Leadership in the dental practice

3D Team Leadership Arrow ConceptA leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way. – John Maxwell

So – how did your last staff meeting go? Were your team members enthusiastic to share ideas that will help improve quality of care, reduce expenses and improve staff morale? Or, did they sit quietly and when asked for suggestions, just say ‘everything is fine’?  Once you’ve been in a team that displays ownership of the practice by continuously identifying opportunities to improve – it’s painful to watch a passive team sit quietly through a staff meeting.

Don’t be mistaken – if you run a staff meeting and everyone says ‘everything is fine’ – it’s not! Not because you aren’t a great dentist with a great practice, but because there are opportunities every day to improve. Did any provider run behind schedule last week? There’s an opportunity to improve? Did any patient complain? There’s another opportunity. Are you spending more than 6% of your collections on dental supplies? There’s another.

The leadership challenge facing dentists and office managers is to encourage your team to find problems so that you can improve your practice. You want staff sharing problems (a.k.a. opportunities) in every staff meeting! This doesn’t mean that your staff is negative, unhappy or complaining. It means that they are engaged and on the lookout for opportunities to make the practice better. If they truly care about their patients, then they will keep their ears open for negative comments made by patients and ask follow up questions to discover opportunities to improve.

So, how do you get your staff to look for problems/opportunities to improve?

Hold a weekly staff meeting. Whether you’re a giant group practice and divide up in teams or you’re a 3 staff solo practice, a weekly staff meeting is required if you want staff to be engaged. Every week ask your team members for problems they ran into this week – and through your body language & the spoken word, genuinely encourage your team to share their thoughts and experiences. Don’t immediately solve the problem they bring up – ask if other staff have had this happen? Ask the team what they think they should do.

Find and share benchmarks. One great way to start a conversation in your staff meeting is to bring some dental benchmarks to your meeting – and then challenge your team to find out how your practice compares. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Open time at 8-10%
  • Dental supplies 6-7% of collection
  • Marketing 1-2% of collection
  • 35-45 new patients/month

Ask a staff person to figure your practice’s performance and bring that to the next meeting. Now, if you’re performing better than the industry average – congratulate your team & discuss what is working well. If you’re performing worse, then here’s an opportunity to discuss how you can improve.

Set a new goal. Every staff person wants a bonus. So, as you’re getting started with gathering new ideas from your team, why not set up a reward? Set it up so it’s win-win. Let’s say one of your benchmark discussions resulted in your realization that at only 20 new patients/month, you’re below the industry average. As your team starts to work on this problem and talk about ideas to improve – you could set up a reward for the team adding 30 new patients the next month – and then 40 the following. You set the goal so that from the extra profit you’ll be earning, you can share some with your team. Start small – how about treating everyone to lunch for hitting the first month goal. Then, you could treat everyone to dinner for the larger goal. It doesn’t have to be big to be a motivator. In fact, if you set a bonus amount in your head – let’s say $25/person – ask your team what they would appreciate?!j

Set the expectation for CE. No, I’m not talking about the required hours to maintain their licenses. Let your team know that you expect them to read dental journals to stay up on new techniques, products and trends. Subscribe to several dental journals and then assign reading to your team members. Like a book report – you could take turns asking your team to read different journals or specific articles and share what they learned with the entire group. You could also take turns doing online research on dental topics and encourage them to join DentalTown or other online dental communities.  

Dentists often feel alone in the management of their practice. They can feel that they have to do everything – by themselves. Your staff has time, intelligence and ability to make a difference in the practice. They can play a significant role in bringing new ideas to the table that will improve the practice – add new patients, reduce expenses and improve quality of care. All they need to get started is you to lead them! When you set high standards and meet regularly to hold them accountable, you will be amazed at the contributions you will receive.

Running successful staff meetings is just one way to run a successful dental practice. If you’re interested in new ideas on running a dental practice, please subscribe to my weekly blog. One of the biggest challenges to managing a dental practice is managing dental insurance. With dental insurance handled, then dental marketing for new patients becomes a primary focus. In today’s day of online reviews, handling patient complaints well is essential. As your practice grows, hiring dental staff becomes more important. With 16+ years of dental practice management experience, I’m open to your questions to help you run a successful dental office.

Feel free to email me.

AUTHOR: Jill Nesbitt
1 Comment
  • Leadership development is important for both individual dentists and for organized dentistry. The ADA New Dentist Committee offers member new dentists several opportunities for leadership development that can be applied to one’s community, dental practice, and participation in organized dentistry. Offerings include workshops at the ADA New Dentist Conference,

    November 13, 2013