Santa's Leadership Secrets

Nov. 30, 2006
Santa has a list for dental hygienists too, and it's all about helping with leadership in the dental office.

By Amy Morgan, CEO, Pride Institute

I've always been a believer in Santa. Because of his genuineness, vulnerability, and willingness to represent something wonderful for everyone, he became a compelling character in my life.

This is why I was excited to discover that Santa has leadership secrets we all could use! He reveals them in a book called The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus, by Eric Harvey, David Cottrell, and Al Lucia. The subtitle is: "How To Get Big Things Done in your 'Workshop' All Year Long."

The book begins with a letter from the man in red himself. Santa reveals, "Having to smile and be jolly every day when you're wearing the same thick, hot, red-wool suit (that itches like crazy) is no picnic."

It seems that everyone wants a piece of Santa. "Yet many of the people I serve question my existence or just plain don't believe in me at all. And those who do believe often expect me to do the impossible — rarely caring about what I have to do, or go through (including chimneys), to meet their expectations . . . [M]y biggest challenges come from two roles that people rarely associate with this red-cheeked, bag-carrying sleigh driver: Santa the manager and Santa the leader."

How does Santa cope with these challenges? "I love what I do. People need me. � We're doing something important here. And knowing that gives me the energy to carry the sack, lead the pack, and keep coming back."

Does that sound familiar? What a surprise to discover that Santa faces the same challenges that you, as "co-pilot," face as you share leadership responsibilities with the dentist in your practice. What gives you the energy to carry the sack, lead the pack, and keep coming back?

Santa goes on to reveal his secrets. He offers eight practical strategies for leading others and getting big things done all year long. The following are the leadership secrets of Santa, as well as my commentary on how they apply to the hygienist's role in the dental practice.

Build a wonderful workshop. Is your office physically, mentally, and spiritually a culture in which elves, reindeer, and people want to do their best? Does your own attitude and behavior foster that kind of positive atmosphere?

Choose your reindeer wisely. There are a lot of reindeer on the North Pole, but only the likes of Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, and, of course, Rudolph, have been hired. We know there are a lot of wannabees who try to convince you there are shortages and they are the only reindeer in town. But if Santa can be strict about hiring those who meet his vision and values, you can too. Do you help your dentist to hire only the best people for your practice?

Make a list and check it twice. Santa doesn't do anything without developing a specific, effective plan, or strategy, to accomplish his goals. How many staff meetings do you have without identifying the outcomes, results, and strategies you want to accomplish? Do you, as a leader in your practice, contribute to and influence staff meetings so that they are goal-directed and productive?

Listen to the elves. Santa isn't a micromanager. He develops self-directive teams. He knows that his elves are tuned in to the hearts of children throughout the world and any executive decision made without their input would be flawed. Do you give constructive input on patient comments and practice issues, and do you encourage your team members to do the same?

Get beyond the red wagons. Santa realizes that if he merely clung to old successes and didn't update his offerings for computers and video consoles, he'd be out of business. What worked in the past doesn't always work in the future. Are you taking a leadership role to bring new ideas, innovative technologies, and other changes to the attention of your team members and dentist so that you can move the practice forward?

Share the milk and cookies. We know that team members need to share in the rewards of a successful practice, and that increased rewards come about through extra efforts from the staff. Do you go the extra mile, and influence your fellow team members to do the same, in order to increase quality care and profitability and thereby earn greater rewards?

Find out who's naughty and nice. All right, folks, it's the end of the year. Does your dentist have your growth conferences and salary reviews scheduled? If not, maybe a friendly reminder will help. Do you have these valuable tools ready to use for communication with assistants who report to you?

Be good for goodness sake. If your fellow team members mirrored and modeled your actions, would they be successful? If the answer is no, you're not walking your talk.

No leadership role is easy. However, if my mentor, Santa, can learn to be more effective in running the North Pole, then we all can learn to improve as leaders and managers. I hope you'll keep Santa's lessons in mind for your New Year's resolutions. Have a happy holiday and a successful 2007. Ho, ho, ho!

Amy Morgan is CEO and lead trainer of Pride Institute, the practice-management firm helping dentists better their lives by mastering the business side of their practices. For information on Pride's seminars in cities near you, its acclaimed management program for dentists and teams, its educational products, and Amy's flagship courses on management ("Numbers, Staff, and Systems"), leadership ("The Dentist's Voice"), and her newest program with co-instructor Dr. Gary DeWood, clinical director of the Pankey Institute ("New Patient Exam"), call (800) 925-2600 or visit