The dentist as a "coach"

Many things are shifting as both the world and the culture we live in changes. We can hardly spend a day without picking up the paper and seeing the ramifications of the shifts in thinking within our society.

Michael Schuster, DDS

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Many things are shifting as both the world and the culture we live in changes. We can hardly spend a day without picking up the paper and seeing the ramifications of the shifts in thinking within our society. Before the days of rapidly advancing technology, things changed more slowly and more predictably, but no more.

Several things characterize our times:

• Ever-increasing complexity • Ever-increasing competition (except in small towns) • More distress • Less time • Copycat economy

There is also a major increase in expectations on the part of our patients. A satisfied need no longer motivates. Once a need is met, people start wanting more of less practical things. Things that once were only a desire become a necessity. Simply put, people today want more.

What worked in the ’80s and ’90s no longer works today, or doesn’t work as effectively as it did in the past. In spite of all this, people buy from dentists they trust. Trust is the single most important element in buying any product.

I’d like to stress two very different approaches with your patients — the traditional approach (what we were taught), the problem solving approach that focuses on what’s wrong, vs. the coaching approach, which focuses on what’s right.

Many of us have had great coaches in our lives. A coach is someone who:

• Lifts you up • Has a personal relationship with you and cares about you • Always looks for your strengths and how you can best use them • Believes in you •Makes you feel better about yourself • Challenges you

Today, the hottest thing in the corporate world is coaching. Any executive worth his or her salt has at least one coach, if for no other reason than to hold the coach accountable. Why? Success is within the grasp of the most focused, most directed, most action-oriented individuals.

So, why not use a coaching philosophy and coaching methods to help your patients improve? Rather than focusing on what’s wrong, coaches focus on what’s right. This is some guidance that can literally change the game of forming relationships with patients. Let me suggest that the coaching relationship in the hands of dentists with advanced training and skills leads to a 200% to 400% increase in case acceptance per patient. Ask yourself if there is any undone dentistry in your patients’ mouths.

When you meet a new patient, you set the tone for what kind of relationship will be developed by the type of questions you ask. If you want to move into an effective coaching style, here are questions that are asked by the highest performers (in terms of relationship, trust, and treatment acceptance). Please note that one question builds on the next.

• What’s right or what’s already working? This puts you and your patient in a positive and uplifting state of mind. This is a great way to begin any relationship.

• What makes it right or what makes it work? This helps people focus on what they have done in the past that has been successful, and it helps your patients focus on positive rather than negative results.

• What could you imagine might be ideally right? This is a future-focused question. Since all the patients’ outcomes and all your results together are in the future, it is vital for patients to imagine or envision what their future will be like.

• What is not quite right? This is a vital question because it helps patients think about any gap between where they are and where they want to be.

What should you do to make it right? This helps the patient focus on the actions or steps required to close the gap, get what they want, and create their preferred future.

I hope this helps. There is more to explore than just these questions. It is your intention and desire. If you want to form a working partnership relationship, if you care about your patients, if you want to help your patients become healthier and complete more comprehensive and systems-based dentistry, then I suggest that a coaching relationship rather than a fixer/problem-solving relationship is a major step in the right direction. Thanks to Kurt Wright for his insights.

A practicing dentist, Dr. Michael Schuster founded The Schuster Center in 1978. Guiding thousands of graduates to achieve wealth and freedom, the center is the first business school created exclusively for dentists. Dr. Schuster is a cadre and former director at the Pankey Institute, adjunct faculty at the Dawson Center, OBI, and LSU Cosmetic Continuum. Reach him at (800) 288-9393, www.SchusterCenter.com, or mschuster@cfpd.com.

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