Atop your spine sit the atlas and axis, two vertebrae acting as kingpins of the entire spinal column. Chiropractors specializing in upper cervical care, an emerging field within modern chiropractic, theorize that the proper positioning of these two neck bones calibrates the whole spine. In essence, the health and well-being of the body hinge on their proper alignment.
In terms of your dental practice, your position as owner is analogous to those of the atlas and axis vertebrae. When you’re stable in your alignment, exhibiting a high degree of emotional fitness, the rest of your organization follows suit. When your emotions wobble, evidence of your imbalance creeps up elsewhere in your practice. It should, therefore, come as no shock that emotional prowess takes top priority for any business to succeed.
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How your temperament affects your practice
Dysfunctional companies are run by dysfunctional owners. Oftentimes they’ll bring in a consultant and insist, “You don’t need to fix me. You need to fix my organization.” Little do they realize that when they make it a point to improve their own habits and behaviors, the rest of their woes will largely take care of themselves. As a leader, keep in mind that all eyes are on you. Your temperament sets the tone. A pleasant boss makes for pleasant employees, who in turn create a pleasing experience for your patients.
I like to remind my own clients that hubris is the ruination of habit. In other words, excessive pride wreaks havoc on a business, regardless of past performance. Previous success doesn’t guarantee future results. As a business owner myself, I can’t afford to make the mistake of resting on my laurels, and neither can the entrepreneurs I coach. Bill Gates once mentioned that early on, he overvalued intelligence and put too little emphasis on self-awareness. If we focus all our attention on profit mechanics and strategy at the expense of our own mastery of self, we’ll ultimately fall short.
Managing a business takes more than the execution of a set of plans. It requires a quiet discipline, an innate understanding that, as a leader, everything you do and say creates ripples. If ever I feel like I’m about to lash out in anger or frustration, I practice the 24-hour rule, which states that a heated response must always have ample time to cool off before it’s delivered. There’s no reason anyone should know me as hotheaded. I’d risk losing respect. Taking time to breathe and calm my emotions has become a deliberate practice of mine. Not surprisingly, those within my organization exhibit a similarly calm demeanor. It’s become ingrained in our culture.
Traits of an effective leader
When you hold the reins over your own habits and emotions, you have the power to influence those you lead. Passionate leaders have passionate employees, dedicated workers who go the extra mile simply because they want to. Thankfully, I never have to prod my staff members to do their job. In fact, sometimes I wonder if my employees ever go home to sleep, because they work so tirelessly. As for bosses who routinely take two-hour lunch breaks? They’re the ones whose employees habitually waste company time.
Effective leaders know where they’re going. Nothing is more satisfying than to be on a mission, knowing that each new goal is within reach. Do your employees understand their individual roles in your business? Are they willing to put in the work to see the practice’s vision come to life? Do they have the capabilities to succeed? Before you ask these questions of them, make certain you can first answer these same questions yourself. Otherwise, you won’t have two legs to stand on.
Emotional fitness: Its impact on your practice
People naturally yearn for inspiration. As leader, be prepared to inspire. When you inspire your employees, they’ll aspire to their own greatness. That’s key! Aspiration is the secret to having a staff who manage themselves. When your staff becomes an extension of you, taking their cues from your compelling example, then there’s no telling the heights your organization will achieve.
You’ll know you’ve attained a significant degree of emotional fitness when you see yourself surrounded by emerging leaders within your practice. Your people will naturally rise to the level of your own fine attunement. That’s the power of your influence at work. These new leaders in your midst will hold the means to your continued success. My team of leaders meets with me every Tuesday morning at 8:30. Like clockwork, everyone shows up exactly on time, no exceptions. Each of us arrives eager for the week’s game plan and leaves turbocharged to share it with the rest of the organization.
Regularly meeting with your office staff will have a profound effect on the course of your business. Seize the opportunity to share your passion and commitment with your team once a week. Intentionally presenting yourself and your vision in a positive light goes a long way toward instilling confidence in your employees. For them to be an extension of you, they must know you’re there for them as much as you’re there for your patients.
In time, you’ll discover that your employees are more interested in a fulfilling career than the money that comes along with it. Remuneration plays second fiddle to satisfaction. Pay your employees what they’re worth and then some, but don’t expect them to stick around simply for the paycheck. We all need to feel engaged in what we do. Emotional fitness can’t come from being rich yet miserable. It can only come from connection. Those who feel connected naturally flourish.
One of the most helpful illustrations of connection I use when coaching is borrowed from the Indian philosophy of finding one’s dharma. Depending on who you ask, dharma can mean slightly different things. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll refer to it as the path of rightness, or the path of greatest fulfillment. Good leaders know their path. Wise leaders recognize the paths of others, especially the paths of those they lead.
As an attuned business owner, I know that my calling is to be of service to others. Furthermore, I know my employees have their own unique paths. Some are immensely creative. Others work well under tremendous pressure and against all odds. We’ve come to trust in and care for one another. Strength and stability are our cornerstones. As a result, we harmonize beautifully.
If you haven’t yet guessed, becoming emotionally fit costs business owners nothing. But neglecting your emotional fitness will cost you dearly. Fortunately, as the leader, you have the upper hand. Every positive emotion you display will resonate throughout your practice. Be mindful, however, that the same holds true for your negative emotions. Expect your employees to follow your lead because they inevitably will. It won’t be long before your path and the paths of your team members merge. As a result, your practice will be forever changed.Editor's note:This article appeared in the May 2022 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.