Building team morale and loyalty

As the practice leader, one of your challenges is making sure your staff not only performs their respective jobs well but also works together well.

Dianne Glasscoe Watterson

For more on this topic, go to and search using the following key words: team morale, loyalty, balance, praise, happiness, Dianne Glasscoe Watterson.

As the practice leader, one of your challenges is making sure your staff not only performs their respective jobs well but also works together well.

Performance evaluations can give your staff members valuable feedback about all aspects of their jobs; however, leaders have to be careful to balance evaluations with praise and criticism. Staff members can dread evaluations when all they hear about is what they need to improve. Balance is often difficult for doctors who have perfectionist tendencies.

Team members need to hear praise from the leader. If you ever played team sports or were part of a group with a leader, think about how the leader made you feel. Chances are that if the leader made you feel good about your contribution to the group, you felt motivated to give it all you had.

A good word from the boss at day's end, such as "Thanks for your good work today," or "I appreciate the way you helped calm little Jimmy," can build loyalty in powerful ways.

Building loyalty is important! Loyalty is the reason staff members stick by you through thick and thin. Loyalty is the natural result when leaders:

  1. care about their employees as human beings
  2. understand that people are not perfect and will make mistakes
  3. show respect, consideration, appreciation, and kindness
  4. express praise often

Good leaders understand that workplace happiness (or lack thereof) is greatly influenced by the doctor's mood. If the doctor is sullen, grouchy, or unhappy, the office atmosphere will be tense and gloomy. Doctors who project a friendly, light-hearted mood inspire their team members to display the same traits toward patients and each other.

Good leaders also understand the importance of addressing negative attitudes and behaviors with expediency and appropriate action before they have a chance to poison the work environment. Retaining gossipy, argumentative, moody or otherwise negative employees damages your leadership credibility.

Frank Pacetta wrote a book called "Don't Fire Them, Fire Them Up" (Simon & Schuster, 1995). Here is a slightly modified version of his test of good leadership. When you can say "yes" to all of these statements, you are on the right path to effective leadership

  • I recognized someone in my group today with a sincere "thank you" or some other form of recognition. (If you are not doing that, you are not bringing out the best in others.)
  • I taught, coached, or motivated someone in my group today. (If you are not sure, you need to ask the people in your group how they feel about it.)
  • I listened to one or more people in my group today. (Note: If you answered "yes," write down what you learned. If you cannot remember, then you did not really listen.)
  • I can see that every member of my group is meeting my expectations. (If you say "no," outline on paper what you will do to improve their performance.)

Dianne Glasscoe Watterson is a consultant, speaker, and author. She helps good practices become better through practical onsite consulting. Her book, "Manage Your Practice Well," can be purchased through her Web site at www.professionaldentalmgmt.com. For speaking or consulting inquiries, contact her at dglasscoe@northstate.net or at (301) 874-5240.


One of the most important ways to build team morale and loyalty is to not expect them to do anything that you would not do yourself. Staff members really appreciate the small things – spoken words of praise, small acknowledgements – just to let them know you appreciate them.

With the right direction and guidelines, you can instill confidence in them to make decisions for themselves without coming to you for every little thing. They feel important and valued.

For areas that need improvement, addressing them sooner rather than later will prevent any elements of surprise during a review. It also gives people the opportunity for improvement. Often people assume, "If they didn't like what I was doing, they would tell me." Make them feel comfortable knowing the communication can freely flow both ways. They will respect you for that.

Jennifer Russell is an AADOM lifetime member, and the 2006 Office Manager of the Year. She currently works at Lenz Family Dental. Reach her at fyke1927@gmail.com.

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