Director's Message: Willing to be bizarro? Here are three 'Team Interuptous' steps

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Whether you know it or not, everyone leaves something behind. It’s in our wake. According to Wikipedia, “In fluid dynamics, a wake is the region of disturbed flow (usually turbulent) downstream of a solid body moving through a fluid, caused by the flow of the fluid around the body. As with all wave forms, it spreads outward from the source until its energy is overcome or lost, usually by friction or dispersion.”

So just like a boat in the water, or a rocket ship or an aircraft, we make “wakes” as we move through our work environments. So I ask, do you know what kind of “turbulent” energy you leave behind?” Positive, negative, or neutral.

Sometimes in an office we function in a mindset or with an amount of selfishness and separation from our employers, teammates, and even patients. Departmental divisions may involve any of the personnel in the practice setting, including the hygienists. We often reduce our attention or focus to only the realm of our professional licenses, job descriptions, and/or duties. When we do that, we are creating wakes that are either negative or neutral. Opening ourselves up and having the entire team’s and office’s mission and values in our awareness — thinking about how your actions (or inactions), attitudes, or words will help or discourage each other and, ultimately, the patients we serve — is a way to interrupt the status quo and begin to create a flow of energy that is effective.

Frequent readers of my Director’s Message have read that our emotions create our thoughts, thoughts create behaviors, and behaviors create actions (or inactions). When our minds are in action, and where we offer our attention, is what is reflected back to us in our daily experiences.

So if all you look for is how you perceive the office manager sabotaging your schedule, or the dental assistant who never bags the hygiene instruments, or the financial coordinator who makes mistakes with financial arrangements, or the scheduling manager who may not know how to organize crown appointments, then you will find indicators to support all of that. If you only worry that your team is idle or unprofitable, then the evidence to support that is all that you will see. Or lastly, if you believe that your patients will not accept XYZ treatment because of XXX or ADC, then, presto, you will find plenty of patients saying no to treatment. Bottom line: what you think about and focus on is what you will get.

Considering we all have an innate desire to belong and a team’s culture vibrates together, yet if unhealthy, negative thoughts and patterns are available in your culture, you can begin to interrupt those patterns, create change. Yet, please remember, it doesn’t start with them, it starts with you. When consulting, I sometimes get:

  • “If only the DA would do this ...”
  • “If only the Doctor would do that, buy that, return that ...”
  • “If only the scheduling coordinator would understand that …”
  • “If only … (fill in the blank)”

Again, “Team Interuptous” doesn’t start with them; it starts with you. You are the only one who can choose to change your emotional attachments to your experiences, change your thoughts and attention, and then take steps to change your words and actions. Once you begin to change your mindset and then your behaviors, you begin to interrupt old patterns and group norms. This change is likened to the popular quote by Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Widely quoted, its use is less prevalent. When you decide to follow its premise, then you can move into “interuptous.”

3 Steps: “Team Interuptous”

The following are blended statements I’ve heard over the years from professionals:

  • “Well this is just how it is”
  • “No one will change”
  • “We tried that before”
  • “That new technology won’t work here”
  • “A consultant won’t help”
  • ”Our patients will never accept that”
  • “My team will never do that"

These statements may or may not be true. Who cares? Let them go. Instead, the first step is to encourage you to think of a situation in your office when everyone did everything together. Remember when an appointment, an exam, a morning, or afternoon went smoothly, or when you serviced your patients at the highest level, and everyone and everything just clicked. Those capable and easy moments, mornings or days can be used as an energetic model for you to consider. Begin every day from that positive state.

To some, this sounds esoteric, yet if you are trying to hold on to “history” or “a story,” continue to anchor in the same and point the finger at others to change, or what “they should” do, then there is a saying, “You are rearranging the chairs on the Titanic.” It’s all going to go down eventually.

So if you are ready to start each day with those positives, the memories where everything clicked, and then change can happen. Progress happens. As you begin to change your focus to the positive, to the successes, then I ask you to take the next step in “Team Interuptous,” and be warned that your employees, group, and or patients may think you are a little bizarro?

During your next work day, first, put your attention on the positive qualities of your work values, employees and/or team members. Second, for an entire day (lunch hour included)* do not express, indicate, and/or imply an unkind or negative comment about anybody. No one. No matter what happens. Regardless if the dental assistant crammed a case in at the last minute, regardless if the doctor made you wait 15 minutes for every hygiene exam, regardless if Johnny’s mother yelled at you because he has eight cavities, and regardless if your administrator neglected to collect the $5,000 deposit before beginning a case. And on the social side, regardless if someone’s pants don’t match their top, or you are thinking to yourself, “What was she thinking wearing that outfit, lipstick, and hairdo.” Whatever. Don’t say it!

Third, whenever an opportunity comes up for you to be supportive, gracious, kind, helpful, and positive, take it!

Your employer (or employees) may begin to think that your behavior is bizarro! And some may ask you if you are feeling OK. And if you continue this behavior beyond one day, you may begin hearing comments like,

  • “Remember when you used to talk about people/patients?”
  • “Remember when you would complain when the doctor made you behind?”
  • “Remember when you would never help out the front desk team?”
  • “Remember when you were resistant to a new technique, system, chart, product, etc.?”
  • “Remember when you were a complete grump during team huddles and staff meetings, derailing all initiatives?”

If you can apply these three “Team Interuptous” steps, they will initiate a new lens in which you see your work environment. They will become fluent and continuous and you will discover that you are changing your practice’s culture. Since we all leave behind a wake in our path, I hope you consider being bizarro! If you choose to be bizarro for at least a day, a week or forever, please report any “Ahh” thoughts on the RDH eVillage Facebook page.

Kristine A. Hodsdon RDH, MSEC
Director, RDH eVillage

* If a full day seems overwhelming, then start with 10 minutes, or an hour and work your way up to an entire day.

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