Once a leader, always a leader

In The Levin Group`s consulting programs, we follow a philosophy that dentists should delegate everything that they are legally allowed to delegate. The reason for this notion is that the dentist should not manage the practice or spend time performing services that other staff members, who are paid at a lower salary and/or bonus, can handle. The dentist`s time is the highest-priced commodity in the practice and, therefore, should be used only at the highest levels of productivity.

Roger Levin, DDS, MBA

In The Levin Group`s consulting programs, we follow a philosophy that dentists should delegate everything that they are legally allowed to delegate. The reason for this notion is that the dentist should not manage the practice or spend time performing services that other staff members, who are paid at a lower salary and/or bonus, can handle. The dentist`s time is the highest-priced commodity in the practice and, therefore, should be used only at the highest levels of productivity.

Most dentists do not want to manage the daily operations of the practice. Having the dentist manage daily operations makes no sense in that management does not create production. It can lead to increased efficiency, effectiveness, customer service, etc., and all of those are extremely important. However, it does not lead directly to production.

Based on that principle, dentists must delegate as much as they can to other members of the practice. Practice leadership, however, cannot be delegated to anyone, whether the dentist chooses to or not.

The importance of leadership

Very few speakers and consultants talk about leadership as a management system. Leadership is not something that a dentist can afford to ignore or delegate. The staff and patients look to the dentist for vision, decision-making and leadership. Dentists who choose to ignore leadership skills and qualities find that their practices have less direction, lower revenues and more stress.

Leadership is about people. It is not a black-and-white system that can be put down on paper. Instead, leadership is selecting a direction for the future of the practice and not merely showing up everyday and seeing patients. It is about working with team members to help them grow in their positions; it is about delegation, which creates higher levels of productivity and increased satisfaction levels by staff members who are handling more responsibility; and it is about taking the time to listen objectively to people on the team. Leadership consists of about 100 different skills coming together every hour of every day.

Leadership in dentistry is, at best, difficult. Most of us are motivated to walk into the office and see patients. We score the results of the day based on daily production and whether or not we have met our daily goals. The patients are our main customers and we focus most of our attention on them.

Unfortunately, this often leads to a staff without direction. The average team member now lasts approximately 3.5 years in a practice, though it used to be much longer. In the last five years, The Levin Group has altered its management consulting programs to offer documented systems to clients participating in the one-year program so that they have the ability to train new team members when turnover occurs. The Levin Advanced Learning Institute, our marketing and management "university" that offers more than 50 courses per year covering all of the basic systems, was created based on the amount of staff turnover and the continuing need for training new staff.

Every week we have staff members coming through to be trained in areas such as scheduling, hygiene efficiency and profitability, case presentation, collections, financial management, among others. All of this demonstrates how large the quantity of knowledge is today for staff members working in a dental practice. Yet the rate of turnover is creating significant productivity loss in practices in every state, every day.

Why is the rate of turnover increasing?

Some of the standard answers include more employment options, boredom, lack of growth potential and inadequate pay.

I clearly realize that most of the above are simply myths or excuses. Large numbers of people who would be outstanding working in a dentist office currently work for other companies for the same salaries with the same level of excitement in their jobs and without a great deal of advancement opportunity. These people often are motivated and content and stay for many years.

What is the difference between dental offices and many of these companies?

The answer is leadership. The companies work to create happy employees who have some opportunities to expand their professional knowledge and these individuals feel that they are making a true contribution to the company?s success. Owners and leaders of these companies work at becoming leaders, which includes satisfying employees. We all know that having satisfied employees leads to more satisfied customers or, in our case, patients.

Leadership is clearly a skill and not a genetic trait, which should give hope to all of you who were not ObornO leaders.

Dr. Roger Levin is founder and president of The Levin Group, a national, dental-management and marketing-consulting firm. He can be reached at (410) 654-1234.

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