A very long time ago, a Japanese philosopher named Miyamoto Musashi wrote, “When you embark on something, fix your intentions, and leave selfishness behind you, then you cannot fail.” He was writing about something that we now call goal-setting, the process that gives you a sense of direction and keeps you focused. People who make things happen don’t do so by accident. They “fix their intention” on something and they “leave selfishness behind.” They have a plan, they have a vision, and they have strategies for getting where they want to go. They don’t blame and they don’t waste time on excuses. They also know where they want to be, they create a plan for getting there, they monitor the progress they are making, and they are not afraid to adjust the original plan if doing so will make things better.
Decide what you truly want to achieve. Keep your goal realistic. Realistic goal-setting does not mean changing the universe. It means working in incremental steps which become an interlocked pattern of reachable goals that make things run smoother and work better.
Describe for yourself how you will benefit if this goal is achieved. Will this create a higher level of job satisfaction? Less stress? Less chaos? How will your patients benefit? Will more people be seen on time? Will they be happier with the dentistry they get? Will they be more aware of their own responsibility for maintaining their oral health? How will the practice benefit? Will the environment improve? Will more patients come through the front door? Will fewer patients be leaving through the back door?
Define your strategies for accomplishing the goal. Is this something that you can do alone? Does it require the cooperation or permission or participation of others? Who will be involved? In what way? What help will you need? From whom? How much? Is this something that you and your teammates can accomplish alone or do you need assistance or support from technical advisors, management consultants, lab personnel, insurance carriers, educational institutions, or others?
Explore how much it will cost to accomplish this goal and set a realistic time or date for accomplishing it. Creating a schedule and a working budget will help you stay focused and plan your activities more effectively.
As you work toward achieving your goal, evaluate how well things are going. If your original strategy is not working as well as you would like, find out what you need to change and adjust your way of doing things. Embrace the challenge as a learning experience. If you run into problems, refuse to view them as dead ends. Problems are meant to be solved. Pinpoint exactly what is not working and figure out why it isn’t working. Ask for an objective opinion from someone else on the team. Ask for alternative suggestions. Find another way.
Resist the urge to blame yourself or others for obstacles, barriers, or delays. “She did/he didn’t” will not help. Instead, ask yourself, “What can I do to make things better? What can I do to make this work? What can I do to get past this hump? What can I do to make what I want to see happen?” Then, bring your teammates into this process and change the “I” questions into “we” questions. Reaching goals is extremely satisfying. Success breeds success and will make all of you stronger, more confident, and more capable of achieving new goals. The journey to success can also be satisfying if you view it as an exciting adventure instead of hard work.
Make certain your personal goals and the practice goals are compatible. If the goals match, they will be easier to achieve and will enhance each other. If the goals clash, no amount of work will produce the desired results. Always remember that your responsibility is twofold - caring for your patients and caring for your practice. Your professional commitments and your uncompromising commitment to your patients are global goals which can never be separated. Future articles in this series will explore this dual commitment in more detail.
This column is for the team to “clip and save” each month. Cynthia McKane-Wagester, RDH, MBA, is a practicing hygienist and president of McKane & Associates, a full-service management-consulting firm. She can be reached by phone at (800) 341-1244, or by e-mail at CMandAssoc@aol.com.