Smart goals

Dentists are very goal-oriented people. The list of achievements required to excel through high school, college, dental school, and then practice acquisition can only be accomplished by those with a strong dedication to their personal goals.

Dr. Michael Gradeless

Dentists are very goal-oriented people. The list of achievements required to excel through high school, college, dental school, and then practice acquisition can only be accomplished by those with a strong dedication to their personal goals. For most of us, goal-setting has become a way of life. Success in our lives up to the point when we acquire a dental practice is due to our success in achieving individual goals. But success in a dental practice is totally different.

Success in your dental practice will be determined by how well you motivate others to achieve the goals you have set! You cannot achieve your practice goals by yourself. You will continue to have individual goals, but they can only be achieved within the context of your practice goals. For example, if you want to perform more implant dentistry, the practice must be successful enough to pay for implant instruments and components and allow you time for continuing education. In addition, you must be successful at influencing patients to accept implant treatment. The driving individualism that helped you get through dental school may actually be counterproductive for influencing goal-directed behavior in others. Understanding the SMART principles of goal-setting can help.

SMART stands for specific, measurable, action, receivable, and timely.

• SPECIFIC — When you share a goal with your team, make sure it is very specific. Too often goals are expressed in vague terms such as, "We need to increase production," or "Our office should have great teamwork." These statements will not inspire your team, because there is no way for them to know how to reach the goal.

• MEASURABLE — Whatever the goal, you must develop a method of measuring progress. Being able to see early, short-term progress is very motivational, while goals that take too long to show progress simply don't get worked on.

As the leader of the practice, you may have to break your ultimate goal into smaller components to maintain motivation. For example, if you want to restore 25 implant cases in the next year, a better goal for the team might be discussing implant treatment with 75 patients. Your team can be motivated by success at discussing treatment with patients on the first day, even though the first implant restoration may not happen for three months. The lag time between case acceptance and implant restoration is one of the reasons behind the small number of implants restored by most dentists.

• ACTION — The goal must call for some specific action by everyone. While you are formulating a goal, come up with ways for everyone to be involved. You don't want half of your team deciding they don't have to do anything.

• RECEIVABLE — Choose the time and manner of introducing the goal carefully. Your team will not be as excited about the new goals as you are. You will have thought about them and examined them from all directions, but your team has not had that opportunity. Others cannot receive your goals positively unless they have time to think and talk about them. Present goals when there is enough time for your team to examine them as thoroughly as you have.

• TIMELY — Consider the time frame for your goal. Everyone has a million-dollar practice. Some of us produce it in one year; some of us take three. Set an aggressive time limit for your goal. If you end up close, it may still be time to do the dance of joy!

Only those people who are goal-oriented become dentists. We assume that after all these years of achieving goals, if we continue to do the same thing, we will continue our success. Examine your goal-setting procedures and use the SMART parameters to lead your team in working toward practice goals

Dr. Michael Gradeless, a 1980 graduate of Indiana University, practices preventive dentistry in Indianapolis with an emphasis on cosmetics and implants. He is an adjunct faculty member at Indiana University where he teaches the Pride Institute university curriculum of dental management. He is also the editor for the Indiana Dental Association. Contact him at (317) 841-3130 or email: drmike44@aol.com.

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