Create a positive team culture that will allow for productivity to soar, enjoy YOUR job and create a world-class experience for your patients. Patients will be able to sense when a team is happy, cohesive and working toward overall patient health and love coming to see you. Listen in for tips and tricks on positive culture and leadership skills to create a committed team and not just a compliant team. Whether you’re a Doctor, in a leadership position or want to be a great contributor to your dental team. This podcast is a great one for you!! As mentioned in this episode, if you’d like more information on the team training institute book or the summit Scroll to the bottom of this post!
To better understand how our team thinks this could fit into your office request a roadmap call at the bottom of the page!
Like what you hear? Download our book here on this page!
EP11: ‘Team Leader Tips and Tricks you can use Tomorrow’ Transcript
S1 00:00:02.414 [music] Welcome to the Double Your Production podcast with the Team Training Institute, the one place designed for dentists and their staff who want to grow their practices by following in the footsteps of those that have done it, who are in the trenches, who know exactly what you’re going through. And now your leaders, the stars of the podcast, Dr. John Meis and Wendy Briggs. [music]
S2 00:00:29.015 Hello, everybody. This is Wendy Briggs, and this is Dr. John Meis, here with the Double Your Production podcast. How are we doing, Dr. John?
S3 00:00:35.894 Hey, we’re doing awesome today, Wendy. I love this topic that we have today because it’s one of the places where practices really get a lot of leverage in improving productivity. So we’re going to be talking to two team leaders about how to be a great team leader. So when we use the term team leader in the context of this podcast, we are talking about office managers, clinic administrators. We’re using those words interchangeably on this podcast. So I’m excited to dig in to this and talk about some of the things that we have seen, as people take on this role and become really well-developed and well-skilled at it, some of the things that they need to learn. So, Wendy, what’s first on your list?
S2 00:01:19.227 Well, I think we’ve been asked to talk about how to be an exceptional or world-class team leader. And I think there’s a lot of valuable lessons we can learn here. We talk a lot about core values and the culture of the practice and how the leaders really determine that and help to set that tone, if you will. And so when I look at some of the amazing team leaders we’ve worked with over the years and we– I have always said – I know you’d agree with me, Dr. John – that we are so blessed to work with such incredible people. They teach us so much more than we teach them sometimes. And when I look at team leaders that really fulfill their role well, it is about monitoring the progress of the practice, not necessarily the people on their teams. And what I mean by that is making sure that we are building our people up. And I guess I’m really trying to illustrate, we’re looking for a leader, not a manager. People don’t want to be managed. They want to be led. And so–
S3 00:02:27.045 Very true.
S2 00:02:27.367 –when we look at how some team leaders– I think the most successful recognize this, that monitoring people is easier, but it doesn’t help. And if we’re trying to monitor people instead of monitoring progress, this becomes a detrimental thing and works against a positive team culture.
S3 00:02:44.468 So one of the mistakes that is common among early team leaders, earlier in their development, is that they think they’re the police, basically, that they’re going around telling people what they’re doing wrong. And the problem with that approach is that you start to deflate people. You’re lowering people’s confidence and people don’t work well when their confidence level is low, and now pretty much no one’s willing to do anything other than what you tell them. And so you are driving the practice to a place where, at best, what you’re going to get from team members is compliance to the laws. But practices that focus on compliance [are?] never able to get really kind of the true commitment of their team. So they tend to have low team creativity. They tend to have low team engagement. They tend to have high turnover. And we know that when a practice has high team turnover, we know they also have high patient turnover. One begets the other. So that approach really doesn’t work, does it, Wendy?
S2 00:03:56.653 No, it doesn’t work at all. And we could share so many little tidbits of what doesn’t work when we have– I think you’ve called them checklist Nazis before, where there’s someone who’s really enforcing to the negatives. And we see teams that have a rule book or a policy manual that’s inches. It maybe looks like our tax returns. It’s super thick. And we’ve gotten to this place where we’re penalizing the entire team for a few random mistakes in the past. We’ve got to get away from that and recognize that we’re trying to lead our team. And the best way to lead our team and maintain a positive culture is to get their commitment, not just compliance.
S3 00:04:49.182 And really how you get their commitment is you obviously need to do audits to make sure that we’re making progress. So there’s numbers that you have to track. If the numbers aren’t going as expected, there’s adjustments that need to be made. But those audits are minimal. And when there are changes to be made, they’re made in a way that really improves people’s confidence. So it creates clarity on what’s expected and it creates confidence in order for people to perform at a different level. So the focus on individuals– so I have the greatest example of this, Wendy. There’s a practice that we work with that they had one of these very thick manuals, operations manuals. In fact, they called it, The Bible. And this bible went into detail. And so it said, for instance, “In the front desk, in the desk drawer, in the penholder there should be a blue and a red and a green pen.” It went down to that level of specificity. And then somebody was walking around making sure, kind of basically yelling at people if they didn’t have the right pens in the right order in their drawer. And to me that level of audit is kind of silly. What I’d be more interested in knowing is are we answering the phones well? Are we collecting money at the desk? Are we having financial conversations? Are we doing third-party– I’d be doing all the big things. Something little like that will fall into place if you’re focusing on all the big things.
S2 00:06:39.018 Right. And I think as well, when you said you’re focusing on individuals, I think it’s super important too that sometimes we find– there’s a great book that we have a lot of our members read and it’s the Yes Philosophy, right? And I think sometimes we get to this place because our focus is on these policies and procedures and the minutia of the day that we sometimes lose sight of the most important person in our practice, and that’s our patients, right? And so sometimes I think– having so many policies, one of the things that I’ve seen is that the policies in some ways begin to dictate patient treatment in a negative. And so I think we’ve got to be careful with having so many policies. Sometimes we find that the policies themselves become a barrier to patient acceptance. But they certainly also become a barrier to team development and team commitment. And so we want to make sure that we’re handling these things in the smartest possible way. And as a team leader, recognize that your goal is to develop your people. And developing your people is an important part of this job And so we’d love to say when you have the responsibility to lead your team, is that a pretty simple policy that we learned from HubSpot, and it’s to use good judgment. I love that. Use good judgment. When you make your decisions day to day on how to develop your team, use good judgment. And that’ll help a lot. So when we look at that, using good judgment, small wins on a daily basis can be a great motivator for people, celebrating the small wins rather than nitpicking the small problems. We love to see you celebrating the small wins.
S3 00:08:21.803 For sure. Somebody told me a joke one time that– well, it maybe not be a joke [laughter], but they said that good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment. And so that process goes through for all of us is that we make mistakes, they’re painful, we learn from them, we get better judgment as time goes on. And so one of the common things that blocks team leaders from doing their job effectively is when the doctor interferes with their responsibilities. Have you ever heard this one, Wendy?
S2 00:08:58.124 Oh, gosh, just about every day practically.
S3 00:09:00.197 Yep. And so one of the ways to visit with doctors about this– so team leader you’ve got something that you think would help the practice be better. And when you package that for the dentist, you basically are thinking through what change you want to make, how it’s going to be rolled out, and how you’re going to engage the team in making it work. And then go to the doctor and say, “I intend to do this.” Lay it all out for him. Get the doctor’s advice. Get the doctor’s counsel because he or she may have wonderful ideas to make it even better. As the trust level goes up and the size– I would use this with a small decision at first, to help get kind of linked in with how the doctor thinks and feels. And so once you’re kind of linked in, instead of saying, “I intend to,” say, “I am doing this.” And once the judgment gets even better at your weekly meeting, you’re saying, “I did this. This is what I did on this and this and this.” And again, the concept is to get feedback and adjustment. But as you do that, the doctor’s confidence in your decision-making abilities will improve. So.
S2 00:10:29.275 I love that.
S3 00:10:31.626 Yeah.
S2 00:10:32.609 I love that. And one of the things that we find is as your ability to influence and motivate your team improves, as your judgment improves and you recognize, okay, things are moving along, and the team is responding very well because you’ve focused on using good judgment. You’ve got a good culture and core value in place. One of the things that I think good team leaders do is they do get buy-in of the teams. I view this in many ways like a coach. There’s certain coaches that are beloved by their players and there’s other coaches that are not. And the coaches that are beloved by their players get maximum performance out of those players. I’ve seen coaches where the players will crawl over broken glass if that’s what the coach asks them to do. And in some ways as a team leader, you’re fulfilling that responsibility. You’re trying to develop and grow your people and you become, in many ways, like their coach. You’re their leader but you’re also providing the tools and the counsel and the systems to help them grow and become better. And so I think in some ways one of the things we need to recognize is that if you really wanted to maximize the performance for your people, you do have to assume some of the persona of a beloved coach. One of the reasons why we invited coach Tommy Bowden to come speak to our Champions of Dentistry Summit is because we have found that especially coaches have a lot of really incredible tips and bring value to team leaders. A lot of things that they did to motivate and inspire their teams we can also do and demonstrate, motivate, and inspire our teams.
S3 00:12:11.564 For sure. People are people, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re in sports or in business or in charities or whatever it is. People are people and leaders– you can learn a tremendous amount from leaders on how they get people to engage in what they want and to do it because they want to. So–
S2 00:12:35.114 Right. And the opposite end– side of that is also true. Sometimes it’s not always puppy dogs and roses and sometimes– we heard a statistic that 75% of the time when people quit their job they don’t quit their job; they quit their boss. So we’ve also seen team leaders that don’t focus on [causitivity?]. We’ve seen the opposite effect. We have seen teams destroyed from having an ineffective team leader as well.
S3 00:13:06.596 Yeah, for sure. The places where team leaders fail most often, Wendy, what do you think?
S2 00:13:16.157 Where team leaders fail most often?
S3 00:13:17.312 Yeah.
S2 00:13:18.992 Gosh, there’s a lot of– that would be an interesting podcast too wouldn’t it, Dr. John, to talk about what not to do as a team leader. I think we already discussed it and that is focusing more on compliance and not commitment, pointing out the small failures, pointing out what not to do, focusing on the negative all the time, rather than focusing on the positive. People want to be where things are positive. There’s actual science behind that, an organism rotates towards the sunlight, right, if you just think about a sunflower. And we sent a book to our diamond members a few months ago on positive leadership and strategies for extraordinary performance, and it focuses on that scientific principle where people want to be [inaudible] [leader?]. Yeah, go ahead, Dr. John.
S3 00:14:08.304 Yeah, I was just going to say, finding people doing things right, giving attention to the people that are doing things right and are high performers while encouraging those that need to step it up, that’s what great team leaders do. So the time that you have favorites, because they’re better performers, now you’re disengaging the rest of the team. So being able to spotlight the ones that are doing really well, while giving a hand-up or a lift-up to the ones that need to improve their performance, is some of the magic. Team leaders that don’t do that end up having with high team turnover and it– team turnover begets patient turnover.
S2 00:14:52.720 It certainly does. I think I love this quote; someone rightly said, “We always get more from people by building a fire within them than we do by building a fire under them.” And speaking of fire, you have a great analogy that you use when you’re talking about team leaders and how they deal with office drama – there’s inevitably going to be some of that – and I love how you talk about having two buckets.
S3 00:15:13.907 Sure. So we all walk around all day with one bucket full of water and one bucket full of gas, and great team leaders, when there’s office drama, they understand that that’s the time to use the water and to drown out the fire of that drama. They also have that other pail that has gas on it, and so when we see that there’s a way to improve the practice, to improve performance, to improve engagement, they’re pouring gas on that, making sure that the positive things happen much more easily and the more negative things are damped down.
S2 00:15:50.940 Right. And we see, I mean, like if you ask, when do team leaders fail, or when have we seen struggles with team leaders, it’s almost always because they’re using the gas. They feed the drama rather than squashing [it?]. And sometimes the doctors are the ones with the bucket of gasoline. And so knowing how to manage all of the personalities within the team is really an important part of the team leader role. And I love how you teach this principle so well about how, really, the team leader and the doctor become a collaborative team. Not just one doctor– if there’s multiple doctors, sometimes there’s got to be a lot of – how can you say? – juggling of personalities in this role. And it’s an important part of the job.
S3 00:16:39.556 Oh, it really is. And it obviously isn’t easy. But team leaders really should be the glue that holds people together, that knows when to push people a little bit, and when to accept their idiosyncrasies.
S2 00:17:01.206 Yeah. I love that. Real quick Dr. John – this has been such a great topic today – do you think we could end by just talking about a couple of skills that we feel like team leaders need to be actively working on developing or certain attributes that we feel are important for team leaders to have? I think it’s always helpful, even if the people listening already are team leaders, this can give them a few things that they might want to set some goals on for their own personal development. And even if those listening aren’t team leaders yet, but strive to become team leaders one day, or if it’s doctors just wanting to know how to maximize the role of team leader in their practice, I think giving some guidance on the skill sets and the attributes that we have found really important, I think would be helpful.
S3 00:17:43.668 You bet. So one of the skills that I think every leader should be working on is their ability to influence people through words and stories. People learn really well through stories. So being a more influential instructor, or teacher, or guider, is one of the things I really think every leader should be working on consistently. There’s lots of good books and programs that you can take to improve [this?] skill, and it’s really probably the most important skill for any leader.
S2 00:18:25.490 I would agree. I think you and Heather have also taught me a lot about the importance of listening. Being a good listener too, giving full attention to what people are saying and making sure that you’re asking good questions is an important part of being a leader as well. Because people are going to bring new challenges, or problems, and concerns, and if you give off the persona that you just don’t have enough time or this is an interruption and I’m too busy to listen, that’s not going to go well. And there’s opportunities that [you’ll be?] missing by not listening.
S3 00:18:56.300 Yeah, for sure. And what is a challenge for people is to be able to value the fact that someone’s giving their opinion or giving their ideas, even though you disagree with them, but you still value the fact that they’re willing to do this. And on our TTI Team, we have really talented, smart people that have high levels of assertiveness and they don’t always agree. And so Wendy and I work real hard on making sure that all of our team is able to express themselves throughout their ideas and really talk it through. And I value that so much, even if I don’t agree with what they’re saying. But giving them the confidence to be able to speak their mind, many times they think of something that I hadn’t or maybe Wendy hadn’t. That is so valuable.
S2 00:19:49.072 Yeah. I agree with that completely. Another key skill or attribute that I think is important is someone who’s really actively focused on serving and helping other people. Obviously, our patients come to us for our help, and so I think this is a very important skill and attribute for a team leader to have, is to recognize that it’s always about the patient. We like to say, “The patient comes before the team. And the team comes before the individual.” So someone who can rightly understand that and keep focused on taking the best possible care of our patients, providing that world-class patient experience and going above and beyond the needs of our patients, I think is a very important attribute for a team leader.
S3 00:20:29.089 And looking for any way that the practice is blocking people from doing that, so they’re really the one that makes it easy for everybody to be successful. If there’s any blockages or any difficulties, they’re taking care of it, so that our teams can do their absolute best for every single patient. And one last [inaudible]– or there’s–
S2 00:20:50.577 Absolutely. Another thing that I think is really important–
S3 00:20:52.758 Go ahead.
S2 00:20:55.336 I was just going to say– yeah, let me throw in one more and then you can go with your one last one.
S3 00:20:59.086 Okay.
S2 00:20:59.202 I think time management is super critical, managing your own time, but also knowing how to manage the time of other people as well as managing personal resources, managing personnel. We talked about how early stage skills can be making a schedule and things like that. So managing the resources of the practice, including time, super important.
S3 00:21:18.937 You bet. And making sure that we’re looking– that we’re always recruiting, finding the best people that we can for the job, making sure that we’re moving people around the office as necessary to make sure that they’re in the right seat on the bus, so to say, so that they can use their skills, the things that they’re good at and enjoy, most often. So yeah, that’s a good list.
S2 00:21:43.163 Fantastic. Well, very good. I would go ahead and invite any of our listeners today– we mentioned a couple of podcasts. We’ve mentioned our Champions of Dentistry Summit. This meeting is always super good every year. And as I said, coming up to our 2018 summit, we’ve invited coach Tommy Bowden to be one of our celebrity speakers, and I know that he’ll bring a lot of great value on how to inspire and lead a team to success. He comes from a long history of successful coaches and so I’m really excited to hear what he has to say as well. So those that are looking for more inspiration and guidance on developing your team and team leaders can visit the link for our Champions of Dentistry Summit. And there will be some really great insights, I’m sure, that he has to share with us as well.
S3 00:22:28.899 For sure. I’m looking forward to it.
S2 00:22:32.502 Very good. Well, as always, a great topic today, Dr. John. I certainly appreciate all of the of the advice and insights that you have.
S3 00:22:42.220 Same back at you, Wendy. Thanks for the great podcast. And we’ll look to have some additional great podcasts in the future.
S2 00:22:51.692 [music] Thanks everybody for listening.