Fire yourself!

How do you determine that your current leadership style isn't appropriate for what you want to achieve? For one of our clients, the moment of discovery came when she could no longer tolerate the behavior of a long-term staff person.

Bob Frazer Jr., DDS

How do you determine that your current leadership style isn't appropriate for what you want to achieve? For one of our clients, the moment of discovery came when she could no longer tolerate the behavior of a long-term staff person. She recognized her particular style — commanding, pacesetting leadership where she alone charted the course and held all the responsibility — was burning her out. Furthermore, the relationship-based practice she dreamed about had to begin with new relationships with her staff.

As part of our work, this dentist used a Self Directed Learning Model (SDLM) to become the leader she wanted to be: inspiring and empowering, and appropriately transparent of her emotions. She wanted to be a leader who "walked her talk," modeling the way and asking for what she needed. She also wanted to be the kind of leader who regularly affirmed her employees. Her team assessed her on those behaviors. She discovered where she was lacking, then chose specific actions to elevate those behaviors. She began to lead differently. One team member resisted this change and did everything in her power to undermine the changes. The doctor's real breakthrough occurred when she fired that team member, who was most like the person the doctor used to be. She essentially fired herself!

Now, two years after she began, she has the most cohesive team ever. They have reduced clinical time 28 percent and increased production 40 percent. Impressive indeed!

In the book, "Primal Leadership," by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, PhD, proposed this powerful SDLM that works so well for our clients. This type of learning is recursive — meaning the steps do not unfold in a smooth way. Rather, they occur in sequence with discontinuity and different amounts of time for each step. New behaviors must be practiced so that we rewire our patterned responses. SDLM parallels our applied strategic planning, where one begins by creating a vision of the best, then step-by-step makes that vision a reality. Boyatzis proposes "Five discoveries: Your ideal self, your real self, the current gap between ideal and real self, your learning agenda (including experimenting), and supportive relationships."

Your ideal self — Socrates said that the search for the fully functioning leader begins within. To find your ideal self, you must first discover your inner voice — what you truly believe. As a young dentist, I began to discover this through the people in dentistry I admired most, like Dr. Bob Barkley, a visionary dentist who pioneered preventive and relationship-based, health-centered dentistry. Bob was a gifted speaker and teacher whose values and principles resonated with me.

You likely have heroes and mentors whom you admire. List those leaders, and then record their attributes and values. From this list create a description of the leader you wish to become.

Your real self — Clarifying personal values begins by becoming more self-aware. One way is to make a list of your strengths and weaknesses, then ask a trusted friend or workmate to edit it. There are also validated, 360-degree assessments, like the Leadership Performance Inventory (LPI), which assesses the kind of leader you think you are vs. how your followers see you.

The gap — Now, list the gaps between your ideal self and real self. Which of these gaps would be easiest to close? Which are most important given what you want? One gap we find among many dentists is communication — listening well, being clear with expectations, and being able to confront for positive outcomes.

The learning agenda — Build a plan on your strengths to close the gaps. There are many opportunities — E.I. building workshops, sensitivity training, journaling, John Bradshaw's workshops, and working with a trained counselor or personal coach. Research shows coaching is one of the best ways to elevate E.I. Lastly, one must rewire their neural pathways by experimenting with new behavior.

Supportive relationships — It's essential to develop trusting relationships that support change. Our coaching client did just that, but had to end a toxic one first.

Next month, we'll explore emotional dysfunction and how to end it with some powerful new tools.

Dr. Bob Frazer, Jr., FACD, FICD, is founder of R.L. Frazer & Assoc., whose custom programs help dentists achieve top 5 percent status in financial achievement and life balance (fulfillment and significance). Thirty years of quality practice and superb communication skills have propelled him to a 28-year international speaking career. For information on the acclaimed Strategic Planning Retreat (10/20-23) and E.I. Workshop (10/28-30) or to receive "7 Ways to Grow Your E.Q,." contact him at (512) 346-0455, Fax (512) 346-1071, bob@frazeronline.com. Web site www.frazeron line.com.

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