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Practice Building 101: You actually are the “I” in team

July 18, 2023
Being the "I" in team means being the one who sets an example and models the practice mission statement. A cohesive team should acknowledge your efforts and work well together.

When I think about a dental or other office, I think of staff. Where there are people, there are interactions. These interactions range from fun to furious. We all want the perfect staff and enjoyable interactions. All relationships have ups and downs, and we know this is true in dental offices. We work in a difficult environment and patients often have heightened emotions. Therefore, we need a great team, and we need great teamwork. 

Working as a team requires people to have certain qualities that allow them to work together. Everyone has a back story, but when someone comes to work, they should leave personal events at home. How does someone work hard, stay focused, and do a great job when there is chaos at home? Most of us do not live in isolation and we interact with people all day. 

I was told by a practice consultant that “Broadway actors leave their troubles at the stage door, and on stage it’s showtime.” While they perform the same show every night, we have a different “show” in every patient interaction. We need a different set of skills than actors. We also need a very supportive staff who works together. 

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There actually is an “I” in team 

When we say there is no “I” in team, it means we don’t focus on individuals, but on the group. But leaders must often be the “I,” the individual, to put forth the vision of the practice. 

I’ve written often about having a mission statement and telling the staff what that statement is. Mission statements often proclaim that the office will provide the highest quality care to the greatest number of patients while maintaining a balance between personal and professional lives. Does your staff know your mission, and do you live it yourself? 

Having a team in place who understands you’re the “I” of the office requires each person to perform their role as best as they can. This isn’t easy, but working together does make it somewhat easier. There are tasks that must happen to make this work, and when the team works toward a goal that they all understand, it leads to a great office environment. 

I’m sure many of you are thinking, “This is easier said than done!” Yes, the teamwork model requires some truly hard work. It succeeds when everyone believes in each other and can count on not being let down. We’re harnessing the power of many hands to make the load light. 

What makes a good team member? 

A true team member does not need to be in the limelight or receive the credit. They want the team to succeed. Overcoming difficult situations together brings pride to everyone. All input and skills are valuable. A negative person can really bring down the team. We need all people to bring their positive. 

When there’s conflict, everyone should be treated with respect. Putting principles over personalities is hard to do because sometimes people simply don’t like each other. Conflict resolution requires everyone to be honest and forthright. Conflict needs to be resolved quickly or it can become destructive. If everyone shares the workload, most things work out. But the “I” must work hard also. The staff is very much watching how the “I” works and handles themselves in the office. 

Knowing each other’s strengths allows the team to work more effectively. Many times in our office, a team member will hand off a procedure “the other person is better at,” and things go smoother. This is also true in a multidoctor office. But the egos of the doctors must be in check. You cannot be the best at everything. You must recognize that in both your dental procedures and your staff management style. 

If you have a team that will do whatever it takes to get the job done, you’re truly lucky. As a team they share the burdens and work side by side. People who are stronger in one aspect should work with those who need to improve their skills. They’ll either rise to the challenge or choose not be part of the team. Together they can make each other better.

My intentions are to share ideas and strategies that will build your practice, vision, and team. You team will be firmly behind you if they understand your vision. You are the “I” in the team.

Editor's note: This article appeared in the July 2023 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.

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