#6 – Team Introduction: What’s In It For Me?

Okay, you’ve found our office to be a “nice” place to work.  The facility is clean and safe.  Your co‑workers are friendly.  The pay and benefits are okay.  But what’s this “team” thing?  It kind of sounds like some hoky idea left over from high school sports. We hope you’ll find it to be a whole lot more valuable than you could possibly imagine.  In fact, it should become the most important single factor in making your time with us exciting, fun, and provide you with a real sense of fulfillment.

In 1994, Xerox offered their employees $1040.00 to join an HMO (Health Maintenance Organization) for a family of 4 OR the employee could PAY $948.00 of their own money to continue traditional fee for service insurance.  74.4% of the employees chose the HMO and saved $2000.00. Why did Xerox (and most other companies) pay such huge sums of money to change how health care is delivered?  They wanted to stay in business and make a profit.  American companies no longer compete only against other American companies.  We now have a global economy where American companies compete against companies in Sri Lanka, Mexico, and China where workers were paid from 2.00 to 7.00 PER DAY in 1994.

American companies must find ways to reduce this huge advantage that foreign countries have.  Healthcare has become a major employee coast.  Therefore, reducing this cost will make American companies more competitive and, ultimately, save jobs in our country. Dentistry is a NON‑essential, discretionary health service. People die without medical care.  No one dies if his or her teeth aren’t cleaned every six months.  Most dentists make a mistake in becoming price controlled by insurance companies.  Isn’t a silver filing a silver filling?  Can there really be any difference between a tooth cleaning on one office and that cleaning in another office?  Unfortunately dentists have accepted the insurance companies’ established fees as their standard for payment since the early 1970’s.  Today, most American believe that insurance companies know better than dentists what a “fair fee” should be.

Today 90% of dentists participate in managed care.  Managed care means the dentists will be paid a fee dictated by the Managed Care (insurance company) and the patient won’t pay anything above this.  These fees paid by managed care range from 50‑80% of our standard fees.  When we eliminate our 65‑70% overhead, that means our 30‑35% profit is reduced to 0‑15%.  You and I don’t have to be too smart to see that dentists who participate in these plans are going to have to cut their overhead and, you’ve guessed it!  Staff salaries are the single largest expense (most practices pay over 33% of every dollar collected in staff salaries and benefits) we have.

If managed care means cut-rate dentistry ‑ reduced service to clients, reduced profit for dentists, and reduced salaries for staff, then how do we avoid it?  WE must work together as a team! Being a fully functional team can be our competitive secret weapon.  At General Mills, the self‑managed teams produced 40% more than the traditional work force.  Now, being a team doesn’t just mean everyone likes working together, although that’s important.  Being an effective team means setting and achieving meaningful goals and if you want to avoid managed care, these goals must all able to increase the value to our clients.  If we all work together we can make this a place that will provide all of us:

  • Fun, interesting, and caring people
  • Attractive, well-equipped, and friendly office
  • Receive coaching, development and a climate necessary to excel
  • Understand that what you do makes a difference in the lives of your clients
  • Wake up in the A.M. with feelings of enthusiasm
  • Have a sense of achievement
  • Be offered opportunities to grow professionally
  • Work in a culture that encourages and rewards quality
  • Be appreciated and respected by team members
  • Work with team members who listen
  • Be praised for positive contributions
  • Be inspired, stretched, and motivated
  • Be compensated fairly
  • Have your self-esteem enhanced
  • Be a member of a team characterized by mutual trust and integrity
  • Place to have fun & make a profit

The only way to achieve these goals will be to cooperatively work together as a team.  Until 1994 this idea of “team” meant very little.  Organizations have talked about “teams,” and being a “team player” for years, but I have seldom seen a really good team.  The individuals who make up a team will need a whole new set of skills.  These skills will involve

  • Continuous quality improvement ‑ for yourself and your team.
  • Total focus on client service from the client’s perspective.
  • Communication skills:  Managing conflicts with clients or other team members and  Listening skills
  • Understanding the concept of “internal customers” where  you recognize that you provide services for other staff  at HealthPark who then become just as much your clients as those who receive dental care.
  • Salesmanship ‑ not manipulating people to accept what you want, but helping them to upgrade their appreciation of and desire for improved quality of care.
  • Business knowledge ‑ You’ll see HealthPark statistics and numbers.  How successful are we financially?  What do the numbers mean?  Also, you’ll need to know what’s  happening in dental offices in the Dayton area, the state, even nationally.  More than that you’ll need to know what’s happening in business and politics in our area, nationally, and around the world.
  • Teamwork

Wow!  The times are changing!  What happened to the jobs where workers would come in, do a good job on their assigned tasks, stay out of trouble, and go home to enjoy their family and friends. These employees are going to be working in a managed care practices ‑ at substantially reduced incomes. The average career life expectancy for the average staff member in dentistry is 2‑3 years.  People float in, work for awhile, and leave, usually blaming and making excuses on the way out. We are going to ask a lot of you.  A lot more than just learning some tasks as defined in a traditional dental office. However, we are also going to give you the opportunity to take control of your own career.  It’s a sad fact, but job security is a thing of the past.  No business can guarantee an employee a job anymore.  However, we can guarantee you our best effort to help you build your knowledge base.  To be successful in the work force of the 21st century you must continually improve your skill base.  This makes you more valuable here and more marketable if you move or change careers in the future.

Each time you pass through a training level, you will add to your understanding of what a team is and how you can become a valuable member of our team. What’s the difference between a group of people working together and a team?  Here are some statements made by individuals working on their own with no effort at fitting into a team:

“Why do I have to do your work for you?”

“It’s quitting time.  I’m outta’ here!”

“That’s not my job!”

“I can’t help.  I don’t know where the amalgam is stored.”

“I don’t get paid to pick up trash.”

“You made the mess.  You clean it up.”

“I do everything around here and I’m sick of it.”

“It’s too much work to learn new tasks.  I know enough already.”


Compare those statements with those of a true team member

“You look overworked.  How can I help?”

“It doesn’t matter who’s supposed to do it.  I’ll help.”

“If we work together we’ll finish quick.”

“How can we do this even better than before?”

“Good morning.  What a great day!”

“I couldn’t have done it without your help.”

“Great job!”

“Thank you!”

“I’m sorry I made that mistake.  How could I avoid it the next time?”


A team will:

  • Have fewer than 10 members
  • Have people with widely different personalities and skills: Problem solvers, Decision-makers, Great communicators, Methodically accurate, Etc. ‑ 100’s of characteristics
  • Have demanding precise, realistic goals
  • Have a strong commitment to specific performance targets
  • Have easy access to all-important information
  • Trust each other
  • Believe that everyone is equally important

To be a successful team member, you need to

  1. Give yourself 3 months to learn how to “fit in”
  2. Know what the team expects of you – ask lots of questions
  3. Take lots of notes in your notebook
  4. Get feedback on how you’re doing
  5. Have guidance when needed
  6. Get rewards according to accomplishments
  7. Assume responsibility for the team’s success ‑ your highest    goals are the team’s goals
  8. Communicate honestly ‑ no hidden agendas
  9. Support every decision the team makes
  10. Respect confidential matters
  11. Don’t gossip.  Like and respect the people you work with
  12. Appreciate diverse skills among your team members
  13. Develop the excitement of “team spirit.”  All for one and one for all!
  14. Always do what you say you will do
  15. Show up 15 minutes early
  16. Socialize at lunch time
  17. Keep your promises.

So what’s in it for me?  Try this list:

  • Clear priorities and goals
  • Clean communication within your team
  • Conflict is okay, resolved easily, and games are avoided
  • Your career advances steadily

Why use a team?

  • To get more creative solutions
  • To address conflicting views
  • To tackle a problem that no one owns
  • To build commitment and ownership on a controversial issue
  • To give and get support and praise
  • To boost your self‑esteem through improved work skills and ability to cooperatively help others.
  • To produce outstanding results better than what each person, working alone could hope to produce (1+1=3)

As you begin to fit into your team, ask yourself the following seven questions.  The clearer your answers, the better you will fit into your team

1.  What are we here to do?

2.  How have we organized ourselves?

3.  Who is in charge?

4.  Who cares about our success?

5.  How do we work through our problems?

6.  How do we fit in with the other teams here at HealthPark?

7.  What benefits do team members need from the team?

You don’t have to write down your answers (although it might help if you do!).  The questions will always stay the same; it’s your answers that will change.  Your answers lie in your other team members.  The better you know them ‑ what they do at HealthPark, how you can help each other, what everyone’s goals are ‑ the more accurate your answers will be. Here is a list of characteristics of effective and non‑effective teams.  Read them and see how you would rate HealthPark.

Characteristics of Effective and Ineffective Teams

Effective                                                       Ineffective

Information                                                                                                                               Flows freely up, down;                                   Flows mainly down, weak   sideways                                                             horizontally                                                          Full sharing                                                      Hoarded, withheld                                       Open and honest                                             Used to build power                                                                 Incomplete, mixed messages

People relationships                                                                                              Trusting                                                              Suspicious and partisan             Respectful                                                          Pragmatic, based on need or  Collaborative                                                     liking                                           Supportive                                                         Competitive, Withholding

Conflict                                                                                                                                       Regarded as natural, even                              Frowned on and avoided   helpful                                                                Destructive                                                       On issues, not persons                                    Involves personal traits and                                                                                                          motives

Atmosphere                                                                                                       Open                                                                  Compartmentalized                     Nonthreatening                                               Intimidating                          Noncompetitive                                               Guarded                                Participative                                                     Fragmented, closed groups

Decisions                                                                                                                                        By consensus                                                  By majority vote or forcing                    Efficient use of resources                             Emphasis on power                                              Full commitment                                          Confusion and dissonance                           Based on data                                                Based on guess work

Creativity                                                                                                                                   More options                                                Controlled by power subgroups  Solution‑oriented                                       Emphasis on activity and inputs                           Focus on methods, processes                    Focus on results

Power Base                                                                                                                                Shared by all                                                 Hoarded                                                                On competence                                            On politicking, alliances                             Contribution to team                                  Pragmatic sharing                                                   Leaders help staff do their                        Contribution to power source best                                                                Leaders tell people what to do

Motivation                                                                                                                           Commitment to goals set by                    Going along with imposed goals   team                                                              Coercion and pressure                                          Belonging needs satisfied                         Individual achievement valued                             More chance for achievement                without concern for the group through group

Rewards                                                                                                                                     Based on contribution to                         Basis for rewards unclear   group                                                            Based on subjective, often                                       Peer recognition                                         arbitrary appraisals

Watch out for these myths:

  • Any group that works together is a team. ‑‑‑ There are many groups, but very few teams.
  • If you leave a team alone it will be okay. ‑‑‑ Teams require constant hard work to keep together.
  • Teams have strong leaders. ‑‑‑ Teams have everyone committed    to their success.
  • Teams are different than families. ‑‑‑ Teams have arguments, rituals, rules, and special celebrations.
  • Individualists have no place on a team. ‑‑‑ Teams need risk    takers and creative people, but they have to use their talents for the good of the group.

Find a quiet place and answer these questions after you’ve been here 6 weeks.

1. What I like best about being on a team is…

2. I am most frustrated in the group when…

3. I feel left out when…

4. One strength I bring to the team is…

5. A major problem I see is …

6. I work best with people who…

7. I’d be a better team member if…

8. Our team works best when…

9. Our team gets blocked when…

10. I would be happier on this team if…

11. The thing I am most proud of this team for is…

12. The 3 staff members who help me the most are…