Leadership is never easy!

Aug. 1, 2003
Dentists do not have an easy job. It is extremely difficult to keep up with the explosion of materials and technologies, deal with patients all day, manage the practice, oversee finances, etc.

By Roger P. Levin

Dentists do not have an easy job. It is extremely difficult to keep up with the explosion of materials and technologies, deal with patients all day, manage the practice, oversee finances, monitor scheduling, maintain harmony on the dental team, establish employee benefits — and the list goes on. Many dentists today feel like their practices encroach too closely upon their personal lives. Why?

It's all on the doctor

As a third-generation dentist, I often reflect on the wonderful era of dentistry my father and grandfather enjoyed. These men loved the profession, could not wait to go to work, enjoyed the camaraderie of their colleagues, and were thrilled and proud to be dentists. I don't remember them worrying about money, insurance problems, or personnel issues.

How things change. The business side of dentistry takes the fun out of it for many practitioners. They feel overwhelmed, stressed, and incapable of managing their practices effectively. The problem is that we are doing so much more than dentistry. Most dentists spend 98 percent of their continuing education dollars on clinical techniques. We are totally dedicated to providing clinical excellence for our patients, yet lack the formal training and leadership skills we need to manage a business effectively.

Most dentists practice without a formal business model. They make strategic decisions on the fly and spend as much time managing the practice as they do practicing dentistry. Most dentists realize that they should be working on business issues, but find themselves fatigued and unmotivated. All in all, not the enjoyable career we envisioned in dental school.

It's a trap that continues to sap the joy out of practicing for many dentists. Learning about and applying sound practice-management techniques gets put off indefinitely.

Dentists tell themselves, "I'll get to that," but, unfortunately, most do not and simply continue on this rat-race treadmill for the remainder of their careers. Even more worrisome is that in the last two years, many dentists have lost more than 25 percent of their net worth due to stock market declines and will be working as much as seven to nine years longer than expected.

Take control of your practice

Changing this picture requires that you understand leadership and set goals:
• Put documented systems in place for every job in the office so the team knows exactly what to do step-by-step.
• Write scripts for your systems and for all routine conversations so that your team consistently communicates with patients to build value without causing conflict, controversy, or antagonism.
• Train your team extensively in these systems. Any time spent in staff meetings, one-to-one discussions, overviews, or continuing education will return to you 20 or 30 times over the initial investment.
• Study leadership. Merely training your team will not bring results. How do you motivate? With compliments, appreciation, feedback, one-to-one meetings, out-of-office activities, new responsibilities, and accountability.

Summary

Leadership is not an overnight process. It's a skill that can be mastered (over time) and makes an incredible difference in the practice. Effective leadership rests on an organized practice utilizing a clear, effective business model that is supported by systems and scripts to maximize results. The effects of good leadership are higher motivation, better attitude, sense of direction, and enthusiasm for our work. Once mastered, leadership will change your entire outlook on dentistry and you will have the type of career enjoyed by our predecessors.

To receive a complimentary copy of "10 Keys to Successful Practice Leadership," please send a self addressed stamped envelope to: Levin Group — "Successful Practice Leadership," 10 New Plant Court, Owings Mills, Md 21117.

Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA, is founder and CEO of Levin Group, Inc., the leading dental management consulting firm specializing in implementing documented business systems into dental practices. Levin Group is dedicated to improving the lives of dentists through proven dental practice management and marketing consulting programs that help practices reach higher levels of success and profitability. Dr. Levin has authored more than 2,500 articles and 48 books on practice management. Levin Group can be contacted at (888) 973-0000 or at www.levingroup.com.

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