The leadership checklist

Periodically, all dentists need to assess their practice. Step back from clinical procedures and evaluate your role as a leader. As a business owner, you are viewed as a leader - whether you desire that role or not. This is especially true in a dental practice, where the physical proximity of staff and doctor is relatively close, compared to larger businesses.

Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA

Periodically, all dentists need to assess their practice. Step back from clinical procedures and evaluate your role as a leader. As a business owner, you are viewed as a leader - whether you desire that role or not. This is especially true in a dental practice, where the physical proximity of staff and doctor is relatively close, compared to larger businesses.

Leadership is a key factor in the long-term success of the practice. Team efficiency, happiness, and turnover rates partially depend on the doctor`s leadership abilities. Any dentist can be an excellent leader. I have watched many dentists, after a short period of training, emerge as exemplary leaders, whose abilities strengthen over time.

The following tips should be helpful to all dentists in their quest to excel as leaders.

Drive the practice vision. Establish a vision statement for the practice and continually remind everyone of its importance. Read the vision statement at the beginning of each morning huddle and staff meeting. Continuously look for opportunities to relate real-life, day-to-day events to the practice vision.

Be punctual. Dentists need to be on time, not only for their arrival to the office and meetings, but also with patients. Your patients will appreciate your punctuality. They view it as an indication that you, the business owner, respect their time. A leader needs to manage time effectively. We should demand as much from ourselves as we do from our employees and co-workers. Leaders need to exemplify what they are asking from others and set the tone for the entire practice. Punctuality is an essential aspect of efficiency in business management.

Use positive language.Take all the negative language out of your vocabulary. Positive language creates a level of enthusiasm, motivation, and credibility for the leader. The team will follow the mood, personality, and behavior of the dentist if they stay in the practice long enough.

Should they find themselves in conflict with a negative personality, most employees will simply leave. We all know the cost of unnecessary turnover. It is especially upsetting when it can be attributed to controllable factors.

Communicate clearly. Communication is a management science all of its own. However, mastering the following communication tips will advance the effectiveness of any leader:

Speak slowly

Make the point

Summarize the needed action

Ask for questions or feedback

Ask questions. It has been stated that "the quality of your management will be directly related to the quality of your questions." Good managers spend most of their time asking and listening - not telling. Follow the 80/20 rule: Listen 80 percent of the time and talk 20 percent of the time. Allow people to think issues through by talking out loud. Don`t interrupt - let them give you the final solution.

Although you may know exactly what has to be done, simply giving directions to people does not teach them to think. Good managers ask questions to bring people out, accelerate the thinking process, and help to define the parameters in which the practice needs to operate.

This checklist should be helpful to any dentist who aspires to improve his leadership skills. If you own a practice, it is essential today to work on becoming an excellent leader. This is especially true in light of the current labor shortages throughout the United States. Good leaders can take lesser performers and enhance their abilities, and retain excellent people by creating a positive atmosphere in which to work.

Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA, president and CEO of The Levin Group and the Levin Advanced Learning Institute, provides worldwide leadership in dental management for general dentists and specialists. Contact The Levin Group at (410) 654-1234.

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