Focus on strengths for better dental practice health

As the owner of a dental practice, you are both a leader and a producer — arguably making you the single most important success factor in your practice. You set the tone for your practice’s culture, putting a lot of pressure squarely on your shoulders. But if you’re like most dentists, that’s not what you thought you were signing up for when you chose this profession. Matt Swenson talks about the benefits of a strengths-based practice and how to make it work for you.

Aug 15th, 2014
Superhero Dreamstime
As the owner of a dental practice, you are both a leader and a producer — arguably making you the single most important success factor in your practice. You set the tone for your practice’s culture, putting a lot of pressure squarely on your shoulders.ADDITIONAL READING |10 steps to creating a vision for your dental practice

If you’re like most dentists, that’s not what you thought you were signing up for when you chose this profession. Now, faced with more challenges than you can keep up with, why is a strengths-based practice culture and better team engagement the solution for a healthier practice?

What does a “strengths-based” organization look like?
According to Gallup, a strengths-based organization discovers what comes naturally to each individual contributor and then positions that person to use his or her unique strengths to achieve consistent, high performance.

What is employee engagement?
Employee engagement has been around for many years. Gallup, a research-based, global performance management and consulting company defines engaged employees as those who are “involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and contribute to their organization in a positive manner.”

Why does a strengths-based practice culture and better team engagement matter?
Gallup research shows:

  • Employee engagement is a dismal 9% when a leader fails to focus on strengths.
  • Employee engagement odds soar to 72% when a leader focuses on strengths.
  • In a strengths-based work environment, employees are eight times more engaged.

How does all of this affect your practice’s bottom line?

  • 10% higher customer ratings
  • 22% greater profitability
  • 21% greater productivity
  • 37% less absenteeism
  • 41% fewer quality errors

What can you do when you find yourself (or your practice) in a less-than-ideal situation? According to author Eckhart Tolle, you have three options:

  1. Leave it. (Not a real option for a practice owner.)
  2. Change it. (There’s that word that makes people cringe.)
  3. Accept it. (Ah, yes … much easier.)

And so it goes: option #3 becomes the norm in dentistry. You shrug off your leadership role, focus on producing, and simply accept a less-than-ideal practice culture — a decision that affects you, your team, and especially your patients. You want a healthier work culture … but it’s hard to know where to start.

Taking strengths-based action doesn’t have to be scary.
The good news about option #2 — taking action to change the situation — is that it doesn’t need to be drastic. When your focus is on building employee engagement through a strengths-based practice culture, it’s all about what you and your team already have to tap into.

In fact, this strengths-based, employee engagement approach debunks two workplace myths:

  1. Work is something that we are not supposed to enjoy.
  2. We only grow by improving our weaknesses.

As one business owner notes in the book Strength Based Leadership, “If you focus on people’s weaknesses, they lose confidence. At a very basic level, it is hard for us to build self-confidence when we are focused on our weaknesses instead of our strengths.”

Leading an engaged, strengths-based team begins with awareness of your individual strengths and your contributors’ strengths. But it also requires a selfless attitude, and a commitment to focusing on your team’s and patients’ well-being first.

Following are my top 10 pieces of advice for boosting team engagement through a focus on contributor strengths.

  1. As a practice owner, take an active role in being a leader.
  2. Build a strengths-based workplace that continuously fosters strength awareness.
  3. Use your unique strengths to lead and empower your team.
  4. Learn and focus on the strengths of your team members.
  5. When hiring, hire for strengths that fill current gaps.
  6. Find creative ways to make work energizing and active for your team.
  7. Set clear goals, track and measure outcomes, and celebrate desired behaviors.
  8. Define job roles, expanded duties, and manage to written job expectations.
  9. Make sure your team members have what they need to succeed.
  10. Model desirable behaviors in both words and action.

Benjamin Disraeli said, “The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but reveal to him his own.” He is right. And building an engaged, strengths-based practice culture is the ideal means to that end. What you’ll gain is a happier, more productive staff, well-cared-for patients, and higher profits.

If you’re interested in learning more about strengths-based leadership, employee engagement, and practice culture, please visit www.metamorfos.net and/or http://strengths.gallup.com.

During his 12-year sales and marketing career at Dentsply International, Matt Swenson enjoyed an insider’s access to medical practices around the country. And with thousands of hours of chairside observation, plus thousands more spent collaborating with key opinion leaders, national education centers, practice owners, and team members, Matt brings a clear view of the challenges facing medical practitioners and business owners — and unique strategies for overcoming them. Now, as the founder of Metamorfos, Matt focuses on putting his 23 years of business experience to work guiding business transformation. He can be reached via email at matt@metamorfos.net.

More in Endodontics