that identifies with R. Lee Ermey (“The Gunny”, retired Marine staff sergeant), from the movie Full Metal Jacket, History Channel, and the psychiatrist in TV commercials. Well, let me tell you, it is not that well hidden in my personality. I couldn’t help myself and before I knew it, I blurted out my response.
“Are you kidding me? You guys need to put on your big girl panties and deal with this.”
During the seminar, we concentrated on the doctor’s leadership requirements. The first job of a leader is to define “Reality” or what is “Core”. The leader sets the atmosphere and Esprit de Corps or the business personality. You determine the rules; you decide what flies and what doesn’t. The responsibility for deciding and enforcing this falls on you, the doctor. You cannot abdicate or delegate this role. It is a slippery slope towards loss of control of your practice and future. A few years ago, I wrote an article entitled “What You Allow, You Encourage”. Allow me to take an excerpt from the first few paragraphs.
“Whatever you allow, you encourage.” That is one of my favorite quotes about leadership as it relates to a dental practice. Let’s take a minute and talk about leadership. This is what separates winners from losers in this business.
Ever wonder why your staff don’t seem to do what you want and need them to do? Actually, we’ve all been here at some point. Leadership is all about influence and inspiration. It’s showing people by your actions what’s important to be successful at your dental office.
Too many of us are constantly searching for newer and greater ideas with which to improve our practices, and attract new patients. We think new software will save the day, or a new piece of equipment will enable us to make a ton of money. Yes, they can make a difference and they are important, but success in your small business is rooted in your people and your leadership.
The behaviors you don’t want to permeate your organization need to be addressed and eliminated from your culture. If you want to win in Dentistry, you need good communication, a culture of accountability, and great leadership.
Another favorite, is The Law of the Lid. Your leadership is like a lid or a ceiling on your organization. You dental team cannot rise above or beyond your ability to lead. People often think if they just work hard, they’ll find success. Yes, you may find a little success, but the rest of the people on your team will not. The key is to develop others around you to take the lead. This is what allowed some of the best dental practices in the US to get where they are today: Entire practices staffed by leaders.
Over the next few months, I will introduce you to the future of Dentistry in the form of The Super General Dental Practice and the 180 Degree Dental Journey. Don’t miss your opportunity to see what the future holds and what to do to prosper. I look forward to seeing you follow and implement the strategies and concepts in the 180 Degree Dental Journey. This is how you Summit.
Michael Abernathy, DDS