#18 – Becomes a Team Leader

Until now you have focused on your team, those in your track who do what you do.  Now it’s time to widen your interests.  The team leader group is a “cross functional team.”  The team leaders are generally the leaders of each team – our assistants, hygienists and administrative staff. These leaders generally meet together with the administrator for one hour every week to improve our practice.  This group should:

  1. Reduce overhead
  2. Increase production/collection
  3. Determine team and individual rewards
  4. Improve the quality of care
  5. Improve the environment
  6. Get problems solved faster
  7. Solve complex problems that no individual team could handle
  8. Keep us focused on client needs
  9. Increase our creativity
  10. Promote career development
  11. Serve as a focus for staff with problems
  12. Improve individual/team decision making

Cross functional teams work just like single function teams.  All the principles apply.  To keep the team leaders moving, set goals and work on them continuously.  Here are four characteristics that will help you be successful.


  1. Shares relevant information with colleagues
  2. Helps the team use its time and resources effectively
  3. Pushes the team to achieve outstanding results
  4. Successfully completes all work that has an impact on the team’s success
  5. Accepts responsibility for team‑oriented actions
  6. Serves as a mentor for new team members
  7. Has a clear set of priorities



  1. Helps the team set and clarify long‑term goals
  2. Regularly reminds the team to review its goals and plans
  3. Helps teammates who need it
  4. Works hard to achieve team goals whether or not she agrees with them
  5. Is open to new idea or information that may alter team goals
  6. Works outside defined roles to help achieve team goals
  7. Shares credit with teammates



  1. Helps resolve technical or interpersonal problems in the team
  2. Listens objectively while withholding judgment
  3. Recognizes and praises colleagues for their efforts
  4. Shows enthusiasm and a sense of urgency about the team’s work
  5. Tries to achieve consensus among teammates
  6. Encourages others to participate in discussions and decisions
  7. Provides other members with specific, helpful feedback on their performance.



  1. Frankly shares opinions about the team’s work
  2. Disputes conventional wisdom, even if it means disagreeing with the team leader or the majority
  3. Questions the team’s goals
  4. Pushes the team to set high ethical standards
  5. Asks why, how, and other relevant questions at team meetings
  6. Challenges the team to take calculated risks
  7. Reports team progress and problems honestly
  8. Backs off when views are rejected; supports a legitimate team consensus


To be most effective in working with the other team leaders:

  1. Be direct – say it, don’t hint it.
  2. Don’t blame others – fix systems using facts.
  3. Be specific – don’t generalize, illustrate using real situations.
    1. always look for trade offs that will provide a win/win situation
    2. look for different priorities, “let’s do yours first and mine second.”
  4. Say less and do more.
  5. Let it go. Don’t hold grudges.
  6. Don’t judge people.
  7. Don’t argue your own views; sell them by looking for win/win opportunities.
  8. Don’t assume that someone has to lose. Find ways for everyone to win.
  9. Don’t “give up” your opinion just to make someone else feel good.
  10. Look for ways to improve our processes.
    1. What can we simplify/eliminate without reducing quality?
    2. What do we do “because we’ve always done it that way”?
  11. Don’t be a wet blanket to new ideas:
    1. We are already too busy
    2. Lets look at this later
    3. We have got too many other issues more important than that
    4. You will get used to it
    5. The dentists will never go for it
    6. That’s not our job
  12. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know.”
  13. Don’t gossip.
  14. Share credit whenever possible.
  15. Keep your salary to yourself.


Ways to get management ideas.  Why we use the training manuals as our primary career development resource.


  1. Books and tapes.
    1. Generalized ideas
    2. You figure out what might work and how to implement
    3. Seminars
    4. More specific to dentistry
    5. Still generalized
    6. Help from other team leaders, Jill, and dentists.
  2. Very specific ideas
  3. Ideas based on their training and experience
  4. Consultants
  5. Specific ideas for observed problems
  6. Wide experience in dentistry from observations in many offices
  7. May be some follow up to troubleshoot
  8. Training manuals
  9. Specifically designed for HealthPark
  10. Designed to add to your current tasks step by step
  11. Moves you ahead in your career
  12. Allows individualized learning at the staff member’s pace
  13. The major advantage of the manuals are: IT SAVES YOU HUGE AMOUNTS OF TIME!  When you look at items 1-4 on this list, here are the problems:
    1. Drive time
    2. Cost
    3. Mistakes (worthless material)
    4. Wrong material


Accepting a seat at our management table is a huge step up in your career.  You will now take on more business responsibilities than you ever thought you would.  These responsibilities cover the full range of managing our practice and fall into 4 general categories.

  1. Improving internal relationships.

We work so closely together under such high quality standards that stress is inevitable.  The high level of cooperation necessary to reach your team’s goals will lead to minor conflicts.  Keep those minor conflicts from turning into major staff wars by:

  1. Recognize conflicts early
    1. This is not just your responsibility. Make sure everyone on your team realizes how important it is to their enjoyment of their jobs that they avoid or at least contain these minor conflicts.
    2. Teams need help when:
  2. One on one conflicts quickly result in your team taking sides with the 2 combatants.
    1. A team member isolates herself from the others.
  • Team meets are spent complaining and gossiping. You can’t accomplish your team agenda, because the time is taken up with personal problems.
  1. Threats, emotions, and bad feelings are used to intimidate team members to agree on an issue, but this outward agreement only leads to more one on one bickering.
  2. Various cliques form within your team.


  1. Avoid minor conflicts whenever possible
    1. Set standards of team conduct
      1. No personal attacks
      2. No raising your voice during meetings
  • No hurtful gossip about other team members
  1. Don’t assume some action was taken specifically to hurt you
  1. Recognize problem areas before the problem exists
    1. In January as you prepare your report for the strategic planning meeting watch for these potential conflict areas and develop avoidance plans to share with the staff plan group.
    2. When a conflict grows, don’t cut it off immediately. Let team “vent” so all minor irritations are exposed also.


  1. Solve minor conflicts quickly
    1. The longer you wait, the worse it gets
    2. Refer to the standards of team conduct
    3. Meet with each person involved individually
    4. Empower the combatants to come up with a resolution acceptable to you
    5. Let the whole team know the conflict, the attempted resolution, and the expected result
    6. Follow up with all parties and report the final resolution to the team


  1. Avoid conflicts between you, the leaders, and your team
  1. Issues to watch for
    1. How much control you exercise vs. giving your team independence
    2. Quick decisions vs. building team consensus
  • You will have one leadership style you are most comfortable with. However, you will need to shift styles given the situation.
  1. Always be available to talk with your team.
  2. Personal needs taking precedence over team goals
  1. You’ll know your in trouble when
    1. You micromanage – setting policies on details
    2. You hate to call a team meeting
  • The team stress level is up
  1. You have to justify and explain everything you want accomplished
  2. You feel the team is working against you
  1. Make sure your team knows what you expect of them
    1. Continual upgrading of their skills through level movement
    2. You will hold them responsible for completing all assigned tasks (including strategic management goals) on time
  • Clients come first
  1. Everyone must share ideas to improve performance



  1. Avoid management team styles that kill our vision
    1. Won’t change
      1. Don’t see that changes are needed
        • Why change what worked in the past
        • Some staff won’t like the change
        • Can’t see how change will benefit the future
      2. Only react after a problem is too big to ignore
      3. Ways to focus on the future using our vision
        1. Give clear updates at the team leader meeting on your team’s status.  Keep a management diary daily and write out this report.
        2. Read journals, articles, attend meetings, study your manuals, visit other offices- always ask “Is there a better way?”
      4. Signs the management team is struggling
        1. Making individual decisions with little regard to long term strategies
        2. Each argues from her own needs, any request for help is regarded as an added burden
        3. Team expects Jill to make most decisions and come up with most answers. New challenges seem unsolvable
        4. Meetings are stressful
        5. New challenges seem unsolvable
        6. A team leader quits


  1. Solutions
    1. Help the team be more creative
      1. Encourage new ideas – write them down
      2. Get others ideas before giving your own
    2. Bring in a consultant
    3. Discus client feedback
    4. Show confidence in others
      1. “What’s the situation as you see it?”
      2. “Anything else we should know?”
      3. “What have you already tried? What did you learn?”
      4. “What are the advantages and disadvantages of this approach?”
    5. Attend all HealthPark functions
    6. Volunteer for projects
    7. Always be prepared for team leader meetings
      1. Review minutes of last meeting
      2. Write down the topics and important points you want to bring up


Now, see how you do at team lead.  Answer the problems:

  1. A new doc comes in that you will be expected to work closely with. What strategies will you use the first month?




  1. A new person is added to your team who is experienced and smart – and tells everybody how good she is.




  1. One of your team is leaving and you’re asked to add some of her responsibilities.





  1. Good ways to make friends.



Write the team leaders section for the Strategic Plan

What could be more stressful than writing your teams report for the strategic planning meeting?  Nothing.  What could be more important to the success of your team?  Nothing.

Okay, with those thoughts out of the way, let’s get busy.  No one is going to judge you.  They’ll only appreciate your effort – and remember when they were in your shoes.

Get with your administrator when you are ready to tackle this.  You are the first person to go through this new section, so you’ll get lots of help.


HealthPark’s Vision – To be the role model for how a dental practice runs in the 21st century:

Clinically – by using conservative & preventive-oriented principles

Financially – to make a profit to show it can be done ethically

Emotionally – building long term relationships


Another way to say it: To create the highest value by building relationships and by teaching/practicing conservative & preventive-oriented principles to establish a viable economic/ethical model for dentistry in the 21st century


Outline/Time Frame (Jill will give you this information)


Now take a few minutes and think about last year.  Answer these questions for your team.


  1. How many of last year’s goals did we accomplish?
  2. Did we have enough staff to accomplish our goals?
  3. How productive were we?
  4. How often did we hit our bonuses?
  5. How stressed was the staff?



Prepares a report for the Strategic Plan Meetings

One of your major responsibilities as a team leader is to evaluate your team’s performance on a semi-annual basis, set goals for your team to accomplish in the next 6 months and then monitor & report on their progress.

The first step in evaluating your team is to think through how your team is accomplishing its goals/objectives.

Often people think action equals success. Think of a rocking chair. You can rock twice as fast, but you                  still don’t go anywhere. This means that you need a target to aim all your efforts toward. At HealthPark here is your target.

Mission: To be the role model for dentistry – focusing on patient’s quality of care (conservative & prevention), staff/dentist satisfaction and financial stability

Our 3 key business drivers:

  1. Patient’s quality of care – conservative philosophy & preventive approach
  2. staff & dentist satisfaction
  3. financial stability


Now that you’re clear on what you are shooting at, it’s time to think about what resources your team has to help you reach your goals.  This is called doing a SWOT analysis and is divided into two parts:

  • Internal factors – List the strengths and weaknesses inside HealthPark & on your team
  • External factors – List the opportunities and threats outside of HealthPark. (Including Political, Economic, Social, Technology, Legal and Environmental)

To do a SWOT analysis, you must start with a clearly-defined goal/objective. So, your goal is for your team to support HealthPark’s mission & 3 key business drivers.


Now, list your team’s strengths and weaknesses.






Next, write any opportunities or threats to your team that occur outside the office.







Here’s an example of how to use a SWOT analysis.

Goal- average 1200 new clients annually but current year- 800 new clients

Question- How can the secretaries improve the number of new clients?

Strengths- Well trained team in high levels

Weaknesses – So busy internally, not making time for lev6 to do marketing work

Opportunities – Other solo dentists not doing this work, so we will be the only one working to gain new clients in this method

Threat – Weak economy, people may not come in no matter what we do


The second step is to evaluate your team’s performance on existing measures. You will receive a page of statistics from Jill that will help you to evaluate your team. For each measure, you should note if your team is accomplishing the goal or not. If not, then you should talk with your team and come up with ideas to accomplish this goal. These ideas belong in your StratPlan report.

Again, for example:

If the measure is Collect 10 new email addresses daily – and your team is averaging only collecting 2. Note that you are failing this goal – ideas to improve include:

  1. Greeter to print the list of people every day that we do not have their email address
  2. Print a schedule to find the time each person is coming in and after you ask them for their email, then check off on the schedule if you got it or not.
  3. For people who decline, ask them why & document.


The third step is to evaluate each individual’s performance. You should write each of your team member’s names on a paper, pull their employee file to see what level they are in, when did they complete that level, when is the last time they had a level meeting. Determine if they are actively working in their level or not. If not, then do you need them to move ahead? If so, write your plan to get them back on track. If they have an annual performance review in their file, read through it – again, find out their goals and how they are coming on accomplishing them. What can you do to help? Finally, print the cover page from both the professional (sec or asst or hyg) level and the general level – for the most recent level they have completed and for the level they are currently working in – in your opinion, are they now handling these tasks? Are they done with high quality? Are there some tasks that they should be doing, but are not? For clinical staff, ask the doctor they work with the most often to give you feedback on the tasks in their level – what would the doc like to see improved? Once this is completed in detail for your team members, you can summarize the highlights for your report.


Timing is important on preparing your report. You should read through your most recent Strategic Plan workbook the first week of December of each year. Using this report, you can refresh your memory on the goals your team set – and start to evaluate your performance. Obviously, Jill will have to wait until the full year is completed to provide you updated statistics, but she may be able to give you year to date info – and you can use this data to have the discussion with your team if you are accomplishing or failing your goals. And you can start writing your team’s ideas to accomplish these goals in the future.


You also should start your SWOT analysis in December as well. End of year is a great time to take a look back over the entire year and think about your team’s role in delivering dental care in the practice. Plan to review your initial report with Jill in December so she can give you some initial feedback on what you have written.


In the Strategic Plan meeting, you get about 30 minutes to present your report. This report will have been read by the group, so you are not to read it to them. You are giving a presentation. Practice giving your report so that you can stay on time. If there is an area that your team is stumped, then this is a great time to ask for ideas/feedback. If your team has discovered a real problem/need – you can ask the other management members for their input as well. Your goal after your presentation is to give the doctors & other team leaders & Jill a full sense of how your team has performed and what you plan to accomplish in the year to come.