Reaching Level 3 Communication

Jan. 17, 2014
When looking at successful businesses and individuals, several traits can be observed. More than likely they possess strong leadership skills, expertise in their fields, and adaptability.

By Rick Workman, DMD, founder and chief executive officer, Heartland Dental

When looking at successful businesses and individuals, several traits can be observed. More than likely they possess strong leadership skills, expertise in their fields, and adaptability. Another shared trait I guarantee you will commonly see among them is effective communication, which may be the most valuable trait of all.

No matter who we are or what we do, we all communicate with others every day in some manner. If you work in a business office, you're constantly communicating with coworkers and relying on them to work as efficiently as possible. The same can be said if you're a dentist -- you're constantly communicating with team members to streamline your schedule, as well as communicating with patients. Because it's such an important element of leadership, effective communication isn't optional; it's essential.

In his courses at the Bell Leadership Institute, Dr. Gerald Bell discusses three levels of communication, with each progressing in effectiveness. Level 1 communication is very surface oriented, and it lacks trust, commitment, and honesty. At Level 2, you begin communicating with more openness and truth, and you become more unguarded with others in the process. At Level 3, the ideal level, you fully communicate with clarity, confidence, and dedication. You are not afraid to be direct and sincere when you share ideas, and you are not closed-minded when receiving ideas from others.

In addition, Dr. Bell describes seven essential skills that will help you reach Level 3, including:

  • Listening effectively -- Communication is not one-sided. Listening well to the thoughts and ideas of others is as important as effectively sharing your own thoughts and ideas. Listening to others shows respect, helps build relationships, increases your own knowledge, generates ideas, and creates loyalty.
  • Delivering ideas clearly and powerfully -- When delivering your message unclearly or without enthusiasm, the point of that message can become lost on others. You may have revolutionary ideas, but if you can't effectively communicate them, no one will ever know.
  • Confronting conflict without stress -- If conflict occurs when communicating with others (and it naturally will), you have to handle it correctly. Becoming angry and going into attack mode or completely closing your mind might be natural responses, but they're not the right responses. When confronting conflict, it's important to remain calm, open, and focused.
  • Being open to feedback and criticism -- We'd all like to be perfect, but we're not. We're human beings who are constantly learning. None of us likes receiving criticism, but it's essential for the learning process, and it's how we advance ourselves. Instead of becoming negative when you receive criticism, look at it as an opportunity to grow.
  • Enriching your sense of humor -- Used appropriately, incorporating humor into your communication keeps others engaged and helps you sound relatable and natural. Since conflict and stress are common in certain circumstances, savvy communicators will cultivate appropriately timed humor as a means of reducing tension and frustration.
  • Enhancing your presentation skills -- This goes back to delivering your message with clarity and enthusiasm. It's not all about what you say, but how you say it. Be clear, concise, and genuine, and your audience will respond.
  • Mastering nonverbal communication -- Another important component of the "It's not what you say, but how you say it" idea is nonverbal communication -- your tone and body language. If you have a negative and uncaring body language and tone, that's how others will perceive you, no matter what you say. Be positive, upbeat, and encouraging, and you'll make a much better impression.

Once Level 3 communication is reached within a company or dental office, a perfect application is developing a "mastermind" approach. Walter Hailey, a past mentor of mine, taught that whenever two or more minds are joined together in harmony, a "mastermind" is formed. When applying a mastermind outlook, everyone in that company or office works toward the same goals with no competing interests. Some of the largest, most successful organizations on the planet operate as "open-book" entities, where critical information is widely available. This transparency creates the proper environment for growth, innovation, and advancement.

Before a mastermind approach can be created, Level 3 communication must be reached. The difference and impact from progressing from Level 1 to Level 3 is immense, and is something Heartland Dental continues to value. Establishing an open, collective atmosphere where everyone gives and shares selflessly, without fear or distrust, has been a huge reason why our team has been able to achieve so much.

Rick Workman, DMD, is founder and chief executive officer of Heartland Dental Care. After practicing full-time, Dr. Rick Workman created Heartland Dental Care, a world-class dental support organization offering affiliated dentists nonclinical, administrative support. HDC has over 440 affiliated dental offices in 26 states. Dr. Workman may be reached at [email protected].

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