Top 10 Ways to Please a Hygienist

Dec. 22, 2009
Here are 10 ways a leader can support the dental hygiene team.

A leader’s job is to ensure that the highest goals of the practice are realized. As long as you’re committed to the success of the group (and that could be a topic for another article), you are leading.

Below are 10 ways to support your hygiene team.

1. Set direction, don’t give directions. Trying to tell everyone what to do is micromanaging, not leading. Hygienists know prevention, yet they desire inclusion. Share your hygiene vision and how the hygienists are part of your team and practice.

2. Ask yourself, “Is what I'm doing helping the group succeed?” Ask the group this question, too. If the answer is no, stop! Taking the time to look in the mirror can be humbling, yet great leaders are open to insights from their teams, and once the feedback is heard, minimize ego and work toward changing your thoughts and behaviors.

3. Remind the group why it exists. A team’s mission/charter/vision can sometimes get lost. In these turbulent times, when was the last time you dusted off the mission statement or took a few minutes as a team to reflect on “the meaning behind coming to work in the morning”?

4. Align your team. Once goals are clear, help everyone match their part of the job to the goals. This may mean a one-on-one discussion — not in public, not berating, and without judgment. Move aside any internal assumptions and schedule an honest, nonemotional discussion.

5. Ask questions. Explore with real curiosity the link between hygienists’ actions and the team’s goals. So often hygienists say they cannot understand why the doctor sabotages treatment or doesn’t want to move forward with something. Move away from external noises and influences, either from well-intentioned Internet groups or colleagues, and simply ask your hygienist.

6. Get out of the way. Stop being dazzled by your own brilliance. Let go and trust the power of your hygiene department. Many hygienists have the acumen and knowledge to build a profitable hygiene center. These same hygienists have the energy and desire to create excellence within your practice. Move them into the light and let them grow!

7. Keep an open mind. Sometimes what looks like insanity may make a great deal of sense. Caries management, salivary diagnostics, advances in oral cancer detection, etc. — all these new technology or protocols may seem ludicrous because they have nothing to do with the newest bonding agents or tooth colored restorative materials. Yet open your mind and listen. A great plan may be in the works without spending $100,000 on an outside consultant.

8. Make it easy for team members to do their jobs. Take out the trash, sterilize some instruments, or occasionally order a pizza, if necessary. Also, evaluate the hygienists’ equipment. When was the last time the ultrasonic instruments where evaluated and new ones purchased? Do you have an ultrasonic unit? Sharp instruments? A written periodontal program/flow chart? Computerized charting? Consider suspending the entire allocated budget on your new dental gadgets and gizmos and help the hygienist department grow and be profitable.

9. Choose your battles wisely. They are a poor use of time. Issues that seem critical now often aren’t in the long run. Don’t get in the mud with every team discussion or disagreement, distance yourself, and above all, do not take sides! Trust your team to work it out. If they don’t, support someone in finding another dental home.

10. Spend time with your team. You’ll learn how to support your team much better than if you stay aloof and alone in your office checking e-mail. Caution; don’t spend all your time with only one or two members of your team. Do not begin an inappropriate relationship with a team member. (Others notice, no matter how discreet you think you are, you’re not, and you actually insult the rest of the team and your family. It squelches your leadership credibility, practice morale, profitability, and team cohesion.) Getting to know individual motivators and detractors will help you and your team thrive in 2010.

Kristine A. Hodsdon RDH, BS
Director, RDH eVillage