Finding your voice in the dental practice

Have you ever had an employee with outstanding personal qualities that you found admirable, but the person just didn’t seem to mesh with your style of practice? On the other hand, perhaps the employee was outstanding in one area of your practice but, unfortunately, it was not the position for which he or she was hired.

Have you ever had an employee with outstanding personal qualities that you found admirable, but the person just didn’t seem to mesh with your style of practice? On the other hand, perhaps the employee was outstanding in one area of your practice but, unfortunately, it was not the position for which he or she was hired. In addition, there is always the person who just doesn’t seem to “fit in” with the other employees, or the person who appears to have a lackluster approach to life in general. What’s a manager to do?

In this age of the “systems approach” to dentistry, finding employees who think alike and can readily slip into any job in the office appears to have gained considerable favor. If an employee is unable to perform his or her job, another office worker can readily step in to fill the gap, either short- or long-term, with little disruption to the normal office routine. It sounds good, but for individuals who value their unique contributions to the office, this can be very unfulfilling, to say the least. So what role does the office manager or dentist play in not only the personal growth of the office, but in the personal growth of the individual employee? Is the dentist or office manager a mentor as well?

Some offices have a “litmus test” and only hire individuals who have a disease called “BLM.” BLM is perceived as a favorable disease, and is believed to promote harmony and enhance work performance. The disease is rampant, and its full name is “Be Like Me.” Some individuals are not hired because of traits that may actually add to the office climate rather than subtract from it. Not all patients are alike in their personalities, so shouldn’t the office staff be varied as well?

The concept of varied personalities may pose a dilemma for the dentist or manager in terms of hiring practices and promoting harmony with the staff. There is a balance in helping employees reach their personal growth potentials and simultaneously promoting practice growth. Certain strengths can be great assets to an office in all areas of development, whether it is innovation, organization, a personable environment, health promotion, or change (which is inevitable).

We all possess varied characteristics in a continuum of intensity that may change depending upon lifestyle factors, personal growth, life experiences, and stages of life. Marcus Buckingham, in his article, “What Great Managers Do,” states that managers who excel tend to focus on the release of the individual and not the transformation of a person.

In other words, the manager is constantly tweaking the environment so he or she is able to bring out the best qualities in each employee. A useful instrument that can help office personnel gain an understanding of themselves and other team members is the MBTI®, or Myers/Briggs Type Indicator.

The instrument has been widely used in team building, organizational development, education, and career counseling. Millions have taken the MBTI, which has been translated into many languages. The basic premise is that we all have unique gifts that we bring to the world and, by channeling and supporting these gifts, we promote personal growth in the individual within the organization.

No one type is better than another because we all have special gifts to offer. Individuals do gravitate toward personal pursuits and work areas that enhance their preferences. By focusing on what motivates an employee or colleague, a dentist or manager can direct the person toward those tasks that have meaning for the individual and, at the same time, promote the organization.

So, how does all this apply to the dental office? This approach provides a direct benefit as well as an incidental benefit - not only does productivity increase when there is team harmony, but also the realization that each member is contributing to the well being of one another.

Are you a mentor who sees an opportunity to serve the patient population and uplift your team, assisting them to become all that they can be in life? The rewards to team members and one’s self are enriched in helping others discover their true gifts.

Clearly, you and your team benefit, but the enrichment also is carried through to your patients and to society. We know the health benefits of having a sense of control in our environment and the rewards of a harmonious working atmosphere. The mentoring spirit is never wasted, and the benefits can be astounding!

References are available upon request. Contact the author or e-mail teda@pennwell.com.

Dr. Burkhart is an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Periodontics at Baylor College of Dentistry, Dallas, Texas. She is a part-time faculty member at the University of North Carolina Charlotte in the Department of Health Behavior and Administration. Dr. Burkhart conducts seminars via her company, “Setting New Standards in Dentistry.” She can be reached via e-mail at nburkhart@bcd.tamhsc.edu.

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