Sometimes we need a simple lesson and reminder that success is an everyday, every hour, every minute commitment that never goes out of style. Certainly, there are countless books and speeches that claim to give you the secret sauce for success, but in a way, success for one person is not success for another. We are fortunate because each of us has the right to define and choose our own success. While it should be quantitative, I want to take a few minutes of your time and give you some thoughts and words, all beginning with the letter “C” that will take your practice to another level but will almost certainly take your lives from just “success” to significance. Success and significance are similar but are truly as different as joy and happiness. They seem a bit like the same thing, but they are worlds apart. Happy is a singular event: This makes me happy. Like success, it comes and goes. It happens, disappears, and sometime in the future you are happy again, I hope. Joy, on the other hand, is an attitude. You can experience joy regardless of what is going on. You could fail at something and still have joy. Something bad could occur yet joy can still be there. Success is often fleeting but significance can outlive your life. Significance is ultimately always changing, always challenging, but without fail is always fulfilling.
Sorry about the serious stuff. Let’s look at how to “C” yourself being successful and hopefully always moving towards significance. Each word has a power. Each word has a responsibility of action. Each word is timeless and applicable to a myriad of things. Each word will mean something a little different to each of you but all of you will agree it is significant for your business and life.
Commitment: When we look at results in a dental practice, commitment often defines both success and significance. It is one thing to be “compliant” to doing what you must do to make money and quite another to be “committed” to do whatever it takes to succeed and take your life and business to another level. Commitment is so much better than compliance. Commitment comes from within and is powerful because it is an intrinsic motivator. Compliance, on the other hand, comes from an external source. Compliance is imposed on us. Let’s take your pulse right now when it comes to compliance vs. commitment. Are you excited about what you do? Are you creating the circumstances that drive you to be better tomorrow than you are today? The most effective way to move yourself from compliance to commitment is to continuously create opportunities to make positive choices that are in your best interest and in the best interest of the patient, your team, and your office. If we commit, we can immerse ourselves freely every day we go to work. We are there 100%: focused, singularly excited about serving our patients, and always looking for ways to improve ourselves and our practice.
Competent: Surely each of you understand that nothing happens by accident. You are always working at capacity. Everything you do is perfectly designed to give you what you are currently getting. Competency is not limited to your clinical skills, but must include business, finance, family, leadership, and showing up each day accountable for your results, regardless of the turmoil and noise around you. Competency is earned by hard work and pushing ourselves to learn more and apply it. There is no learning without application. Make sure that every day is a learning experience which allows you to adapt to an ever-changing consumer driven business. You can be assured that if you are doing what you did a year ago, you are not situationally aware, constantly adapting to a changing dental climate, and not committed to learning something every day. You may have been competent at one time, but if you do not embrace change and adapt, you lose that competence in the new dental economy.
Confidence: This comes from risking it all every day. Testing the limits of your ability rather than settling for average. The more competent you are the more your confidence will soar. Confidence is that “it” thing that creates validity in the eyes and hearts of your patients. Confidence and the ability to exude this in a quiet way, is contagious when you speak with clients and your dental team. It is exactly what your patients, team, and family are looking for from you. Will you make mistakes? Yes, but a competent and confident doctor admits the error, assesses what to do, acts, and adapts. You will never arrive at a perfect day, but you can “C” how things can always improve. High “C” leaders always have followers committed to the vision you have for your practice.
Caring: No one cares what you have to say until they see that you care about them. Coming across as caring can be the difference between a good leader and a charismatic great leader that gets anything done. Our profession tends to think that the quality of our dentistry will take us to the next level of practice. This has never been further from the truth. Patients trust caring doctors and follow their treatment suggestions as well as referring every person they know. Do a mirror check and make sure the person that is staring back at you in the mirror truly cares for those people they encounter each minute of the day.
Compassionate: This is one of the intangibles that are fundamental in attracting and keeping patients and great team members. The challenge, like the other “C”s, is that only the patient or team member gets to vote. When it comes to patients, what you or your team thinks matters little. It is the ultimate job of a consumer to decide where and with whom they spend their money on products and services. Be sure that you are not the doctor that has a great self-image for no apparent reason. If you are not getting at least 50% of your new patients from internal referrals, you are missing the point. Yes, clinical excellence is important and like so many other KPIs, it is only the entrance fee for a great dental practice. Try to be the exception and feel for your patients and be compassionate for their needs, budgets, and wants.
Collaborate: Collaborate, collaborate, dance to the music. Well not really, but you can’t dance without a partner or someone to dance with. This is the foundational step in meeting the third tenet of the Super General Dental Practice: Purpose Driven, Doctor Led, and Staff Owned. It is the foundation for building a staff ownership culture. It is the essence of delegation and partnering with your team members. Leaders never make it without followers. Don’t hire an employee, hire a partner, and see how quickly your culture and results change for the better.
Core: While we spend a lot of time talking about the fundamentals of a Super General Dental Practice (free at www.supergeneralpractice.com), as a leader your first job is to define what is core in your vision and practice. What things are not optional? What are the tenets that never change? Things like integrity, truth, excellence, profitability, commitment, etc. While you cast the vision and hold people accountable for these core concepts, it is the team that brings the culture of your practice to life. Try being successful without this and see how far you get.
Council: I know that I said this a couple of articles ago, but people who tell you what you want to hear are trying to sell you something. People who tell you what you need to hear want to help you. There is no shortage of untested experts with answers for everything for a small fee, and most likely a year-long contract for a lot of money. In life, you should take council seriously, but more importantly you should be selective about who you choose to listen to. NOTE: There is no learning without application. Listen, process, and act. Don’t put it off, act. If the suggestions, systems, training, and education you are getting is not showing substantive results, you are spending time and money in the wrong place. Move on and move up.
Counting: Everything you do, every system, every action, the people you hire, your systems and protocols are precisely designed to give you the results you are getting. Things don’t just happen. You staged your results, and from the comments I see on Facebook, many of you are struggling or are in denial about where you are currently in your jobs and practices. If you want to make solid decisions and manage your practice well, you need to find a way to measure your results. There is always a system or chart used to count or measure your performance. The trick is finding the key areas to measure. Chapters 16 and 17 of the Super General Dental Practice spell these out. Surprisingly, there are only a dozen percentages or numbers that yield 80% of the success in a dental practice. It all comes down to picking the right ones to track and then use these to make practice decisions.
Clarity: This “C” is the answer to your stress. Clarity is the result of mastering the 9 “C”s before it. It’s amazing when, for the first time, you clearly see the path you must take and have the steps that ensure your future right in front of you. Clarity comes when you set aside your excuses and find your results. For the first time you have a “can’t miss” GPS to success. Clarity is that culmination of vision and actions that yield certainty in your results. There is only one warning and sign post we have not mentioned. One area where each of you must self-diagnose and choose the better road to travel.
Common Sense: I have yet to find a person that would not agree with this “C” step. It seems that stress and failed efforts follow a common path. Doctors, or for that matter anyone, tend to be swayed by those they trust. They tend to trust those that seem to be successful. These so-called successes usually are not forthcoming with their failures or current struggles and may not share your beliefs and goals. In fact, many of these experts never seem to pull back the curtain and let the LMs (lesser mortals: you and me) see behind the curtain of public display, fancy buildings owned by the banks, new cars that are leased, their second divorce, kids in rehab and other things that would at some point cause us to question their advice. They always seem to have something to sell you.
There also seems to be a current that moves us along a path not of our own choosing, like the current of a river that we find ourselves in by chasing what the largest group of doctors do. It propels us to an uncertain destination just around the next bend in the river. We don’t panic or worry because there are a lot of people in the water being pushed the same direction. We look around and everyone is moving the same direction we are. In fact, it never occurs to anyone that they should swim to the bank and choose another direction, much less turn 180 degrees, and fight the current and swim upstream. This is the herd mentality of the “many” as they become “sheeple” following the herd. Certainly, this is common to see. We see it in every profession and teaching curriculum. It is commonplace to see this. Now we are getting close to the end of “C” How to be Successful. While it is commonplace to find average doctors and average practices, their path is almost never based on “common sense”.
Common sense is that innate 6th sense, or that inkling we have or feeling that something is not right. That there must be something better than what I am doing. Could it be that somewhere hidden deep in your soul, there is a little voice that is saying stop, look around, and act – but act differently. Push common sense into the fore front and take back control of your future as you “C” things for what they really are. It is in that moment that we see with clarity the path to a successful dental practice. Everyone reading this has only to read, contemplate, analyze, and act differently with common sense to win the prize of a significant life well spent and a practice that is built on your vision and core principles. You can do this. In fact, no one but yourself will hold you back.
Consistency: This is the last “C” to success. Be consistent: as a leader, as a doctor, as a parent, and as an employee that works shoulder to shoulder with every team member in your office. You, as the owner of your practice, must be a good leader. Leadership is based on trust and only trust makes leadership possible. Leaders without character cannot be counted on day after day because their ability to perform is unreliable. If your team doesn’t know what to expect from you as a leader, at some point they won’t look to you for leadership at all. Consistency is the benchmark of a great leader. It shows a dedication to being fully engaged every minute to these preceding 11 “C”s. You are not up one minute and down the next. You are not saying one thing and doing something else. You model what you want. You create the level of commitment you want from everyone else. You are consistent in thought and action. Commitment is like the secret sauce to every other “C”. Consistency helps others understand what is expected of them. They can count on being able to discuss everything about you and the practice without fear of retaliation or petty comments. Consistency can be the glue that holds everything together.
That’s it. My foundational standard for a Super General Dental Practice dumbed down to 12 “C”s. simple and quick to say, monumental to commit to. Now is the time to self-diagnose, accept the short falls, and celebrate the successes, but ultimately commit to making the changes needed to go to the next level of practice.
Michael Abernathy, DDS