Opening up to change

Nov. 1, 2004
I've often heard it said that the only people who like change are babies! Why is that? Why do more people not embrace the changes going on around them? After all, it is inevitable, right?

Matt Bynum, DDS

I've often heard it said that the only people who like change are babies! Why is that? Why do more people not embrace the changes going on around them? After all, it is inevitable, right?

Think about it. Where are you in your current state of practice affairs? Have you kept up with the materials currently in use or are you still using the materials you started with in practice? What about your thoughts on business and practice philosophy? Do you still believe that the "old ways" are better than the new? Is it too radical or progressive to "think outside the box" ... or is it just too demanding on you and your practice to try and implement something new?

When I was in dental school, it was the norm for the majority of our instructors to teach using methods of degradation and intimidation. I hated this! I was under the impression that things were changing, but I found out I was wrong. I recently spoke to a group of faculty members on the concepts of aesthetic dentistry. During this visit, I ran into an instructor and was somewhat surprised when he made reference to his actions of making life difficult for his students. It was as if he took pleasure in this form of education. How can we still be using these techniques in our educational process, and why would anyone really enjoy doing so?

If there is one thing I have learned in this life's journey, it is the fact that anger is not conducive to learning. That goes for those teaching and for those learning. It has to be hard to give of yourself and your knowledge when you don't like those who are doing the learning. How can anyone deliver a message worth listening to when it is obvious he or she does not want to be doing this?

The dental profession is notorious for not being too apt to change anything about the way it works. After all, these same concepts and methods have been working for all of these years, right? That may be true but that doesn't make it right! It may be time to put some of the methods, materials, and philosophies we have in dentistry on the shelf.

All too often I hear dentists from around the country complain that they cannot get their staffs to alter the way in which they currently do things. I also hear staff members complain about the same things concerning the doctor. Change starts at the top! Implementation and motivation must be exemplified by the doctor. I have a friend who visited my office recently with the entire staff in tow. After spending an entire day with us watching, listening, and taking notes, they left as excited as kids in a candy store. The interesting chain of events that followed their visit is typical.

You see, my friend has a partner who has been doing dentistry his way for some time now. It has worked for him all this time, so why would he want to change a thing? After all, he will soon retire. When my friend came back to his office to share what he had learned with his partner and his partner's staff, they instantly shunned the idea of changing anything. His partner talked about how easy it is to impress other people when they know you are coming, and how my office must have been cleaned and organized prior to their visit. Right — like I have nothing more to do than clean and organize my office for someone who is coming to visit. That would mean we alter the way we handle our patients and our business for the visit as well!

The "staff" that came to my office wants to be a "team." These people want to implement something different that makes dentistry fun and exciting. They have seen an environment that can change the attitudes and demeanor of all who enter into it. They want to embrace the change that presents itself, yet the partner and his staff can't see the forest for the trees. Needless to say, they have lost the energy and excitement they had about the prospect of implementing some changes in the office. The old ways have defeated and stifled their planned changes. Maybe in their case a space- sharing arrangement would be more appropriate than a partnership. Partners should discuss proposed changes and be willing to compromise on major decisions for the good of the practice and their own well-being.

I wish my friend and his staff all the luck in their struggles. I only wish more people were able to break out of the mold of mediocrity and accept change without fear. What are you doing to embrace the changes going on around you and your dental offices, and what will you do to help someone else with their changes?

Dr. Matt Bynum lectures internationally on aesthetic and reconstructive dentistry, practice management, motivation, and team building. He is a clinical instructor and featured speaker at the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies and is co-director and co-founder of the "Achieving Extreme Success" lecture series. Dr. Bynum maintains a full-time private practice in Simpsonville, S.C. Reach him at (864) 297-5585 or [email protected].

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