Don't worry; be a leader

Dec. 1, 2001
I had just finished the morning session of an all-day seminar, when a dentist asked me how to deal with the negative changes in his practice caused by the September 11 acts of terrorism.

by Paul Homoly, DDS

"Knock, knock."
"Who's there?"
"Toby who?"
"Toby a leader or not to be, that is the question.

I had just finished the morning session of an all-day seminar, when a dentist asked me how to deal with the negative changes in his practice caused by the September 11 acts of terrorism.

"What kinds of negative changes are you seeing?" I asked.

"Well, the number of new patients has dropped off and there seems to be a lot more stress in the practice," he said. "Patients are putting treatment recommendations off. I guess people are worried about a lot of things."

He's right. Patients are worried. We're all worried.

Just the other day, I saw a sign about worry on display outside a church. It said, "Worry is a waste of your imagination." I offer a similar point of view: "Worry is a waste of your leadership."

In uncertain times, leaders emerge. The changes in our national economy, the war on terrorism, and the infinite unknowns related to international politics are the ingredients for an extended spell of uncertainty. What leaders will emerge in the uncertain times of your practice? It's leadership that will guide and help your practice thrive in the upcoming uncertain times. Don't waste your leadership on worry. Here are some leadership recommendations.

•Surround yourself with people who are confident, optimistic, and forward-thinking. If you try to go it alone, you'll lose the source of much of your personal energy, confidence, and motivation. Be proactive. Start calling the people who pump you up. Pick their brains. Go to lunch with them. Get their point of view. Expand your horizons. See what's working for them.

Then, bring that energy back to your practice. Be a source of contagious positive energy. If you don't do this in your practice, who will?

•Focus your energy on providing the best possible experiences for those patients who most appreciate and reward your efforts. Connect with patients. Get them talking about how their reality has changed. There's not a lot we can do to stop international terrorism, but talking about it and how it affects us helps us manage the accompanying emotions of fear and uncertainty. If you discover that your patient has significant emotional/financial issues, acknowledge those emotions within the context of treatment recommendations.

Show patients your appreciation. What we appreciate appreciates us. Now is the time when high-quality patient referrals matter the most. Focusing on patients has always been paramount. When we're busy, we forget this. It's time to remember!

•Commit yourself to a future that is new, better, and brighter ... and invest in it. When bad times hit, some people hide like moles, hoping to find a safe place where nothing can hurt them. They get overly conservative, they think with their brakes on, and they let worry/negativity push them into life's dim corners. Don't do it! Engage your creativity and imagination, and revisit your dreams. Now is the time to lead your staff in the direction of your dreams. Transform the negative energy of the current events into your new reality. Everyone in the media is saying, "The world has changed" and "Life will never be the same." They're right — the world will never be the same, including your practice. So why not become part of the solution by making the world a better place by building the best possible practice. Create progress, increase your confidence, and inspire others to regain theirs. It's what leaders do!

•End each day on a positive note. A big mistake is going to bed right after you've watched an hour of depressing news. Rent a comedy video, go dancing, play with your dog, have some fun. Rekindle your spirits and lead by example. Leaders keep the fires burning. Start one!

There's no doubt that the war on terrorism will continue to dominate the news and affect your patients and staff. You can't control that. But what you can control is how you let it affect you. Don't let the shadow of worry dim your spirit and leadership. Take Helen Keller's advice — "Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow."

Dr. Homoly coaches dental teams to implement reconstructive dentistry through his continuing-education workshops, private consulting, and seminars. This column is an excerpt from his new book, Isn't It Wonderful When Patients Say Yes? — Case Acceptance for Complete Dentistry. Dr. Homoly can be reached at (704) 342-4900 or via email at [email protected]. Visit his Web site at

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