Leadership: Becoming an agent of change

Dentists should not just react to change, but initiate and lead change in the dental industry. Those practices that lag behind will lose patients who prefer a progressive staff and atmosphere.

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In one of my books about dental practice management, I wrote: "Gathering good ideas and transforming them into practice improvements is never-ending. Economic conditions, patient needs, competitive activities—everything changes, and at a faster pace than ever before. Yesterday's amazing breakthrough idea may be totally irrelevant today."1

Clinging to the status quo will result in practice decline, and dentists waiting for a return to the prerecession "good old days" will wait in vain. The practices destined for the greatest success are those led by doctors who recognize change as a practice-building tool rather than as a threat. If you agree with this, here are some recommendations you'll appreciate.

Initiate change rather than react to it

Think seriously about changes you'd like to make in your practice and career. Proactively envision and then pursue your ideal role in dentistry. If you're like many of the dentists and specialists I've spoken with, you've been too caught up in day-to-day activities to give serious thought to how things might be.

Initiate a systematic review of all the factors that combine to make your practice what it is today-and that can be used to reshape it. Look at location, facilities, staff size and structure, financials (from gross revenues to personal income), service mix, customer service, and stress levels. Pinpoint where change must happen if you're to reach your personal and professional goals.

Think of your team as an instrument of change

You won't be able to bring about positive change if team members cling to the status quo. Communicate your vision (a written vision statement will be extremely helpful with this) and train staff members to excel not only in daily performance but also in helping move the practice in the right direction.

Bear in mind that dental team members tend to be less than enthusiastic about significant changes in their work routines. They may feel threatened or, in some cases, ask themselves, "What's in it for me?" That's a fair question, so you should preempt it by explaining upfront how they will benefit from the changes. In most cases, this will include more job security, an enhanced skill set, improved compensation, increased efficiency, reduced stress, and a greater sense of accomplishment. As practice leader and agent of change, you must communicate these gains clearly and frequently.

Maintain focus and provide motivation

It's easy to lose sight of your goals in the rush of everyday demands. Inevitably (and appropriately), thoughts about building your dental business will be pushed aside by concerns about patients and your desire to provide excellent clinical care. Still, for the sake of a brighter future, you need to keep the pressure on yourself and your team to move in the right direction. There are two related techniques for accomplishing this.

One is to make change an item on every meeting agenda, even for daily morning meetings. Meetings represent the perfect opportunity for you to remind everyone of your vision for the practice and the changes that must happen for that vision to be realized.

The second is setting, assigning, monitoring, and reporting progress toward performance targets. This process has tremendous motivational power, as targets actually drive improvement. It also serves to keep the transformation of the practice foremost in everyone's mind-including yours.

Change is inevitable. The challenge is to take control of it, channeling it in ways that will achieve your professional and personal goals. In doing so, you'll also make your practice a more satisfying place of employment for you and your team.

Author's note: Need CE for 2017? Attend one of Dr. Levin's upcoming "Building the Ultimate Practice" seminars in Chicago, Illinois; Austin, Texas; or Columbia, Maryland. Visit levingroup.com/gpseminars for more information.


Roger P. Levin, DDS, is the chairman and CEO of Levin Group Inc., a leading dental consulting firm. A nationally recognized speaker, Dr. Levin presents practice management seminars throughout the country.

REFERENCE

1. Levin R. What Dentists Can Learn from Top CEOs. Owings Mills, MA: Levin Group; 2014.

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