How to Build a High-Performing Dental Team, Even If They’re Driving You Crazy!

Office Management

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Steve Jobs was no dentist. 

But, like every dentist, he had a team.

Unfortunately, here’s a complaint I hear from too many dentists: “My team is driving me crazy!”

How does it happen? 

How do things go wrong with our teams?

Is the problem with you or them?

Well, I have a very easy answer for you, doctor. 

The problem with your dental team starts with you. 

But that’s actually good news. Because you can fix the problem, build a better team, and do more great things in your practice -- starting today.

Let’s start by answering a simple question: Who choses team members?

That would be you, doctor.

Who's responsible for creating the systems they follow? 

You. 

Who is responsible for teaching the systems they follow? 

You. 

Who's responsible for enforcing those systems? 

Again, you. 

Who is allowing those C, D and F players to remain on the team, which discourages your best players and often leads to them leaving, which makes your team weaker and weaker over time? 

Yes, that’s you.

Do you get the picture?

The fact is, if your team is under-performing, you can do something about it. But the power to change your team only begins when you recognize that the responsibility for poor performance lies not with them, but with you -- the leader.

Power comes when you take responsibility. 

There are two steps you can take to do that.

First, lead the team in setting standards for performance. Don’t simply dictate to them. Because people resent arbitrary rules handed down from on high. But they support what they help create. 

Second, hold everyone accountable to meeting those standards. I know enforcement is one of the things that we like to do least, but it can be simple. As simple as noticing when work is not meeting standards. “I noticed that you're doing this, let's go ahead and get back on track and get back onto those standards that we all agreed to.” That's all it takes. 

(For more ways to lead your team to higher performance, download the Free Report, 3 Secrets to High-Performing Dental Teams)



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For each value you want your team to embody, you want to create a behavior guide, which is five or six actions that demonstrate what it looks like to live that value in your practice. 

Does that sound a little too warm and fuzzy? Flaky perhaps?

No. 

Values have very real consequences for your production in the wake of COVID-19-19.

But what if, in addition to leading a team, you’re struggling to build a team in the wake of staff departures due to COVID-19?

Finally, to give you a clear look at how your teams are performing, we developed The Practice Culture Quiz. It’s only 8 questions long, but delivers actionable insights you can use to build a strong culture. 

The full quiz with 8 questions is available in the Free Report, 3 Secrets to High-Performing Dental Teams, but here are 3 sample questions to give you a taste:


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One proven way to build a culture of high performance is to identify The 12 Profit Chokepoints we have found in every dental practice. Then focus on “clearing” each of those choke points until you have optimized all 12.

First, an important word about profit

We talk about profit and money because they’re an important metric in business. The health of your practice is immediately visible when we look at the profits in your practice.

But success in dentistry is not about the money. It can’t be! Because if your motivation is purely for profit ... your team can tell ... and your patients can tell. They can almost smell it. And you will lose them all eventually, both team and patients. 

What we've learned is that doing the right thing for the patient, at the right time every time, is the only way we end up driving up profits. Higher profits are a byproduct that come when you provide patients with higher care. That's the only lasting and sure path to take.

Now, with that out of the way, here are 5 of The 12 Profit Chokepoints to measure and improve in your practice: 

1. How well are we capturing incoming calls, texts, emails, chat?
Are we getting all of it? Half of it? Most practices don't know. Most practices think they're capturing all of it, but I can promise you they aren't. 

2. When we have treatment discussions, how much do they choose?
Do they choose some of it or all of it? Why or why not? 

3. Is payment understood and arranged for?
If not, we may end up doing patient care for free without knowing ahead of time 

4. How efficient is our treatment?
Are hygienists taking two hours to do an adult prophy patient? Or are they working more efficiently

5. Are all patients leaving with an appointment?
Most dentists think so, but the reality is far different.

So, there you have 5 of The 12 Profit Chokepoints. Every one of them matters. Yet most practices measure only a few, if any. 

(The full list of 12 Profit Chokepoints is available in the Free Report, 3 Secrets to High-Performing Dental Teams)

Question #1: How do you communicate your vision, values and goals?

A. Nobody knows what our vision, values or goals are
B. The doctor knows, but the team doesn’t
C. Every team member can recite the vision, values and goals when asked

Question #2: How do you resolve conflict as a leader?

A. I ignore it because I hate conflict
B. I deal with it because resolving conflict is a necessary evil
C. Who said conflict has to be a bad thing? I take it as an opportunity to learn, so I tackle it head-on

Question #3: Do people tend to stay with your practice for a long time?

A. No. I don’t even bother learning people’s names anymore

B. They usually stick it out for a year or two, but then most people move on

C. Many of our employees have been with us for 3 to 10 years, and they’ve worked their way up to a management level. Once people join our family, it’s hard to say goodbye

How did you score yourself?

  • A answers are signs of a weak culture
  • B answers are in between
  • C answers are signs of a strong culture

One last observation about building a high-performance culture. It’s important to realize that doctors can’t do this alone.

Dentistry is a team sport. 

When your team becomes your partners, case acceptance, patient satisfaction, and team engagement all increase. Sometimes dramatically. 

Here’s a simple, clever way to emphasize to build a high-performing team. We saw it in a very sophisticated and successful practice. 

In their huddle room, they had cards hanging on the wall. On each card was written an ideal behavior, based on their values. In every morning huddle, they would pick a card, read the behavior, then pass it around the room. Each person had to point out someone who demonstrated that behavior well. So, they were constantly reinforcing their ideal behaviors, every single day.

Not surprisingly, they had a strong, high-performance culture, with tremendous operational excellence. In fact, that practice was doing $60,000 per op, per month, in net production and collections. 

They were doing great things because they had a great team.


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