Grounded goals

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be.

Terry Goss

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If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.
– Henry David Thoreau

A mission statement can do wonders for a practice, crystallizing its sense of purpose while unifying and inspiring team members. It is a beautiful idealization, a worthy "castle in the air." But that's just the beginning of a two-part process. Once you have imagined your practice's purpose and the ideals it should embody, you need a way to navigate from what you are currently doing to what you aspire to become. In short, it's time to set goals.

Goal setting is a powerful process for imagining an ideal future and motivating yourself and the team to turn your vision into reality. An important forerunner to effective goal setting and practice success is ensuring that the team shares your core values, standards, and mission. The absence of an aligned team often results in conflict, apathy, and team members who work at cross-purposes to one another.

Duration: Assemble a master plan that encompasses a year. Instead of progressing in stops and starts, a 12-month plan can help you move through the year with intention.

Prioritize and execute: Establish a prioritized action plan with a follow-up process for each goal. Specify timelines and the designated players involved in achieving each goal.

A balanced blend: Finances can be an urgent concern when a practice is in survival mode, but your team will benefit if financial goals are accompanied by goals that address growth, effectiveness, and patient-service goals.

The spectrum: The first step in the goal-setting process is to spend time brainstorming goals in the following arenas:

1) professional development; 2) internal business systems; 3) patient service, marketing, and practice growth; 4) finances and profitability.

Individuals can set personal goals, team goals, and practice goals, making sure to specify the purpose of each goal. People often forget this step, yet being clear about the larger purpose of a goal significantly helps maintain momentum and increases the chances of staying motivated. Use these questions to help focus the purpose of your goals:

  • "What will accomplishing this goal mean to me?"
  • "What impact will achieving this goal have on our team and practice?"
  • "How will this goal benefit the people we serve?"

Public tracking: Establish a system of measures and monitors, and designate who will track the progress of each project or action plan. Decide how, and how often, progress will be reviewed by:

  • A quick check-in at the daily huddle
  • A progress report at individual or departmental meetings
  • A concise presentation at the monthly team meeting

Private tracking: Through self-reporting, individual team members are empowered to hold themselves accountable, ask for help when they feel stuck, course correct when necessary, actively participate in team meetings, and share in the practice's success.

In closing, stay flexible, be willing to contribute solutions, keep the process moving forward, and don't forget to celebrate your successes. Ready … set … goal!

Terry Goss, BFA, a certified professional coactive coach and Master practitioner of NLP, is a nationally recognized practice management consultant, speaker, and coach. Goss has worked in dentistry for nearly 30 years. She has extensive training in advanced management and leadership development. Her advanced skills and creative resources have energized and empowered practices across the country. For more information, visit www.TerryGossAssoc.com.


In planning your course of action, you and your team can confront the decisions you will face with better confidence and a greater chance of success. In our office, it's important to determine if our goal is a short-term goal (one to four weeks), an intermediate-term goal (four to 12 weeks), or a long-term goal (12 weeks or longer). Our short-term goals allow us the opportunity to celebrate milestones and continue to remain motivated while working toward larger goals.

The importance of writing out your goals and making sure they are in a SMART format was first introduced to me by Stephen Covey. He states that goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and have a Timeline.

Congratulations if you are moving forward with setting SMART goals for yourself and your team! The practice is now better equipped to continue to prosper into the 21st century and expect extraordinary results.

Kay Valentine is office manager for Gary L. Llewellyn in Indianapolis, Ind., and is AADOM's 2009 Office Manager of the Year. Contact her at kay@edentist.com.

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