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Let’s Talk About How to Create Exceptional Employee Engagement

The success of a dental practice begins with a strong customer service culture.  That culture comes as a result of creating a culture of respect and empowerment of your team.  Every dentist desires to have a self-managed team.  One that he/she can trust to do the best that they can do in any given situation. When your employees are fully engaged in your practice, there is no limit to what you can accomplish as a team.

How to you develop a culture of engagement?  It starts with a clear, strong vision that gets people excited about working in your practice.  Employees begin to have an owner mentality when they are empowered; even to the point of staying at your office when someone else offers them more money.  You see, team members leave because they don’t agree with the quality of care and/or treatment philosophy more than for money.  They stay because they love the vision and the care they are able to give to patients in your office.  They believe in you and the quality of your dentistry.  They stay and become engaged when they feel a sense of belonging. Therefore, your job and that of your team leaders is to create community.  Everyone longs for a place where they belong, where they feel connected, cared for, supported and that they are an important part of the larger picture.

Leadership is the key to creating the team and culture you desire.  Some are natural born leaders and others have to work at it.  Trust me, it’s worth every minute you spend studying and training to become a better leader.  Having an engaged team is paramount to your practice success. I believe that there is no competition in dentistry only advantages.  Lee Colan and Julie Davis-Colan in their book The Power of Positive Coaching say, “the only sustainable competitive advantage is an organization’s talent and how well that talent delivers its product or service.” If this is true and I definitely believe it is, your leadership skills and that of your team leaders becomes very important. Doesn’t it? Being a leader involves being a coach; one who encourages and gives his/her team the tools needed to succeed at their job.

I’ve spoken with many dentists over the years and the vast majorities utilize the meatloaf technique of leadership.  Let me explain.  You have meatloaf for dinner one night.  You cover it with foil and put the leftovers in the refrigerator.  Time passes and it gets pushed to the back, overlooked, and forgotten, no time to deal with it.  Until the day comes when you can’t stand it any longer and decide things need to be sorted out.  You pull back the foil on the meatloaf only to find a moldy mess that now has to be thrown out.  Team members are often treated very much like the meatloaf I’ve just described.  They do something you don’t like but you hate confrontation so you don’t tell them.  You overlook it just like the meatloaf that keeps getting pushed to the back.  Then one day after what they are doing continues to happen, you get to the point where you’ve had it and you explode! You let them have it and they quit wondering what happened because you never told them, never gave them an employee review and just kept hoping the problem would go away so you could do the dentistry you love.  Don’t wait till a problem gets so bad that you end up firing the person or having them quit because you blow up unexpectedly.

No one enjoys confrontation.  Issues have to be addressed soon after they occur so that the team member understands what they need to do to correct a matter.  They deserve that and you will find your life is less stressful when things are handled properly.  Learn to be a positive coach.  Look for the best in your team.  Declare that you have the best team in the city. That you love the people you work with.  You get what you expect so begin expecting the best.

Learn to celebrate the small victories.  Don’t wait to the end of the month to celebrate meeting your goal.  Celebrate a great collection day, a day where you reach or go over your daily goal.  Make your practice a fun place to work.  If you are not good at being a cheerleader, find the person on your team who is and give them permission to create a celebration.  It may just be words – thanking everyone for making it happen.  It could be written notes, a single flower for each team member or a $5.00 gift card to Starbucks or your local ice cream store.  Mix it up and enjoy each day.

Everyone reading this article is much more than a dentist; a practice owner—you have a unique opportunity to make a difference not by creating smiles that change lives but something even bigger. You can change the lives of your team members and that in turn improves their family dynamic.Train your team in communication. This not only improves your case acceptance but if you utilize your training time correctly, you can change the way they communicate with each other in the office, and their families at home. Therefore creating a happier work environment for all.