Building a high-performance team

Aug. 1, 2006
You begin the day with a quick and informative morning meeting. Everyone is focused and upbeat.

You begin the day with a quick and informative morning meeting. Everyone is focused and upbeat. You spend most of your day providing patient care chairside with no interruptions. Your team handles all administrative matters. You don’t have to worry about collections, billing, or scheduling. In fact, the schedule runs like a charm, and patients are seen on time throughout the day. The day ends well, when you and the team go home on time.

Does this sound like your practice? It could be! The secret is to build a high-performance team. But how do you do this?

It’s all about trust

The first step to building a high-performance team is to develop a culture of trust. Many dentists think that working in a close environment automatically creates a sense of trust with the team. Not true! Trust refers not only to caring about the team, but working with individual team members to help them grow, improve, and enhance their professional and personal lives. Here are some specific steps you can take to create a culture of trust:

Begin your next staff meeting by asking team members to share something about themselves that no one on the team knows. We’re not talking about sharing a personal secret, but an interesting fact about themselves. It could be something as simple as a hidden talent or hobby, such as playing a musical instrument, collecting baseball memorabilia, or writing poetry. By the time you finish this exercise, team members will feel closer to each other and have a better understanding of their co-workers. Of course, it also is critical that you, as the leader of the practice, share something as well.

Meet with team members individually every six months to have an informal conversation about where they are on their career paths. Where does the dental assistant stand regarding his or her skills, experience, attitude, and motivation? What would he or she like to accomplish in the next six or 12 months? This discussion helps build a stronger rapport with the staff, and gives the dentist a better understanding of how each team member is progressing as part of a high-performance team.

Open debate and honesty are critical in office meetings.The dentist needs to create a receptive environment where everyone is expected to speak up and voice honest opinions. Simply having one or two strong team members who dominate meetings will almost guarantee that the practice will never be able to create a high-performance team. By encouraging each person to speak up or actually asking team members who do not speak up for their opinions, the dentist will set the foundation for creating a more balanced and cohesive team.

The final key for the dentist is to lead by example. You can’t just talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk. For example, Levin Group has a new orthodontic client who is doing extremely well, but wants to bring all 15 staff members into a high-performance team structure. One of the comments by a team member that resonated with me was “The doctor never passes a piece of paper or speck on the floor without stopping to pick it up.” While it never occurred to the doctor that this habit was an act of team-building, his example was actually telling the team that he is willing to do the little things to ensure that the office looks and operates at the highest possible level.

Obviously, picking up paper will not guarantee the development of a high-performance team, but dentists often forget that the staff watches their every move. If there is a disconnect between word and deed, the doctor will have difficulty building a high-performance team.

Enjoy what you do!

Dentistry is about excellent quality of care, production, and profit ... but it also is about enjoying what you do. Creating a culture of trust can help you build a high-performance team. Any practice can do it!

Levin Group sees this happening every day as clients and their staffs become more involved and energized. A strong team makes your practice more profitable, less stressful, and more enjoyable. Building a better team will help you take your practice to the next level.

If you would like to receive my “10 Tips on Building a High-Performance Team,” please call (888) 973-0000 or e-mail [email protected].

Roger P. Levin, DDS, is founder and CEO of Levin Group, a leading dental management consulting firm that is dedicated to improving the lives of dentists through a diverse portfolio of lifetime services and solutions. Since the company’s inception in 1985, Dr. Levin has worked to bring the business world to dentistry.Levin Group may be reached at (888) 973-0000, or at