Edwin A. McDonald, DDS
Great relationships with and within your team begin with you, the leader. You are the one person with the final authority over who is and is not a part of your team. You are the only person that can intentionally determine what type of team experience occurs within your practice. That is why it is so essential to begin with building a strong, secure, and rich relationship with yourself. You cannot give from an empty bucket; to lead a team into rewarding and powerful relationships, you are going to have to give a lot.
It's not always easy. Being human, we disappoint each other. Sometimes, that means letting someone go, as I have recently done. Sometimes it means hanging in there with the right person until you find a way to utilize his or her gifts and talents.
So, let's get started. A couple of years ago, I was speaking at The Yankee Dental Congress. A dentist in the back of the room asked, "How do you attract this kind of high quality staff?" My answer was simple: You must first be attractive to that kind of a person. To do that, you must understand the values, attitudes, and behaviors of the people you want to attract and you must share those qualities with them. You must understand what is important to them.
If you want great service, you must be willing to serve them. If you want your staff to develop your practice to all it can be, you must be willing to develop your team along their chosen career path. If you want abundance, generosity, and significance in your practice life, then you must provide that environment for your team. If you want a high level of competence, then you must develop a high level of competence in all that you do so that you are setting the standard for this team. Above all, if it is important to you for your team to love and appreciate you, then you must love and appreciate them.
Relationships begin and end with a simple idea. In order to become more (a greater, higher performing practice with deeper relationships), we (leader and followers) must first become less because we are surrendered to a bigger cause than ourselves. That cause is our mission, whatever that is for you and your team. The focus must be on the mission and not on any one person, including you. Of course, you lead the way in determining your practice's mission.
You will inject life into team relationships by giving team members the freedom to be themselves, authentically. If you have chosen the right people, then the authentic person is the one whom you want to emerge and grow. Each individual will perform better if she or he is expected to make full use of her or his strengths and is appreciated for those strengths. This means that you must accept people right where they are, discover their best qualities, and then find ways to bring those qualities to life in them. If you have chosen wisely, these relationships will blossom into something great, and each person will love you for it. People will grow from their strengths — not their weaknesses. You can help them focus on personal growth.
I know what some of you are thinking right now, "I pay people to do a job and work hard." So do I. We all need this in our practices. We have two choices:
1)We can enforce it through constant supervision, management techniques and a lot of our own energy, or
2)We can hire the right people, challenge them to think, and let them exercise the authority we give them.
For the most part, we can let team members manage their daily moment-to-moment activities, using their energy because they believe in and are motivated by the practice mission and our engaging leadership.
Which of those two choices sounds better to you?
I have surrounded myself with a team that I love, enjoy, and respect. That is the only circumstance that is acceptable to me. They are not perfect; neither am I. They make mistakes; so do I. They are my greatest point of influence (and thus leverage) in building and developing our practice. A team that thinks with one mind, speaks with one voice, and feels with one heart can take you places that you couldn't otherwise go. Don't let anything stop you from building that kind of team.
Dr. Edwin A. McDonald graduated from the University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston in 1980. He has been in private practice in Texas since 1983. Dr. McDonald serves on the Board of Directors and is a Visiting Faculty member of The Pankey Institute. He is a Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry. He is a member of the American Dental Association, Texas Dental Association, American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and the Texas Academy of Dental Practice Administration, where he served as president. He lectures and presents to study groups throughout the United States. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.