The Team

11 ideas for leading your team in the dental office

March 18, 2013
As part of the 100 words from 100 dental practice management experts in 100 words or less, dental practice management experts share their tips on turning your staff into a team.

March 18, 2013

Build careers for your team, don’t just give them a job. Team members who have the ability to focus on the future and be comfortable with money inspire confidence in your patients. People who just have a job rarely have either of those capabilities. Invest in them! What have you done with intent to create a work environment that grows and supports the strengths of those who have chosen to follow you? It’s not enough to give them a job description – help them see your vision so they can create a vision of their own. Then do everything in your power to help them realize their vision. If an exceptional leader shares his or her vision for the future with an empowered team, they will take you there.
-Gary DeWood, Spear EducationIn your dental practice, first impressions are very important. The front office staff member answering the telephone sets the tone for the new patient experience. Answering the phone with, “Dr. Doe's dental office, can I put you on hold?” is certainly not the impression you want to make. Instead, the first words from the receptionist should be warm and welcoming. Tone is also important – the potential new patient calling should be able to hear the receptionist smiling when speaking. This usually requires the right personality for the job. I like to say “More bubble is better.” Why is it that some practices I visit have their least trained, least personable, and least paid staff member answering the calls?
-Dr. Lee J. Harris, Harris Dental Solutions, [email protected]
Your practice personnel can be a team or a staff. Staff (staph) is an infection I would prefer not to have in the practice. Negativity is an infection as well. An outstanding dental team possesses a very positive attitude and can never be equated with staff! Your team is the most valuable asset you have in your practicing life and should be a reflection of your commitment to excellence, quality and professionalism. Lead by example and have the team of your dreams. Only hire team members who possess the qualities you are seeking. Everything you and your team do makes a lasting impression on your patients – positive or negative.
-Beverly Hill, Jameson ManagementA great team is a group of leaders tied together by a common sense of purpose. It’s a group that realizes “the sum of the whole is greater than the individual parts.” A great team is made up of people who thrive on the achievements of each other, who are not jealous of each other’s successes. You can create your dental team by identifying the strengths of your team members and overlooking the weaknesses. This, I believe, may be the single greatest factor in becoming an outstanding leader. Be courageous and confident enough to acknowledge and reinforce the strengths of your team members.
-Dr. John H. Jameson, Jameson Management
Do you ever wonder why you go to a CE event or hire a consultant and get great information, yet come home and nothing changes? To overcome being stuck in a rut, you must have a vision and code of conduct where ongoing growth and improvement is expected and where authentic relationships and accountability take place. You must surround yourself with team members of high character who are willing to coach their teammates, as well as be coached by them.
-Penny Limoli, Limoli and AssociatesFor many years, I have stressed over staff attendance challenges. On any particular day, staff members would arrive late to work, call in the day of, or leave early because of an “emergency.” Their late arrivals or absences had a negative effect on the continuous flow of the day. Recently, I instituted an “Occurrence Attendance Policy” which addresses these issues. The employee receives one-half, one or two points based on established criteria for unacceptable activities listed. This policy has reduced the attendance problem significantly, and it is working because it is a blind policy. The manager has to follow the directions of the policy for each staff member regardless of status or position.
-Dr. Kaneta R. Lott, Lott Seminars
A talented treatment coordinator brings great value and growth to a dental practice. You may have an ideal candidate for this key position already in your practice who just requires some training to step up to the role. If not, consider recruiting from the outside. The treatment coordinator should be a confident communicator, understand and value fine dentistry, be comfortable discussing finances, and most importantly, believe in your dentistry and fees. Along with playing a key role during case presentations with the dentist, they can facilitate scheduling treatment enrolled in the hygiene department and back office.
-Robin Morrison, Dental Consultant Connection

Systems work best when employees feel appreciated. Appreciation is communicated in its own language. There are five languages of workplace appreciation. Some of the 50 ways to show appreciation:

  • Receiving a note complimenting you on a job well done.
  • Co-worker stopping by your office, spending a few minutes with you.
  • Having a coworker offer help when they notice you need it.
  • A gift that has a special connection to something you value.

Enthusiasm, commitment and a positive attitude can be part of your practice if everyone on the team appreciates appreciation!
-Fran Pangakis, Pangakis Consulting

Do not accept the economy as an excuse for light schedules and rejection of treatment. Look in the mirror. Honestly ask yourself and your team how you are all doing at transforming patient needs into wants by:

  • Building greater patient trust and rapport
  • Educating patients and establishing urgency for treatment needs
  • Eliminating any phrases that minimize treatment needs
  • Co-diagnosing with patients, using pictures and questions
  • Having a precise hand-off of information between the hygienist and doctor
  • Employing consults effectively for large cases

Lead your team. Arrive at concrete plans to improve in each area and track your success together.
-Bob Spiel,

It’s not always about money when it comes to retaining good staff members. As I’ve said before, “Never lose a good employee over money – pay them well.” But, in many cases, it’s much more than money. It’s about having fun in the office also. You may think, “Fun? What’s that got to do with it? This is a job – it’s not supposed to be fun!” Maybe that was true 50 years ago, but today’s work force and environment is totally different. Not only does having a little fun with a job help staff retention, it also has a positive effect for staff motivation and morale. A team that has fun together, excels together!
-Dr. Joe Steven, Jr., Kisco Dental
My clients continually express frustration that their teams are not as committed as they would like. Set aside the conventional management dogma about empowerment, accountability, and the “self-directed team.” I simultaneously encourage my clients to view this behavior as part of human nature, not a “bad team.” Forgive your team for being human and expect that your life will never be as important to them as it is to you. Then make them as important to you as you are to you, and optimize reciprocation – if not for the sake of being effective, then to balance out your own emotional state.
-Ross Vera, Pride Institute
Lauren Burns is the editor of Proofs magazine and the email newsletters RDH Graduate and Proofs. She is currently based out of New York City. Follow her on Twitter: @ellekeid.