The path to multipractice ownership Part 3: Leading

May 19, 2016
Many dentists today are choosing to capitalize on efficiencies of scale by building their own small group practices.

Eric Nuss, MBA

Tim Twigg

Editor's note: This is the third of a four-part series on expanding your practice to multiple locations.

Many dentists today are choosing to capitalize on efficiencies of scale by building their own small group practices. Last month we looked at how dentists can begin the building process for a practice to increase its employee count, breaking through the wall of the average practice size (about eight employees). Now we will review four critical aspects of leading those practices.

Emotional Intelligence

Effective leadership starts with knowing oneself and using that knowledge to develop and enhance human capital-the "people" component of your business. Today, people have become the competitive edge in business. Knowing how to lead and manage your human capital is essential to your success. One key to managing people is understanding their emotions.

We are not an emotionally intelligent society. According to Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, 70% of adults do not handle conflict and stress effectively.1 Only 36% of us understand emotions as they happen.

Yet, emotional intelligence (EI) is critical to success. Employees with high EI are 10 times more productive. Moreover, 90% of top performers are high in EI. Suffice it to say, without EI, a person with high IQ, great experience, and good ideas won't be a great leader.

EI is not fixed. With practice you can learn to better understand your emotions and harness their power. Observe how you feel. Pay attention to how you behave. Take responsibility for you, your feelings, and your behavior. Practice responding, not overreacting. Practice empathizing with yourself and others. Overall, strive to create a positive environment for you and your team.

Building Trust

Trust is the foundation of all relationships. It's a fact: you must build trust with your team before you can lead and engage them. Start by demonstrating your respect for your team. Honor your commitments to them, and set an example for them by doing what you say you are going to do. Extend trust to your team. Set realistic expectations for your team and have an open dialogue about performance. When commitments are broken, trust is often broken-unless you acknowledge the break and reset the expectation or commitment as soon as possible.

Engaging Your Team

Leaders set up environments where employees can engage in their work. Engagement can be judged by the extent to which employees enjoy and believe in what they do, whether they feel valued, and how committed they are to the practice. Only 29% of employees today are engaged at work.2 Nearly 79% percent of employees who quit their jobs cite lack of appreciation as one of the main reasons for leaving.3

When your team owns a project and is responsible for an outcome or solution, it goes without saying that they are more likely to perform above and beyond your vision. Compliment a job well done and recognize team members in front of their peers. Make acknowledgement a regular part of your daily huddle meetings.

Employment Compliance

Finally, leaders develop systems that encourage compliance. Prevent lawsuits by complying with employment regulations. Properly classify and compensate staff. Maintain at-will employment by avoiding expressed or implied employment contracts. Document all pertinent activities and maintain all records. Good employee records objectively outline any performance deficiencies, set expectations for improvement, warn of potential consequences, and include signatures of employer and employee. Establish and administer workplace policies fairly and consistently.

Leadership is often an over mystified trait that people are uncertain about how to develop and grow. Like anything, it takes practice. Take these four tips and be confident that you can effectively lead.

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1. Bradberry T, Greaves J. Emotional Intelligence 2.0. San Diego, CA: TalentSmart; 2009: 13-22.

2. Crabtree S. Worldwide, 13% of Employees Are Engaged at Work. Gallup website. Published October 8, 2013. Accessed February 10, 2016.

3. Gostick A, Elton C. The Carrot Principle: How the Best Managers Use Recognition to Engage Their People, Retain Talent, and Accelerate Performance. New York, NY: FreePress; 2009: 79-93.

Eric Nuss, mba, leads the Business Solutions department of Henry Schein Dental. He developed and now leads the Dental Business Institute, an educational program for dentists. You may contact him at (414) 290-2542 or [email protected].

Tim Twigg is the president of Bent Ericksen & Associates. For more than 30 years, the company has been a leading authority in human resources and personnel issues. Visit for more information.

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