Many dental school graduates will soon be finding themselves in the practice setting, and despite being an associate dentist, there is a lot of responsibility required in the position. From the onset, associate dentists are given many opportunities to be more than just a supporting team member. As one grows in the position both clinically and as an employee of the office staff, associates will soon be looked to as leaders. In this bigger role, managing a team requires gaining the trust and respect of peers. Once promoted to a senior dentist or becoming a practice owner in the future, how can this connection be sustained?
Courtesy of Dr. Cody Mugleston, THE NEXTDDS virtual training event entitled “3 Proven Ways to Find Mentors & Build Leadership Skills” discusses topics such as the importance of mentorship, how to develop leadership skills, building relationships, and pursuing clinical excellence. Below are several key points outlined in the Mugleston presentation.
Developing into a Leader
It’s important to become accustomed to the responsibilities of a leader in a modern practice setting. Creating an open communication channel between you and your staff, being an active listener to their feedback and concerns, and showing appreciation and care for those who are working effectively—these are all tools that will impact you, your team, and the patients you treat. Once you get to a spot where you can delegate responsibilities to your staff and cultivate a “group pride” feeling in your practice, you will soon be seen as a collaborator who works well with others, many of whom welcome the added mentorship and guidance.
Form a quick, 15-minute daily huddle every morning as the workday begins: start by going over how you will handle the day’s tasks, review the schedule and collectively making a plan with your team. Go back to yesterday’s workday: What were the successes? What were some of the missed opportunities that you can work on in the future? Garner feedback on these issues and other topics of the day. When necessary, troubleshoot problems with your team altogether so you’re not hung up on past mistakes during the day. Create a tight-knit group.
During these interactive staff meetings, reiterate your practice’s mission statement. Allow everyone to contribute equally, and rotate the team meeting leaders, allowing each person to run the ship and improve their own leadership skills. Make sure that everyone contributes and no one’s voice is unheard. Over time, you’ll have a clear vision, and your team will truly believe in the culture of the practice. Champion a company of “ours” rather than “mine” or “yours.”
Being Open with Your Staff
How are you as a listener? Your ability to respond to feedback and course-correct when necessary depends on your role as a listener. For your patients and staff members to feel like their opinions matter in decision making, being open to these responses is vital.
Effective communication requires the two-way exchange of information. Interpret what is being said, repeat back your understanding of what was said, consider the implications of what you hear, ask if your take is correct, and dig deeper with more details. As a psychological tool, active listening can be a good way to provide good communication to your patients and staff. Whenever possible, you should get the entire picture before setting off towards potential solutions.
It’s imperative to show appreciation to your staff. Even something as simple as a positive affirmation at the end of the day could mean the world to a member of your staff who, despite a rough day, plowed through and still did a great job. Will you recognize these achievements on an individual or team level? In a public or private manner? You should certainly show your team that they matter, as the need to feel appreciated is one of the most important things to display to coworkers. These small comments can improve the overall morale of the practice, preserving a collaborative team that increases practice production.
With just a small investment of your time, you can be better positioned to lead your team to a positive experience on a daily basis. When you make connections with your team members, they know that they can trust you and that you have their best interests at heart. Being an effective leader means using all of the tools at your disposal to engage staff and patients alike in moving the practice towards success, creating a unified team that is proud to work alongside you.