Leadership and the dynamic team

Aug. 1, 2004
My definition of a great dental team is "a group of leaders working cohesively toward a common set of goals."

Cathy Jameson, PhD

My definition of a great dental team is "a group of leaders working cohesively toward a common set of goals."

In this definition, everyone on the team (the group) is a leader. Doctors have a specific leadership role as the owners and final decision-makers. However, I would suggest that everyone on the team has a powerful leadership responsibility. Each member of the team is a leader. You are a leader with your teammates, and you are a leader with your patients. Through all three aspects of leadership, you are creating and administering the protocols that help patients say "yes" to treatment, so that they are healthier and more attractive and you can do the kind of dentistry you want to do in the manner you prefer.

Working cohesively

Working cohesively refers to establishing and maintaining a work environment that is both healthy and productive. This kind of work environment is one that is founded upon open, congenial communication. When the lines of communication are open, people can express their support of one another, as well as their concerns. In an environment where people do not feel that they can confront each other in a caring manner — and where they fear repercussions if they do express a concern — relationships lose their strength.

In a cohesive working environment, everyone is clear about their ultimate responsibilities, and they accept those responsibilities willingly. A team that is cohesive knows that it can count on each team member to carry out his or her tasks. If anyone on the team — including the doctor — has to "wonder" if something has been done, then you have a glitch in your systems, in the team, or both. These glitches can lead to chaos and chaos breeds stress.

Dental practice systems are so intricately intertwined that each system must function synergistically with every other system or things will not work smoothly. In fact, systems that aren't working well can pit one person against another. This will quickly lead to dysfunction, not only in the practice, but in team member relationships. If you are having conflict among team members, check out the reason behind the conflict. Is it really the inability to get along ... or is it a system malfunction that is throwing people into stressful situations that pit one against the other?

Dr. Ken Blanchard says, "You never hear, 'That's not my job!' from a member of a high performing team." So, as you define and redefine position responsibilities, make sure that the last word on any job description is the word "crossover." That means that each team member is cross-trained — when and where appropriate — and is willing to "step up to the plate" to help out when a teammate needs assistance. The end result is what matters.

Toward a common set of goals

Together, as a team, develop goals that outline the end results you wish to obtain in the various systems of your practice. These goals become the guidelines — the strategic plans of action — for the work and the activities that make it possible to fulfill the ultimate mission and purpose of your practice. These goals are the stepping stones that let you turn the vision of your ideal practice into a reality. Without this strategic plan to achieve your goals, you risk floundering through the days, weeks, and months ... and your careers.

Surveys of team members indicate a strong desire to "be in on things." Team members develop a stronger sense of co-ownership when they are allowed to be a part of both the decision-making and goal-setting processes. If they participate in the creation of the goals in the first place, they will more likely support their accomplishment .

All of you are leaders. As I said at the beginning of this article, a great dental team is "a group of leaders working cohesively toward a common set of goals." Accept the responsibility that goes along with this challenge and the opportunity. You are a leader of yourself, your teammates, and your patients.

Dr. Cathy Jameson is president and CEO of Jameson Management, Inc., an international dental practice-management consulting, lecturing, seminar, and product provider. An accomplished speaker, writer, and workshop leader, Cathy earned a doctorate in organizational psychology, focusing her studies on effective stress-controlled management. Cathy's books, Great Communication = Great Production and Collect What You Produce are top sellers for PennWell Books. You may reach her toll-free at (877) 369-5558, email her at [email protected], or visit her Web site at www.jamesonmanagement.com.

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