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The secret to improving your dental staff

July 20, 2021
Every dentist strives for a fine-tuned team. What are some of the best ways to get there, especially during this time of struggle to find any, much less the perfect, team members? Dr. Roger Levin shares tips.
Roger P. Levin, DDS, CEO and Founder, Levin Group

Staffing can be extraordinarily complex. Topics such as recruiting, hiring, training, performance reviews, skill set enhancement, personal development, personality improvement, core values, mission, and culture are enough to fill any textbook about human resources and dental practice staffing. But is there one thing you can do above all others that will go further toward building a great team? The answer is, yes.

After 37 years of consulting to thousands of dental practices, Levin Group has repeatedly found that one factor rises above all others, and that is trust. Trusting your team members inspires them to perform better, make good decisions, learn, and improve. But the starting point is to ask yourself this: Do you really trust your team?

Let’s take a test to find out. One of your patients referred five other patients to your practice during the last year. This patient presents for her hygiene appointment, and when it is complete, the hygienist independently thanks her for the referrals and tells her that the hygiene appointment is complimentary that day. This wasn’t discussed with anyone else and was an independent decision by the hygienist. As you read this example, how do you feel about the hygienist’s decision? Do any of the expressions below represent your first response?

  • “You’ve got to be kidding. I would kill my hygienist if she did that.”
  • "What a great, independent decision to offer 5-star customer service to one of our patients.”
  • "She should have talked to me first and gotten my permission.”
  • “She’s getting out of control. Who does she think she is?”

This doesn’t require an answer. I’m just trying to show how these responses get to the heart of how much you trust your team. For example, let’s assume you disagree with the hygienist. How do you handle this issue if you trust your team? The answer is that you wait for the right time, sit down with the hygienist, discuss what happened, and use it as a teachable moment and learning opportunity. Start by listening to why the hygienist made that decision, what inspired him or her to do so, and what the thought process was. You may change your mind, or you may not. However, this will allow you to have a calm, rational teachable moment of working together to build cooperation and further trust rather than shutting down the hygienist, causing him or her to hesitate to make any decisions in the future.

If you trust your team members, they will grow. Of course, they will make mistakes and arrive at decisions that are different from the ones you might make as the doctor or office manager. But isn’t it better if they’re making lots of decisions, working independently, thinking about the best interests of the practice, and not constantly running to the dentist or office manager to answer every question and creating distractions and more fatigue?

By the way (I can’t help myself), the best answer to the hygienist example here is to simply compliment her on her decision. Then wait several days or weeks and sit down and ask her how she arrived at the decision. If you happen to agree with what she did, compliment her again on her independent thinking and tell her what a pleasure it is to have her in your practice.

ROGER P. LEVIN, DDS, is the CEO and founder of Levin Group, a leading practice management consulting firm that has worked with more than 30,000 practices to increase production. A recognized expert on dental practice management and marketing, he has written 67 books and more than 4,000 articles and regularly presents seminars in the US and around the world. To contact Dr. Levin or to join the 40,000 dental professionals who receive his Practice Production Tip of the Day, visit levingroup.com or email [email protected].

About the Author

Roger P. Levin, DDS | CEO and Founder, Levin Group

Roger P. Levin, DDS, is the CEO of Levin Group, a leading dental management consulting firm. Founded in 1985, Levin Group has worked with over 30,000 dental practices. Dr. Levin is a sought-after speakers in dentistry and is a leading authority on dental practice success and sustainable growth. Through extensive research and cutting-edge innovation, Dr. Levin is a recognized expert on propelling practices into the top 10%. He has authored 65 books and over 4,000 articles on dental practice management and marketing.

Dr. Levin sits on the editorial board of five dental publications and has been named as one of the Leaders in Dentistry by Dentistry Today magazine for the last 15 years. He was recently named one of the 32 Most Influential People in Dentistry by Incisal Edge magazine and voted Best Dental Consultant by the readers of Drbicuspid.com. He has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Time magazine, and is the creator of the Levin Group Tip of the Day,which has over 30,000 subscribers.

To contact Dr. Levin, visit levingroup.com or email [email protected].

Updated March 7, 2019