Leading your team into the new year

Dec. 1, 2007
Another year is ending, so take a moment to reflect on what you’ve done. Celebrate the victories, big and small.

by Cathy Jameson

Another year is ending, so take a moment to reflect on what you’ve done. Celebrate the victories, big and small. Be generous with praise for anyone who deserves it. Then, use those insights and positive feelings to switch modes and look ahead.

What does your ideal practice look like? How can you get closer to creating it? Are you prepared to make decisions and be the leader of your own outstanding 2008? Have you stopped to consider how your success has a positive effect on your team, your family, your patients, and more? Consider these things as you make a commitment to being an amazing leader in the new year!

Strong leadership in a dental practice separates the outstanding practice from the average. Leadership is evident and vital to the lifeblood of a thriving practice. You may be managing your practice flawlessly, but without great leadership, your potential success is limited.

According to Stephen Covey in his outstanding book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, leadership must come before management. Covey says, "Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success. Leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall."

Leadership and your dental team should go hand in hand. My personal take on leadership is: a group of leaders tied together by a common sense of purpose and focused on accomplishing a definite set of goals. This is a group of individuals who realize that the sum of the whole is better than the individual parts.

Think about that definition — a group of people working cohesively toward common goals. Think of the energy and the productivity set forth by a group who truly epitomize that definition!

Developing leadership

How can you develop and encourage this kind of leadership within your team? It takes a visionary leader to develop leadership characteristics in others. Learning to identify the strengths of your team members and being courageous and confident enough to acknowledge and reinforce those strengths may be the greatest factors in becoming an outstanding leader.

There are certain "threads," or characteristics, that define an outstanding leader. Let’s look at these characteristics. Survey your own leadership style and see if you can honestly say you personify these characteristics, or if you need to work on their development. Ask yourself if your team members epitomize these characteristics, or if continued education and development in this area need attention.

An outstanding leader has a clear vision. This person knows there is a purpose to be served by the work, the people, and the services being rendered. As I mentioned earlier, a great team is one that has this common sense of purpose. You will rarely find success or fulfillment in managing your business if you do not have a vision of what you are working toward. A great leader sees this and strives toward his/her mission or vision and every decision made is based on this vision.

An outstanding leader is goal-oriented. The leader’s goals are clear and definite and go hand-in-hand with their overall mission and purpose. Having a specific process of goal accomplishment in place in your practice will increase the productivity of each member of the team, increase the overall productivity of the practice, provide time management, motivate team members, and be fun. Through goal-setting, you will find yourself concentrating on the priority areas in your life and growing both personally and professionally. Become a team of leaders focused on a definite set of goals. Watch the practice thrive.

An outstanding leader finds personal and professional fulfillment by serving others. Joy and satisfaction result from providing this service. No doubt, if you did not thoroughly enjoy being a health-care provider, you would not be in the profession of dentistry. I have never been surrounded by a group of professionals more committed to patients, to each other, and to providing excellent service. In spite of the negative media that our profession sometimes receives, there is not a more ethical, sensitive group of professionals, in my opinion. Without a doubt, you do find joy and satisfaction in serving others.

An outstanding leader exemplifies excellence every time. It has been said, "If it is worth doing, it’s worth doing excellently." Good advice from wise advisors! In his book, Donald G. Krause says, "An effective leader does not seek recognition; he seeks the opportunity to provide better service."

Taking even the shortest of shortcuts usually will result in inappropriate results. The last thing you want to do is to have to go back and "redo" anything because it was not done right the first time. Of course, there is no such thing as perfection. Perfectionism can be an extremely stressful "requirement" you put on yourself.

Strive for excellence in all that you do. This, of course, applies to both the clinical and business areas. If the systems you use are working against you and are not "clean," do something about that — now! One of the most stressful things about a dental office is a lack of systems. Put monitors in place so everyone can continually monitor the health and well-being of these systems. Then, be consistent.

In addition, as you evaluate your systems, ask yourself, "Is any one system putting one person on the team against the other?" If the answer is "yes," then either change or eliminate that system. A system must never put one person against the other.

An outstanding leader believes in the people in his or her organization. Because of this belief, the leader is willing and able to delegate responsibility effectively. The key word here is "belief." Developing belief in another person means that you see the talents within that person, and your goal is to help maximize that individual’s talents. By building on the strengths of each team member, you will increase the strength of the entire organization. Assign responsibility, provide the proper training and resources, and then, let go!

Many people shortchange their leadership opportunities because they cannot "let go." They are stuck on the idea that "if you want something done — and done right — you’ve got to do it yourself." This attitude is detrimental to the leader, the individual team members, and the team as a whole.

People want more responsibilities. People want challenges. Without new opportunities and challenges, team members are likely to become bored. Boredom will create job dissatisfaction, dropout, low productivity, and discontent.

If you work at developing the talents of the members of your team and put faith in their abilities, you will ultimately come out a winner. You will have a team that gives more to their positions and to the practice, you will have increased output resulting in increased productivity, and you will keep members of your team longer.

An outstanding leader is results-focused rather than activity-oriented. This means that the outstanding leader defines what he or she wants to accomplish, gives proper direction, and then allows the members of the organization to do what needs to be done to accomplish those results.

So many people get "stuck" on the little things that do not really make a big difference in the practice. They focus on the day-to-day activities to the point that creativity is hindered and end results are not achieved. Great leaders never lose sight of the big picture. They make sure their ladder of success is always "leaning against the right wall."

Phenomenal basketball player Michael Jordan had this to say when discussing his goals and accomplishments: "I approached it with the end in mind. I knew exactly where I wanted to go, and I focused on getting there. As I reached those goals, they built on one another. I gained a little confidence every time I came through." Focus like this has brought Jordan and many great leaders before him true success and incredible accomplishments.

An outstanding leader commits to practicing good communication skills. Even though most people agree that communication is the bottom line of success, very few people undertake an active study of communication skills. Communication is often taken for granted. Many people believe that being a good communicator is something you are born with. No, it’s not. Communication is a skill, and because it is a skill, it can be studied and learned.

The success of your relationships, the success of your practice, and the success of your career balance on your ability to communicate. An outstanding leader realizes this and is committed to establishing and maintaining open lines of communication, both personally and professionally.

He or she makes sure that continuing education in the area of communication is part of the practice curriculum. Improved communication not only enhances relationships of team members, but also enhances relationships with patients. Indeed, great communication does equal great production.

An outstanding leader carries a strong sense of "ownership" of the practice, the responsibilities of the position, and the end results of the efforts put forth. In other words, a leader walks into the place as if he or she owns it. Having this sense of ownership gives a person the initiative and drive to get in there and do something if an opportunity is available or if a problem needs attention.

It is this leadership characteristic that ties all of the others together. It means that no one needs to say "do this" or "do that."

If something needs to be done, this person takes the first step and makes sure the project gets done. Dr. Ken Blanchard says, "You never hear ‘that’s not my job’ from high-performing teams."

In his book "Believe and Achieve," Samuel Cypert describes this characteristic of a leader by pointing out that leaders with a sense of co-ownership are those who "take the initiative, assume leadership roles, and volunteer for difficult or unpopular assignments because they know someone has to do them. They have the confidence in themselves to get the job done right, on time, and on budget. And they usually do."

So, you’re inspired to be an outstanding leader, now what? Take a few moments to carefully write your 2008 goals — personal and family goals, business and career goals, and self-improvement goals. Then, initiate the five-step goal-setting process to truly lead your practice into the new year with strength, focus, and, winning leadership.

Cathy Jameson is the CEO of Jameson, an international dental management coaching firm. An accomplished speaker, writer, and workshop leader, Cathy’s work in organizational psychology focuses on effective stress-controlled management. Cathy’s books,"Great Communication = Great Production" and "Collect What You Produce," are top sellers for PennWell Books. Reach her toll-free at (877) 369-5558, by e-mail at [email protected], or on the Web at www.jamesonmanagement.com.

Five Steps to Goal-Setting

  1. Write the goal.
  2. Design the plan. What are the objectives or strategies necessary to accomplish the goal? In other words, what must you do in terms of specific tasks to reach this goal?
  3. Assign responsibilities. Determine the person or persons responsible to perform each task.
  4. Designate a time frame for completion. When must each task be completed?
  5. Evaluate your progress. How is it going? Do you need to adjust your plan? What have you learned from the proposed plan of action?

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