The Dream Team

May 1, 1998
How many times have you looked at other practices and wished your team appeared to be as effective and professional as the staff members you were observing? How often have you wished you could be only a dentist and not have to worry about personnel? Putting together a professional dental team is essential for your practice success and peace of mind. It requires conscious, consistent effort.

People don`t plan to fail ... they simply fail to plan.

Larry Wintersteen

How many times have you looked at other practices and wished your team appeared to be as effective and professional as the staff members you were observing? How often have you wished you could be only a dentist and not have to worry about personnel? Putting together a professional dental team is essential for your practice success and peace of mind. It requires conscious, consistent effort.

Let`s work on the premise that people are the natural resource to success, and you are committed to building a dream team for your patients and practice. In other words, you see the power in a team, and you are willing to invest time and money into developing your team.

Place the vision of a "dream team" in your mind. Believe that this vision is possible through hard work. As you picture your dream team, assume these necessary characteristics:

- The players are well-trained, teachable and honest with themselves and other members of the team.

- The players are dedicated to mastering their skills.

- The players are self-motivated, yet they value other support systems.

- The players are silently competitive ... but they play by the rules and parameters set down by the organization.

- The players know how to separate solo performance from team involvement.

- The players know how to push beyond defeat and disappointment.

- The players understand the principle of ethically doing what others are not willing to do ... in order to achieve excellence and to be a winner.

Define purpose and vision

Dentists must carefully define where they are and where they want to be. Make certain that your plan is coordinated and balanced between your family, yourself, work and play. Management experts refer to this process as a business plan or a mission statement. It is a road map that is in writing and reviewed regularly to keep you on track. Your business plan should address some of the following items:

- Define efficiency, quality and excellence.

- Define integrity as it relates to patients, peers and team.

- Define quality control (business and clinical).

- Define facility image and environmental standards.

- Define the kind of patients you prefer to serve.

- Define your professional focus (interests and specialization).

- Define what makes your practice different from another dental office.

- Define how you will measure success.

After you have carefully put together your business plan and standards, then it is important that you share that information with your entire team. Team players need to understand, endorse and feel good about participating in your practice. It is counter-productive for team players to be a part of something they do not believe in. In fact, it is even more damaging if the doctors aren`t willing to embrace or discipline themselves in this service-business venture. You must believe the plan and work the plan as you implement it. Also, remember that road maps need to be updated periodically because of change and improvements. Don`t always take the same route. You may be missing out if you limit your perception and direction.

Selecting team players

Once you have defined who you are and where you want to be, it is easier to define the type of people you want on your team. The initial interview or evaluation time is extremely important as you choose your players. Be sure you use a good employment-application form. Make certain that you follow privacy guidelines in the interview and always check out references.

Introduce the "what if" game with your potential and existing team players. Ask interactive questions, such as:

* What if you thought you deserved a salary increase. How would you get this message across to your employer?

* What if one of your team players was not carrying his or her weight. How would you bring this up?

* What if the team saw a need for you to change in some way. How should this be brought to your attention?

* What if we asked you to participate in a one- or two-day working interview before hiring you? How would you feel about this?

* What if you started to doubt or question your employer. How would you approach me?

After you have selected your team players, make certain that they identify their professional expectations and their needs in terms of personal growth. After all, you have had your turn to explain things and now it is appropriate to listen to them. You also should repeat your practice standards, possible consequences, accountability and responsibilities. It is important that you explain how team players can win in your practice.

Communication opportunities

Every survey indicates the strong need for improved communication in the dental office. Your team players are hungry for open, interactive feedback. Remember, communication and an open dialogue are productive forms of preventive management. Avoid crisis management and avoid having to put out fires. Talking to each other is a means to this end. Two important vehicles for facilitating in-office communication are: 1) the morning huddle and 2) monthly staff meetings.

The morning huddle is designed to motivate, direct activities and prevent future communication breakdown.

The monthly staff meeting is a perfect opportunity to regenerate focus and commitment. Your staff should look forward to a pre-scheduled monthly staff meeting.

You can make a difference

It is easy to blame others or situations themselves for problems. Yet, we know that success and happiness really lies within each of us. If you are in touch with your feelings and motives, you can identify if you are good for yourself, the team and the practice. Don`t point a finger at other people. Remember, if you point a finger at others ... there are always three fingers pointing back to you. Therefore, look inside yourself. You are in control. Like yourself. Be honest with yourself. Don`t pretend to be something you are not. A dream-team player is mature, responsible and self-confident. You also must be dependable and fair. No one can run the race for you. Your team players only can be there to encourage you and support you. They should never have to cover up for you or make excuses for you. Remember the power of humanitarian service.

Be a stress-hardy team

The players in a dream team should be ready to tackle interruptions or stress. By choosing to be in a service profession, you have chosen to participate in disruption or inconvenience, periodically. The profession of dentistry alone can create stress. Yet, we know that life in general is full of stressful opportunities. For the sake of definition, stress is nothing more than an unscheduled interruption or inconvenience that affects us either in a positive or negative manner. The dream team needs to be ready for negative stress. It is your choice to redirect that stress or soften the interpretation of the stress when possible. Stress prevention can bring out the winner in all of us. Therefore, consider the following stress-management guidelines:

* Think and act positively.

* Focus on strengths, rather than weaknesses.

* Give yourself credit for a job well done.

* Talk frequently to a favorite/positive person.

* Plan ahead ... yet be flexible.

* Learn to say "no" and not feel guilty. Know your limitations.

* Make time to communicate. Do it ... don`t just think about it.

* Simplify your life: Eliminate trivia.

* Exercise and relax.

* Celebrate important events.

* Remember, it takes less energy to complete a less pleasant task - i.e. doing it right now, rather than not doing it and worrying about it all day.

* Avoid associating with negative people.

* Prioritize your activities and complete the most important ones first.

* Watch your diet and maintain proper nutrition.

* Holidays, hobbies and vacations are important.

* Experience laughter.

* Whistle while you work.

* Develop ways or support people to bring you back into focus.

* Don`t tolerate self-pity.

* Mentally anticipate disruption and how you will handle it - professionally/maturely.

* Use music to elevate your moods.

* Listen to self-improvement audiotapes.

* Participate in continuing education.

* Examine your choices.

* Wisely look at your options.

* Zestfully appreciate life and the blessings you have.

Celebrate and honor

Dream-team players are dedicated and work hard. They are appreciative of the opportunity to represent their team. They are willing to stretch beyond their comfort level. Consequently, they are hopeful of receiving recognition and/or rewards for going the extra mile.

Players know the value of pushing themselves beyond the norm. They have become a part of the dream team because of their winning attitudes. They have earned their positions, and they will maintain them because of their dedication and sense of belonging. Therefore, it is natural for the coach to provide them with gestures of appreciation. Believe me, because dream players know what it takes to win, they will go beyond expectations and tackle the highest mountain.

Ways to reward `extra-milers` include:

> Surprise appreciation gestures.

> Cash to spend only on themselves - in a given period of time.

> Praise.

> Time off.

> Surprise payment for special services (for example, day care).

> Special get-a-way for couples or families.

For more ideas, see: 1001 Ways To Reward Employees, Bob Nelson, Workman Publishing, New York, January 1994.

Every dream team needs a coach its players can honor, trust and believe in. They want to respect the coach and listen to his or her counsel. The coach will spend time with each player, as needed, and methodically direct the entire team to think, function and institute winning plays - together. Please remember the importance of providing focus and being an example of success! Give your players inspiration, direction, correction and protection.

Communicate with them on the right subject, at the right time, in the right place, with the right person. Make them feel that you are a part of the dream team ... not above it.

A Dream Team`s Victory Garden of Life!

Plant four rows of peas:





Plant three rows of squash:

Squash gossip

Squash indifference

Squash unjust criticism

Plant five rows of lettuce:

Let us obey the rules

Let us be faithful to duty

Let us be unselfish and loyal

Let us be true to our obligations

Let us love one another

No garden is complete without turnips:

Turn up for meetings

Turn up with new ideas

Turn up with a smile

Turn up to make a positive difference

Stand proud, be a winner and emphasize your success with your own dream team!

During the interview or evaluation sessions, may I also suggest that you incorporate some value/attitude-driven questions for perception-checking and interaction opportunities. Questions such as these will give you insights into behavior - now and in the future.

What follows are some unfinished sentences to complete as quickly as possible. Write down the first thought that comes into your mind:

* The hobby I enjoy most is _______________

* I am most proud of _____________________

* The job I like best is ____________________

* The person I admire the most is __________

* Why? ________________________________

* My greatest worry is ____________________

* Negative thinking is ____________________

* Failure can be expected when ____________

* No one can repair the damages caused by __

* Too much distance lies between __________

* Being loyal is __________________________

* What irks me is ________________________

* Things I look for in my work environment and employer include: ____________________

* Briefly, explain why we should not hire you.

* What are your limitations? ________________

Good Morning Huddle

Objective: Attitude, vision and appreciation are elements of a productive day. Bonding your energies and efforts can make things easier. Consider the following guidelines and agenda:

> Appointment-book receptionist is in charge of the meeting.

> Entire team arrives 20 minutes before first patient.

> For the first five minutes, open and set up the office. This gives you 10 minutes to "huddle."

> All participants will identify their mood for the day and how the other members of the team can help them.

> Today, we are scheduled to see #____ patients

__ # of doctor patients

__ # of hygiene patients

n # of new patients

> Approximate production scheduled for today is


> Schedule approved by coordinating assistant

> Schedule approved by coordinating hygienist

> VIP assignments

> Where do you want the emergencies scheduled?

> Identify "before" and "after" pictures to be taken

> Personalized, positive feedback to be shared?

> End on a positive note, such as a thought, joke or song for the day.

20 Tips for a Dream Team

1. Always ask: "How will it affect the patient?"

2. Look for and appreciate each other`s talents.

3. Give yourself a reason to be kind.

4. Self-discipline and self-manage ment are your choice.

5. Be willing to help, to forgive and to understand.

6. Look at change as a motivator and an opportunity.

7. Respect and accept each other. We are all different.

8. Learn to laugh together and to play together.

9. Keep confidences and a high level of trust.

10. Develop "open" communication lines.

11. Create a "safe" environment - where honest and appropriate feelings can be shared.

12. Never take away from others to elevate yourself.

13. Be a giver ... not a taker.

14. Rally the strengths of your team.

15. Develop a strong work ethic and integrity.

16. Keep a balance between your people skills and your task skills.

17. Always be teachable and don`t get too comfortable.

18. Take responsibility for your own attitudes and energy.

19. Be good to each other and for each other.

20. Challenge yourself to stretch ... you are the future!

Monthly Staff Meeting

Objective: "Preventive Management" should be a part of your practice. Learning to establish a dialogue together is helpful and productive. Relationship-building and energizing each other promotes goodwill, efficiency and profit.

Consider the following directives for your meetings:

> 3-4 hour meeting ... once a month ... open-ended.

> Facilitator usually is the receptionist or she rotates this assignment with other staff members.

> Each member should contribute.

> Encourage interaction from all players.

> Remove distractions/interruptions.

> Avoid public luncheon meetings unless there is absolute privacy.

Suggested Meeting Agenda

(Assign time allotments)

> Review previous minutes and follow-up items.

> Calendar three months.

> Review previous month`s data and goals.

> Patient feedback to be shared - for betterment.

> Staff-training presentation (confirm topic for next meeting).

> Individual items from team players.

> Appreciation gestures from group members - to each other.

> Summarize assignments and expectations.

> Other.

> Remember, do not bring a problem to the meeting without having a solution(s) tucked up your sleeve.

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