UNLOCKING Teamwork Potential: Coaching Good People to Being Great Teams

Sept. 1, 2007
Teamwork is at the heart of all great achievement. The question isn’t whether teams have value.

By Cindy Ishimoto

Teamwork is at the heart of all great achievement. The question isn’t whether teams have value. The question is whether we acknowledge that fact and become better team players. Without a well functioning team, you know that your practice will be held back and that you will waste a great deal of your energy. When the team is in a state of disharmony or dysfunction, everyone and everything is held back. On the other hand, when a team is coordinated, when they work cohesively toward a common set of goals, when team members feel a sense of co-ownership of the practice, the practice can’t help but thrive.

Achieving your greatest potential for working well with others means moving toward team building. If you can work effectively with other people, you can be more productive. Team building brings further fulfillment because it lets us extend ourselves through true collaboration, reaching beyond natural style similarities and differences.

Team building lets us appreciate the contributions of our co-workers, as well as our own. As a result of our efforts to help ourselves and others achieve success by collaboration, the work environment becomes a place for personal fulfillment. It becomes a place where we can experience a sense of purpose and meaning in our lives through personal and team development.

Teams involve more people, thus affording more resources, ideas and energy than would an individual. Teams maximize a leader’s potential and minimize his/her weaknesses. Strengths and weaknesses are more exposed in individuals.

Teams provide multiple perspectives on how to meet a need or reach a goal, thus devising several alternatives for each situation. Individual insight is seldom as broad and deep as a group’s when it takes on a problem.

Teams share the credit for victories and the blame for losses. This fosters genuine humility and authentic community. Individuals take credit and blame alone. This fosters pride and sometimes a sense of failure.

Teams keep leaders accountable for the goals, individuals are connected to no one and can change the goal without accountability. Teams can simply do more than an individual.

If you want to reach your potential or strive for the seemingly impossible, you must become a team player. Individuals play the game, but teams win championships.

Only with good communication can a team succeed, it doesn’t matter whether that team is a family, a company, a ball club or a dental practice. Effective teams have teammates who are constantly talking to one another.

Communication increases commitment and connections, which in turn fuel action. If you want your team to perform at the highest level, its members need to be able to talk and listen to one another.

Communication refers to the style and extent of interactions both between members and those outside the team. It also refers to the way that members handle conflict, decision-making, and day-to-day interactions. The success of your team and the ability of your team members to work together depend on good communication.

Every team has to learn how to develop good communications in four areas.

1. From leader to the team: The single all purpose instrument of leadership must be communication. If you cannot communicate you will not lead others effectively.

You must live by three standards: Be consistent. Nothing frustrates team members more than leaders who can’t make up their mind. Be Clear. Your team cannot execute if they don’t know what you want. Don’t try to dazzle anyone with your intelligence; impress them with your simple straightforwardness. Be Courteous. Everyone deserves to be shown respect, no matter what their position or what kind of history you might have with them. If you are courteous to your people, you set a tone for the entire organization.

Teams are a reflection of their leaders. Communication is never one-way. It should not be top-down or dictatorial. Good leaders listen, invite, and then encourage participation.

2. From team to the leader: Good team leaders never want yes-men or yes-women. They want direct and honest communication from their people. Leaders never want to hear, “I could have told you that wouldn’t work.” If you know it beforehand, that’s the time to say it.

Besides directness, the other quality team members need to display when communicating with their leaders is RESPECT. Leading a team isn’t easy; it takes hard work and demands personal sacrifice. It requires making tough and sometimes unpopular decisions. We should respect the person who has agreed to take on that role, and show him or her loyalty.

3. Among teammates: Few people are successful unless a lot of other people want them to be. For a team to experience success, all its team members must communicate for the common good, and exhibit the following three qualities:

  1. Being supportive: Ask not what your teammates can do for you, ask what you can do for your teammates. When communication is focused on giving rather than getting, it takes the team to a whole new level.
  2. Staying current: Teammates who rehash old problems and continually open old wounds don’t work together.
  3. Being vulnerable: Teams are like little communities and they develop only when the people in them don’t posture with one another.

4. Between the team and the patients: When approached by patients team members must be receptive, realistic and responsive. If they receive communication from patients gracefully, always respond in a timely fashion, and are realistic about setting and receiving expectations, they will do well. The patients will perceive that their concerns are being received well.

When it comes down to successful team communication, it takes cooperation and that must be made from the “we” perspective, not the “me” perspective. Working together means winning together, and no team works together unless it’s communicating. It takes interaction to fuel actions.

Take Steps Towards Error Free Positive Communications

Teamwork and team harmony are often essential to a practice’s success. If one or two team members don’t seem to fit in or have problems getting along with the rest of the group, the output of the entire team is jeopardized. By helping each team member understand how best to communicate with each other, you will work out potential behavioral conflicts and improve efficiency and effectiveness.

It is important for everyone to learn how to be an effective communicator: here is a method that has proven effective in eliminating misunderstandings and errors.

Begin by focusing on the communicator. Stop whatever else you are doing and put things down. There is only one thing that requires your attention at this moment. Keep in mind that many miscommunications and errors occur when distractions interrupt the communication.

Look at the person who is talking. People communicate both verbally and non-verbally. Watch the communicator’s facial expressions, their hand movements and their body language. Many times these will speak volumes about how important this communication is to them. Use eye contact to let the other person “see” that you are focused on them.

Listen with your eyes and ears. Using eye contact increases listening intensity. If your eyes are wandering around the room, looking at the floor or ceiling and not at the person talking, you appear distracted and uncaring. Remember that you have two ears and one mouth. Listen twice as much as you speak and you will prevent a great deal of communication errors.

Take notes. Writing down what is being said immediately conveys that it is important. When you write things down you increase your ability to remember things accurately. Writing down the message or task reduces error by 90 percent!

Learn to repeat the communication. Repeating gives the communicator peace of mind that the message has been received and understood. When the information is technical, complicated or contains dates or numbers, repeat them twice. This will decrease the likelihood of errors significantly.

After repeating the information, gain confirmation from the communicator that you are correct in receiving and understanding the communication. They will be relieved to hear the repeated information and happy to acknowledge your understanding.

If you promise something, keep your word and deliver what you promise. This final step is the most important effective communication tool. By doing this you acknowledge the importance of what was communicated and create feelings of trust and respect between you and the other individual.

The ultimate goal of utilizing communication tools is to improve your ability to be successful in any situation. The goal of communicating should not be to win, control, or micromanage, but to achieve progress towards shared goals, visions, and missions. TEAM stands for Together Everyone Achieves More. Communicate effectively and you will achieve more with less stress and fewer errors.

The team is the “lifeblood” and “heartbeat” of the dental practice. A great team is “a group of leaders focusing on a common set of goals.” When the time, talent, and potential of the individual members of the organization are focused on these goals, success abounds.

Having a great team is not just a dream. You can create your “dream team” with consistent work on decreasing chaos in your practice, by having organized systems that are efficient and effective, providing an environment that is conducive to growth and focusing on team building utilizing exquisite communications.

Biographical Sketch

Cindy Ishimoto, CDPMA brings energy and powerful information to dentists and teams every day. With 30 years of experience, she is a well known speaker and management consultant. Cindy has been a featured speaker at international, national and state conventions; her lectures are focused on helping practices establish systems that balance serving patients, profitability and enjoyment of profession. As a member of the Jameson Management consulting team, she works in offices with clients all across the United States and the United Kingdom. She may be reached at [email protected] or at (877) 710-6545.