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How to help your dental team flourish: Look at the bright side!

Oct. 14, 2013
It may take a bit of work become positive thinkers, but it's worth it.

Working in the dental profession is by its very nature stressful. The office environment requires many emotional demands that can take a toll on the dental team. Some common scenarios include — patients are anxious about their treatment and the costs, patients arrive late for their appointments, the phones ring constantly, the staff is not working at peak performance levels, the dental equipment breaks down at the worst possible moment, or the schedule falls apart for the day. It is easy to understand the myriad of daily problems that often hang over the team’s morale like a huge dark cloud.

People tend to think more about what’s going wrong and not enough about what’s going right. Sometimes it’s wise to analyze events that became problematic. This is a proactive and not reactive approach in an attempt to find a resolution and avoid a reoccurrence. It makes sense to find solutions to why something happened and develop strategies to deal with it in the future.

However, too much focus on negative situations can create more anxiety and affect team satisfaction. What's the solution? We can help the dental team pay more attention to their work-related successes by creating a paradigm shift in our thinking.

With this natural tendency to dwell on what is bad rather than good, we end up getting in our own way. Purposely refocusing and retraining our mind to notice what is pleasant, uplifting, and smooth can create a change in one’s attitude, awareness, and perception. One's perception is reality, so how can this be accomplished?

New book may help
Martin E. P. Seligman, PhD, a psychologist and considered by many to be the father of the positive psychology movement, has authored a new book titled “Flourish.” His goal is to discover and present a new understanding of happiness and well-being. He devises a systematic approach and many exercises to get the most out of one's life and raise the bar for the human condition.

One exercise he developed is What-Went-Well. This can be easily adapted for a dental practice. Every day each team member is asked to take a few moments to write down three things that went well, and why he or she felt they went well. Seligman said the items need not be earth shattering but should have some significance. After documenting the notation, answer "Why did this happen?" The benefit of performing this exercise is to change your thinking and alter your level of happiness. Writing down the positive events may seem awkward at first, but by consistently putting forth the effort it will become easier. Be aware that it takes approximately 21 days or more to change or create a new habit.

The entire dental team, including you, the dentist, can do this exercise. Once a week at a morning huddle meeting, each member can openly share his or her top three positive events. Each staff member should contribute to What-Went-Well. Celebrating one another as a team fosters positive energy in the practice. This collaborative effort will serve to improve office morale and performance standards, and will raise the level of employee well-being. Therefore, as the dental team leader, if you really want your team to thrive, inspire them to be more mindful of what went well. Witness the results and your practice will flourish!


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Are you ready to take your practice to the next level? Helen H. Cohen is a Life Coach who specializes in dental business coaching and consulting. She invites you to experience a complimentary 30-minute coaching session to see if you are ready and would benefit from dental coaching. Visit her website at to learn more about her services. Contact Cohen at [email protected] or call (913) 491-1368.