Reprinted with permission from Sally McKenzie and McKenzie Management.
You aren't as good as you think you are. The truth is, neither am I. As leaders, we all struggle to continuously achieve excellence. Sometimes what we accomplish occurs because of our own skill set; other times it's because of what we can cultivate in our teams; and still other times it is luck. Often it's a combination of all three. For dental practices, few even begin to scratch the surface of what they are capable of. Why? The reasons can be many, but #1 on the list is lack of leadership.
Those most in need of help will have a smorgasbord of excuses for why the practice struggles, why they “can’t” lead, why they don’t want to lead, including: “I’m an excellent dentist and that should be enough,”or “I can’t lead staff members that refuse to follow,”or “How can anyone be an effective leader in this economy? Patients don’t care about their oral health, so no amount of ‘leadership’ is going to make a difference. My bigger concern is paying my bills, not engaging in warm fuzzies.”And the list goes on.
While you are busy justifying your behavior, here’s what the staff are saying about your leadership skills:
- “It’s his way or the highway. If we suggest something should be done differently, he gets angry. He has all the answers all the time.”
- “She is always ready to rip your head off. There are no conversations, just accusations. The employees are constantly on the defensive.”
- “Maybe if he would make the effort to build a relationship with the patients and explain to them why they need the procedure, they would follow through on treatment recommendations.”
Here’s what the patients are observing: “I guess he is a good dentist, but it would sure be nice if there weren’t different employees in here every time I come in. I didn’t make the appointment to have the procedure because the doctor didn’t act like it was that important. Why should I spend money on treatment that I don’t understand the need for? It’s clear that the right hand and the left hand have no idea what the other is doing. The tension in that office makes me very uncomfortable.”
You can make all the excuses you want. The bottom line is that weak, poor, or lack of leadership directly affects your staff, your patients, and most importantly, your profitability — and that directly affects your quality of life and work. Not sure if your leadership is lacking? Ask yourself if any of the following ring true in your office:
Employees don’t stay. Yours is such a revolving door practice that you’re “stuck” with staff whose collective intelligence represents the lowest common denominator. Have you considered the possibility that your skills as a leader don’t rank much higher? When a vacancy occurs, you scramble because there are no hiring procedures in place. You’ve never implemented a regular performance review process because employees don’t stick around long enough to warrant one, or you are too busy, or you don’t know what to review because there are no job descriptions.
There are no workplace policies or procedures. There's no consistency in the rules or the expectations. What's OK today will be taboo tomorrow. For staff, it feels like they are on the deck of a boat running from one side to the other, trying to keep it from capsizing and you from losing your cool.
You are quick to criticize over the most trivial of mistakes. You berate your team with such zeal, it's almost as if you enjoy their slip-ups because on some level it gives you an excuse to blame them for why things are the way they are in your practice.
Your team lies to you. They are terrified to tell you when things don't go as planned. Why? Because they know that you will blame them even if you are responsible.
You never share credit. A patient compliments the practice and you bask in the glory, never acknowledging those around you who play a major role in your success.
Did any of the items on the list above make you uncomfortable? All of them should, because you are the most important “management system” in your practice. If you cannot or will not look at improving yourself as a leader, your practice will never improve either.
Sally McKenzie is CEO of McKenzie Management, a full-service consulting/coaching dental management company, providing proven management solutions since 1980. She can be reached at (877) 777-6151 or [email protected].