Director's Message: How to build — and keep — a high-performance dental team

May 20, 2012
Kristine Hodsdon, RDH, BS, director of RDH eVillage, dissects the concept of a team and outlines a process you can use to build — and more importantly, keep — a highly effective team who is invested in your success.

By Kristine Hodsdon, RDH, BS

"There's no ‘I’ in 'team.' There is a me, though, if you jumble it up." — Dr. Greg House, from TV’s House

Dentists and entrepreneurs often think they have to “do it all themselves,” as reflected in the following statements:

  • “No one can do this as well as I can.”
  • “It’s easier to just do it myself than to explain how to someone else.”
  • “I do not have time to train anybody.”

When you think that way, however, you may be overlooking a critical component for success in managing small- to medium-sized businesses. That is, building the right team.

What’s in a team?

A team is a group of people with complementary skills who are mutually committed to working together toward a common goal with shared rewards.

Highly effective teams ...

See “the big picture.” This promotes collaboration, increases commitment, and improves quality. Each team member knows the greater goals of the practice and understands the context of his or her own (and each other’s) roles and responsibilities toward those goals.

Have common goals. Effective teams know what the goals are AND know how to determine if they’ve reached them.

Collaborate. Effective teams are all about interdependency. Collaboration reduces the need for playing “the blame game” while encouraging opportunities for learning and improvement.

Smells like team spirit

Whether you are building a team from scratch or working with an existing team, here are some key strategies to help make the most of your team:

Effective team leaders must ...

  • Give clear tasks and goals.
  • Ensure that the team has the necessary support, resources, structure, and training to do their jobs.
  • Put a deadline on everything — whether it needs it or not. Remember, the task on hand will expand to fill the time allotted.
  • Overcommunicate. Better to have the information and not need it than to need it and not have it (including timely, constructive, and consistent feedback).
  • Promote problem solving within the team. How? By seeing mistakes as opportunities (and encouraging the team to do the same). Instead of hiding mistakes, people become proactive.
  • Focus on structure. Poor performance is usually due to poor team structure, not individual performance. Poor structure leads to negative, ineffective behaviors in individuals and impedes communication.

What’s my motivation?

People are motivated by many things: getting paid, loving what they do, seeing a project come together, taking on new and bigger challenges, the creative process, ego gratification, or simply not being bored.

How to keep your team invested in your success:

  • Offer challenging work and opportunities for learning. This gives people a chance to grow into new roles and encourages responsibility.
  • Offer freedom and independence in the decision-making process to encourage self-empowerment. Powerful individuals make powerful teams.
  • Recognize the contribution of your team. This is utterly critical to the success of any business, and most leaders fail at doing so adequately — a HUGE mistake. Noticing (and publicly acknowledging) the effort of each team member is an underutilized — and free — way to ensure team success. Remember, no one does it alone.
  • Pay them well.

Finding the right team is not about finding the perfect team, and it does not guarantee success. Team members need consistent and ongoing support. Ideally, team members will be both independent and interdependent. Remember, nurturing a team (even a little) achieves better performance and better results.

Author bio
Kristine Hodsdon, RDH, BS, is the director of RDH eVillage e-newsletter and owner of Dental Influencers, LLC. She is dedicated to supporting practices and business owners in the areas of life/work balance, leadership, and business success. Click here for information on the 90-Day Core Business Insider Programs. Contact Kristine by email at [email protected].