Many new dental office managers held one of the dental positions that they now find themselves managing. Some have not worked in a dental practice before but have management experience in another profession. Some are younger than the team members they manage, some are older than the doctors they manage. No matter what your background or age, what is the best way to navigate this new role?
One of the most important attributes that a new manager can adopt and instantly put into action is a willingness to assist. This means learning about and having a clear understanding of each role and being up to date on all of the processes and systems used for each job. It also means knowing exactly how each employee is performing so that you can coach them when needed, make necessary changes, and step in without negatively impacting the performance of the practice. This takes great commitment, but the outcome in employee respect, support, satisfaction, and team performance is worth it. Employees respect a manager who is willing to work alongside them when needed. Lead by example!
Being a dental manager means leading with empathy. If you were a dental employee prior to being a manager, it’s easy to have empathy for the people you now manage. You see it from their point of view and understand that things can go wrong and that employees can get off track. Nothing will sink a new manager faster than demonstrating they hold the job in higher regard than the jobs of the others. This is not to say that coaching and discipline are thrown out the window when an employee doesn’t perform. But being an empathic and inspiring leader will result in developing and maintaining strong trust-based relationships.
Build them up
One of the most admired and successful attributes that new dental managers can embrace is selflessness. What I admired most about my former bosses is that they were advocates for their team members. They listened, were appreciative and approachable, jumped in and assisted when needed, and were great coaches and leaders. Of all the skills that a new dental manager must develop, selflessness is probably the most difficult to learn. After all, you have recently moved from an individual contributor role (as an employee) to a manager using all of the talents and resources available. This is not easy. It takes self-awareness and conscious readiness to shift your mindset and achieve optimal results in the growth of the practice, all while creating a harmonious and motivating team environment. It’s an ongoing process.
New dental managers face many challenges, including learning the ins and outs of their new job, shifting the mindset from employee to manager, adjusting to a new group of peers, and work-life balance. Being aware of these three attributes—willingness, empathy, and selflessness—and developing them will go far to make the transition smooth and successful. Not only will the new dental manager see the benefits, but the team will, too.
Christi Bintliff, FAADOM, is practice administrator at Croasdaile Dental Arts in Durham, North Carolina. She joined Croasdaile Dental Arts in 2007 as practice administrator. She has been in the dental profession since 1989. Her expertise is largely derived from her education in business administration and from her years with a group practice in Greenville, North Carolina, as well as a medical practice in Rockport, Maine. She has worked in multiple areas of the dental profession ranging from dental assisting, business administration, practice management, consulting, and marketing.