Wouldn't life be amazing if people just did what you wanted them to do, exactly how you wanted them to do it, and before you expected them to do it? I have the privilege of guiding a leadership course called CEO Track, which is loaded with Type A overachievers who demand excellence. Ummm, well, I guess said a better way ... they demand perfection. I suppose it takes one to teach one.
By nature, it doesn't work for these leaders to get stuck at the glass ceiling. When all avenues are exhausted, they default to the usual tactics—they do it themselves, blame others, apply more force and pressure, complain, or just throw a pity party with their spouse.
Failure to break through is not an option. What happens when someone reaches a certain level of collections? The successes that got someone where they are actually become barriers to getting them to the next level.
Well, not anymore. Following these three steps will lead people to becoming unstuck:
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Step 1: Take responsibility with zero blame
Understand that this is a leadership and management issue first, not a team issue. It's easy to blame the team for stagnating. It's hard to look inside yourself as a practice owner and know what to do. It's hard to point the finger at your own strategy or system and blame it.
There can often be a tendency to think, especially among doctors who have reached about $2 million, "I have read, learned, and applied everything I know and we are not going anywhere." This is when you want to keep your focus on your vision, purpose, and values. During your huddles, spend less time on numbers and more time sharing patient and team stories about care, service, and wins, no matter how small.
This is where you should apply the "learn the rules, bend the rules, and break the rules" strategy. During the foundational stage of building the practice, apply daily primary outcomes by position. This will bring forth the ability to proactively isolate and correct inefficiencies through training. When you are consistently not hitting your numbers and team morale is down, this is like focusing on the one C+ your child had on his or her report card when all the other grades were As and Bs. You and your team leader need to focus on the numbers, and refocus your team on value creation and what they're doing right.
Step 2: Locate where integrity and promises are missing or broken
Comb through your practice and locate where responsibility and accountability are missing. Operations become stuck when you avoid responsibility and accountability. To help you come face-to-face with this issue, use something I call "the crucial conversation." Most dentists don't want to deal with conflict, and the crucial conversation is a great tool to help with this. The crucial conversation goes something like this:
• Acknowledge your team member for what is working, and ensure the message is received.
• Ask permission to share with the person what is not working for you.
• Request an agreement from them.
• Allow the person to accept, decline, or counteroffer. Manage by facts, not emotion.
Step 3: Measure, monitor, and make things go well
Even though your ideal future seems far away, it actually happens the moment you start taking corrective action. If you're not measuring on a daily basis, you don't know if you're moving away from being stalled. Moving forward to change how you go to work and lead your team can be very challenging. This is what separates those who go from good to great, and from strong to stronger.
Know that you just need to reverse the curse. Hey, the Cubbies did it and so can you. The equation that will get you there is to be, then do, and then you will have. Just be happy. It's a choice. Be grateful for what you have, and then do the actions that will guide you toward having it all.
Originally published in 2017, updated in June 2023