Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on the AADOM website.
“People often tell me that motivation doesn’t last, and I tell them that bathing doesn’t either. That’s why I recommend it daily.” – Zig Ziglar
Dentists and their teams are constantly looking for opportunities to drive their practices to the next level. The essential ingredient for achieving this is the teamwork that comes from a cooperative and motivated team. At virtually every program I attend, doctors ask, “How do I motivate my team?” or “What can I do to get them to do what I need them to? I don’t understand why they just don’t get it!”
Dental teams become motivated when the aspects of their position they find satisfying are increased, and the aspects they find dissatisfying are decreased. Remember that your team members are the most important people in your practice, even more so than the patients. Dentists must create systems that use team members’ talents, create policies that show them the boss cares about them, and become generous with praise and appreciation.
If an office has unfair policies (i.e., not caring about staff’s family obligations), unsafe conditions (i.e., poorly lit parking lot at night), and no expressions of gratitude, then it’s unrealistic to think that team members will be motivated to help the practice succeed. The leadership challenge is to create a vision for the practice, engage the team in the vision, and then create motivation for executing the vision through generous displays of appreciation and gratitude.
Engagement seems to be a big challenge in many areas of the business world. I recently attended a leadership development workshop where engagement was reinforced with a concept called “head, heart, and hands.” How does this relate to practice? Engaging the “head” of team members is usually done through training or CE. Reinforcing new knowledge with follow-up conversations provides a greater intellectual engagement. Don’t just tell the clinical assistant the sequence in which to hand you restorative instruments; make sure the person understands why you want it done that way. Don’t just tell the hygienist to do root planing on one to three teeth when limited pocketing is detected. Rather, tell the hygienist how, when “going subgingival” during a prophy, you’re doing the patient a disservice if they don’t take ownership of the disease process.
When team members have this level of understanding, they’ll become committed to the process of change and improvement and this allows them to put their “heart” into their work. When team members have an increased sense of purpose, this gives them a higher level of fulfillment. They may talk about how they’re proud to be a part of the process and what’s being accomplished each day.
This enthusiasm is what enables them to engage their “hands” in doing the work so their tasks are done in the most efficient and productive way possible. When the “hands” are symbolically engaged in this way, the practice will see higher levels of initiative and resourcefulness. Team members who are engaged in this way are constantly focused on team improvement. When they detect something not working, they’re more likely to go out on a limb and present a possible solution.
In my practice we were recently discussing how we engage patients in referrals of new patients. We recognize patients who refer others with a care-to-share program. Our patient coordinator suggested we engage those who refer others often with a more targeted appeal because they have shown this confidence and trust. Repeatedly.
She showed that she was fully engaged by using her head to think outside the box, using her heart to genuinely want to create change, and using her hands to not only come up with the idea, but to also create a list of patients who would receive this appeal. She also wrote a draft of what would be sent out. I do not ever need to motivate our patient coordinator. Her level of motivation is completely internal and for this I greatly appreciate everything that she contributes to our practice.
Let’s create motivation in dental teams by engaging their "heads, hearts, and hands" in the development of our practices.