BY Rick Workman, DMD
Like players look to their coaches for inspiration, motivation, and action, your team looks to you for those same things. The minute you opened your office or joined an existing office, you became a coach. It immediately became your responsibility to oversee the overall function of your team.
Patient care is certainly your main focus, but you must also ensure that effective communication within your team is present, that everyone is on the same page with the same goal in mind, and that action is taken to strive for constant improvement. You make the calls that determine the success (or failure) of your team, because you cannot provide ideal patient care without ideal teamwork.
There was a book published in 1996 by NFL coaching legend Don Shula, and management expert Ken Blanchard, called "Everyone's a Coach - Five Business Secrets for High-Performance Coaching." This book is designed to help others inspire greatness and excellence in their teams, no matter if they're a business owner, a manager, or in your case, a dentist. Specifically, the book discusses the COACH acronym, where all components tie into being an ideal coach and leader. Here is a breakdown of each component:
"C" stands for conviction-driven - Strong leaders stick to their principles, vision, and values. Strong leaders also instill these ambitions within all of their team members. You can set your goals and establish an action plan to meet those goals, but unless your team is working together toward the same goals with clear direction, the goals will not likely be met. There are steps you can take to ensure a shared team mindset. Start every day with a morning huddle to align your team and discuss the day's objectives. For every task your team carries out daily, implement protocols and policies. Implement communication protocols for yourself so you can find the most effective ways to connect with your team and patients. Once you have this system in place, measure your results. By reviewing your system monthly, weekly, and daily, you can determine what's working and what needs to be changed.
"O" stands for overlearning - Great dentists understand that education doesn't stop after dental school - it never ends. Whether you're advancing your communication skills or clinical knowledge, there are always new things to learn that will help you move your office forward as a whole. Having a perpetual student outlook will benefit you and your team. They will be inspired to build upon their skills and continually work toward a higher standard of care.
"A" stands for audible-ready - In football, a quarterback calls an audible play when the planned play simply won't work. Dentists experience similar situations daily in the office. Cancellations, patient no-shows, and other problems are bound to happen, disrupting your planned schedule. Being audible-ready means being open, flexible, and positive in your reaction. As unexpected obstacles occur, you and your team must stay proactive to find quick, effective solutions that best benefit your patients.
"C" stands for consistency - It is important to communicate consistently with team members and patients. Again, this refers to having set protocols that can be followed consistently. An atmosphere of consistency in your office won't go unnoticed by your patients. If they continually receive efficient, compassionate care from a positive, organized team, they will be more likely to make your office their permanent dental home for years to come.
"H" stands for honesty-based - When it comes to patient care and leading your team, simply do the right things for the right reasons. In doing so, you will become the type of leader your team admires and respects - someone who inspires them to become leaders themselves. Your patients will admire you as well.
A common aspect of the COACH acronym is being proactive instead of reactive. Great leaders and coaches take action constantly, not simply when the need arises. So take a step back and evaluate yourself and your team. Are they on the same page with your office goals? Do you have set protocols in place? Are consistency and honesty primary focuses? Do you need to take action? If so, Don Shula's and Ken Blanchard's concepts can help you become the coach you've always wanted to be.
Rick Workman, DMD, is founder and chief executive officer of Heartland Dental. After practicing full-time, Dr. Workman created Heartland Dental, a world-class dental support organization offering affiliated dentists nonclinical, administrative support. Heartland Dental has over 565 affiliated dental offices in 26 states. Dr. Workman may be reached at [email protected].