Don't settle for less

March 1, 2008
In my 20 years of coaching doctors on business, I observe that there are certain doctors who always have great teams, even with turnover.

by Bill Blatchford, DDS

In my 20 years of coaching doctors on business, I observe that there are certain doctors who always have great teams, even with turnover. Likewise, you will observe college and professional football coaches who have consistent records. There are certain behaviors of leaders that create team excellence on a consistent basis.

Doctors who have remarkable teams are very clear on their vision. They have done their homework and have defined who they are, what their aspirations are, what inspires them, and they speak that consistent message in their words and body language. They have been able to move those lofty words to a street level of inspiration so everyone knows and can take action as if that vision were their own. They can communicate with consistency in their standards of service and clinical excellence.

Systems are in place to support that vision so no one needs to use the “hold button” to ask a redundant question of the leader. These systems are critical. Without strong systems to support the service, efficiency, and clinical skills of the team, you are in a free fall. When a new person comes to you, you have little structure for him or her to approach, and the result is system change every time new personnel arrives on the scene. My college roommate was an A-7 pilot off aircraft carriers during Vietnam. I asked him if it was unnerving to have a new crew rotation when he landed at night in a storm. He said, “The systems were so strong the whole crew could change and we would have been fine.”

To maintain this clarity of vision, you must hire to match the vision. Keep looking until you find the right person to possibly even inspire a higher level for the team. Where dentists fall short is settling for “the best one who applied.” A winning college football coach holds the standard of vision. His players must meet that standard and play his game. Your team will not form with strength if the leader allows a lower standard in attitude and skill. Keep looking.

In choosing candidates, look for a positive attitude before clinical skill. You can teach skill but you cannot change a poor attitude. Many dentists hire and then cling to the new employee hoping her attitude will change because “she is the best assistant ever.”

Give up on the concept that you can remake someone into a person who will perform exceptionally. You cannot change a duck into an eagle. Strong leaders recognize this and keep looking for the right attitude which matches the vision.

After you hope you have found the right person to join your team, you must spend the time and money for training. Who will train them if not you? You must have systems in place to support your vision of service and excellence. Spend time in ongoing weekly training and monthly verbal skill training sessions to incorporate the newbie into your team as soon as possible. A review is good for the whole team. Work together on the books you want read, the scripts, sales skills, and patient protocols that brand your practice as excellent. Because you are always working on cross training, existing team members can be an important part of the new person’s training, too. When there is a fair and consistent bonus system, your team will want to have the new person succeed as soon as possible.

We have all heard team turnover is expensive, so avoid it. What is also expensive is not having a strong vision or the willingness to communicate it, and not having strong systems in place to support that vision.

As you train a person whose vision and attitude match yours, you will appreciate the consistency of a training program. Do not give up here. This concept will help integrate the new person into the team and help him or her become a valuable team member who contributes to all of their bonuses. The right person will want to be accountable for numbers, service levels, and even bringing new and better ideas to the team if he or she believes you are putting effort, time, and money into the training program.

Hold yourself and your team to a higher standard. Don’t settle for less, as mediocrity will creep in and your best team members will become discouraged and possibly leave. It takes strength and courage. Keep looking to find the right person.

Dr. Bill Blatchford is a leading dental business coach who has worked with more than 2,000 offices to help dentists achieve more time off, more net, and more enjoyment. Become a member of Blatchford FILES, Dr. Blatchford’s monthly CD on winning at dental business. The first two months are free. Call (541) 389-9088 or visit for more information.

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