Secret weapons: why dentists arent super successful

Oct. 1, 1996
Here are 16 problem areas the author feels dentists need to address to improve their practices and lives.

Here are 16 problem areas the author feels dentists need to address to improve their practices and lives.

Steven H. Poulos, DDS

The purpose of this article is to identify the areas in which each dentist needs to improve; direct you to techniques that will help you improve your practice and life; and ultimately result in each dental professional achieving more personal, financial and spiritual success.

You must evaluate your skill level in each category. Then, decide what improvement you need to make in each category and develop a strategy of how to optimize your efforts and improve in every category.

Secret Weapon #1:

The dentist has a damaged self-image and little self-confidence.

There are numerous reasons why people have a damaged self-image and lack self-confidence. Oftentimes, it is childhood experiences, such as overly strict or abusive parents or siblings, neighborhood bullies or teachers or clergy who have misguided ideas about teaching and disciplining their students.

A lot of the hang-ups dentists have come from their professional school experiences. Most schools are run by former military men. The method of teaching is similar to the method of teaching in boot camp. The dental student is made to feel inferior and inadequate. The idea behind this style of training is to get the student to work extra hard to live up to the standards set by the instructors. In the process, many egos are damaged and the doctor never feels worthy and never develops unlimited self-confidence.

Once you understand that this has gone on in your training, you must work to overcome the limitations and barriers that have been implanted in your conscious and subconscious mind.

There can be deeply-seated and suppressed causes for a poor self-image. Frequently, mature adults have overcome their "hang-ups" to only be surprised when their self-confidence is usurped by an incident that triggers their old, hidden hang-up.

This takes level-headed, intuitive, retrospective thinking to detect and overcome. I feel this is one of the main causes for a lack of imagination and the implementation of new ideas in the professional fields.

Secret Weapon #2:

Dentists do not learn enough right things in school.

Professional schools must teach a lot of things to students. They tend to be very conservative in the things that they teach and are very dogmatic about what they teach. They seldom will point out that there is more than one way to accomplish a task, let alone discuss the pros and cons of each method and why you should do things just the way you do them.

You must learn about different techniques through continuing education courses or by visiting and observing other doctors. Again, you seldom get more than one version of how to do something and you must decide which method is the best, quickest and easiest way to do something.

Secret Weapon #3:

Dentists are pressured to conform to the crowd.

In school and out of school, people tend to form cliques. There is an unspoken pressure to be accepted in the cliques. There is a tendency to be very concerned that everyone should have similar levels of success.

There actually is nothing wrong with this situation, if everyone is aspiring to do as well as possible and no one is jealous of the other person for doing better. (This usually is not the case.)

Again, you must understand that this is something that is going on. You must not be afraid to elevate your self to higher levels of accomplishment. In an optimal learning situation, you should be able to ally yourself with like-thinking doctors and each build on the experiences of the other to do better and better.

Secret Weapon #4:

Dentists do not understand human nature or psychology.

Little time is devoted in school to teaching about human nature or psychology. It probably is one of the most important things to learn to be able to capably deliver services to people. Because there is so much technical information to deliver, the schools spend little or no time on human nature or psychology.

It is important to realize that this deficiency does exist in our training and to spend some time in developing our skills and ability to understand human nature and to learn various methods of communication.

This seems like a small, unimportant subject, but in fact is a powerful skill and subject matter that will benefit each and every dentist in numerous ways.

Secret Weapon #5:

The dentist and/or the staff has the wrong attitude about their business and about how the office should be run.

Every individual has certain attitudes and beliefs about service. Oftentimes, bosses and staff members have an "ivory tower" attitude or belief system. Others will have a "second class" attitude or belief system. Both extremes can be very detrimental to the success of a dental practice.

It is important to recognize the characteristics associated with each belief system and to strive to achieve a central, balanced position.

Secret Weapon #6:

he dentist and the staff have no goals.

Most people go through life without clearly defined goals. They take what comes to them, but do not work to achieve any higher or more well-defined objective.

The opposite of success is conformity. There are very few people or staff members who could actually be considered failures. Most often, they have chosen to be average and have put forth average effort.

To get more out of a professional business requires that you put more of yourself into it-more thought and more energy. Frequently, this does not involve a lot more time, thought, or energy. Just a little bit more effort in any category can make a big difference.

Secret Weapon #7:

Most dentists fail to execute and implement strategies that they know will improve their performance.

Execution and implementation of a strategy is the single, most important thing a professional office can do!

This is the key to success. Overcome the barriers to change and anything is possible. I recommend that a process be followed in which you first analyze what it is that you are doing. Then, decide what things are good and productive. Keep the things that are good and examine what things can be improved. Develop a plan to implement the changes that need to be done.

Then, do it!

After you have implemented a change, you should spend time (one to three months) analyzing and evaluating your systems and operating procedures.

Secret Weapon #8:

Dentists have little training or experience in business.

Most schools have very little time available to teach business skills. Most people have had limited experience being in business.

A professional practice is, in reality, a small business. So it needs to be viewed and operated as a business if the doctor is going to succeed economically.

Secret Weapon #9:

Dentists have little training or experience in how to manage people.

Management and motivation of employees is a delicate area to deal with in this modern day and age. People have multiple needs and expectations. The traditional work ethic of today is not the same as it used to be.

The other problem is that the boss (you) is technically inclined and focused on the technical aspects of business. Most dentists don`t have any management training and must make an effort to get training. Many of you don`t have time set aside for management duties and must learn to do so.

Secret Weapon #10:

Dentists have little training or experience in financial management and decision-making.

This is an area that takes time to learn and discipline to achieve goals. The doctor and the spouse must become knowledgeable about finance and must set and adhere to saving goals.

Secret Weapon #11:

Dentists have little training or experience in marketing and networking skills.

Time must be devoted to learn marketing and networking techniques, and then time must be spent implementing a marketing and networking plan.

Secret Weapon #12:

Dentists have little training or experience in presenting (or selling) services or products.

Presentation skills are learned skills. Dentists must take the time and make the effort to learn these skills, to teach these skills to their staff and to practice these skills.

Secret Weapon #13:

Dentists tend to associate with average people or even losers.

There is a tendency for dentists to associate with people that are average or even associate with people who are less fortunate in life; i.e., "losers, whiners, and procrastinators."

To be super successful, you need to associate with people who are winners. You need to pick role models, mentors and friends who are uplifting and success-oriented.

Secret Weapon #14:

Dentists do not work as smart nor as hard at their career as they can.

Almost all dentists believe they have done all that they need to do, once they have finished their formal education. They have not been taught that they must continue to learn and that they must think, eat, and breath their business many more hours than just the hours they spend at work. Dentists need to learn to work on their practice, staff members and on themselves continually.

Once you have experienced the success that comes from fully applying yourself, you will become thrilled with your profession. The goal is to love your profession or your business as your hobby. You need to repeat a pattern of successful momentum.

Secret Weapon #15:

Dentists have a bad marriage and or a bad home life.

This frequently is a symptom, as well as a cause, of dentists not living up to their full potential. There is little or no training offered on how to have a good marriage or a good home life. Parental role models are one of the few things that people use in learning how to communicate in a relationship, how to show love, how to solve problems or deal with stress.

Once you realize that you do have a unhappy marriage or home life, the process of improving it can begin. There are several self-help books on the subject. It often is advisable to bring in outside counseling to assist in es-tablishing ground rules. Each partner must take an active role in improving conditions. Each must be able to analytically evaluate the style and meaning of communicating and showing affection and anger. Like all subjects, this one can be mastered. It is difficult, however, because of the strong emotional involvement and the length of time that underlying beliefs have been in place.

Secret Weapon #16:

Dentists do not exercise enough and do not have healthy eating habits.

Physical condition affects the performance of people from a pure physical sense, as well as having a psychological impact on personal performance and self-image. This should be an obvious realization to anyone who has had an extensive background in health sciences. Unfortunately, dentists, like most people, get demands to do many other activities.

We all have become too busy keeping up with our careers, family life, hobbies and past- times, along with all of our many community obligations. Regular exercise frequently becomes a secondary priority or even gets totally neglected. Proper diet for many is even harder to adhere to. There is an overabundance of tasty food and fast food high in fat and calories to which we constantly are exposed in the media. Indeed, it takes a strong will and strict discipline if we are to successfully adhere to a regular exercise routine and maintain a healthy, balanced and interesting diet.

In spite of all of the reasons we are drawn off course, developing priorities and the discipline to adhere to those priorities should not be a difficult goal. Proper focus and commitment to good health should be easy to accomplish by most health-care professionals.

The author practices dentistry full time in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is the director of The Professional Success Institute. This article is an excerpt from "Secret Weapons for Personal Development." Dr. Poulos can be reached at 602-483-8822.

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