Productive relationships happen by intent, not by accident. To date, we have discussed the relationships you have with yourself, your team, your patients, and your interdisciplinary team of specialists.

Edwin A. McDonald, DDS

Productive relationships happen by intent, not by accident. To date, we have discussed the relationships you have with yourself, your team, your patients, and your interdisciplinary team of specialists. All of those relationships form the framework for your current and future success. The leverage of your practice life will be exercised through these relationships, and the quality of these relationships will, to a great degree, determine the level of success you will experience. So, how do you begin?

You begin by taking a position. One person at a time, you are going to begin enhancing the quality of each relationship in your practice world. This effort takes time, energy, and sometimes, comes with disappointment as well as success. You, the leader, must maintain this leadership position in the midst of pressure to do otherwise. Everything you do, say, plan, and manage must be designed around relationship-building.

You teach this to your team by how you are with them. Do they understand how important they are? They will feel important when you show genuine concern, listen to them, seek their input and ideas, give them the freedom to act independently, and go above and beyond the call of duty in supporting them and their lives. You should reward their actions when you see them working at building relationships with patients and other team members ... and they must see you doing the same thing.

So what am I describing? Leadership! It is the kind of leadership where you become the mission, rather than just writing it. There are no questions about who you are and what is important to you. All too often, dentists are not clear about that. Here's an example: A number of years ago, my team was having a meeting with Pam, our consultant. One of my long-time valued team members said, "Mac, you say you want one thing and then you do something else. It is sometimes confusing to me." Ouch! Does that ever happen in your practice world? That very thing is probably the greatest barrier to practice growth and development.

As I meet and work with my team of specialists and technicians, I must be the leader of the team and share the uniqueness and details of the person who I am referring, not just the clinical details of the case. Likewise, I share personal and professional qualities I admire and enjoy about the specialist(s) who my patients will be seeing. In both directions, the humanness of all involved comes to the forefront, along with the clinical case.

If the answer to any of these questions is no, someone has to change the status quo ... and that someone is you, the leader. If this seems like a very soft approach to management and leadership, it is. But, this is the concept which every human desires. By focusing on "others," you will create an atmosphere in which your team will give you strength and enthusiastically join you in building your dream practice.

Please feel free to contact me if I can be of assistance.

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 mcdonalddds@hotmail.com.

Am I a good leader?

Here are some great questions to help you succeed as a good leader. Ask yourself:

1) Am I clear about what I want? Has my mission been absorbed into my tissues?
2) Do my management systems encourage or discourage relationship-building?
3) Do my team members know how important they are to me? Do they experience the level of support, encouragement, and direction they need to grow?
4) Am I surrounded by people who I genuinely care about and who genuinely care about me?

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