The 4 C’s of Team Building by Bonnie Pugh

Dentaltown Magazine
by Bonnie Pugh

No matter how smart, talented, driven or passionate you are, your success in dentistry is not guaranteed unless you can also build and inspire a team. A successful leader is one who inspires his or her team to work in synergy toward common goals.

All orthodontic practices face the time crunch and as the practice owner, main producer and emotional leader, the art of team building is often lost. Adding team building back into the mix can increase a practice's productivity, uplift morale and even lower stress.

These four C's are areas to concentrate on that will engage your team, keep focus and ultimately achieve success in the practice.

Team members need to understand what their role is, where they are going and how they will get there. Clear, defined expectations are a valuable commodity in the business world that can save a lot of time in the long term, but establishing them in the beginning will prove to be one of the more time-consuming parts of setting your practice up for future success. Taking the time to plan and write down goals will create an environment of clear expectations and unlimited potential for both you and your team.

Do you have clearly defined mission and vision statements? If not, start by creating them. If you do, review them and make sure they are still relevant.

A vision statement is a long-term perspective that outlines where you want to be. Think of it as your North Star; if you're ever feeling lost, you can always look to see if you're at least heading in the correct direction.

In five years, what do you want your world to look like? It answers the question "Where do we aim to be?" When creating your vision statement assume your office will be on the cover of a magazine in five years. What do you hope your cover story is about?

A mission statement talks about why we exist and how we will get to where we want to be. It answers the questions "What do we do?" and "What makes us different?" A mission statement should be short, memorable and inspiring. When it's complete give it the T-shirt test: Will it fit on a tee and would you and your team wear it?

Know your numbers. Your numbers are a priority, so know what they look like and what they mean. Do a complete overhead analysis to make sure your house is healthy and your income and expenses are inline. Next move to your production and collection and gather key performance indicators from your practice management system. Determine what's working and what's not.

After the number analysis is complete and you have all your key data points, move to planning the next several years. There are specific questions to ask, like:

  • What production/collection goals must you meet to achieve your goals?
  • How will your expenses increase?
  • Do you want to be able to work less but make more?
  • Will you add equipment?
  • Will you add team members?
  • Will you add new types of dentistry?
  • These are just a few of the questions you should be answering during this process. Bottom line it is imperative to get and keep your numbers healthy.

In addition to goals, bonus systems for the team should be considered. Bonus systems should always be based around approaching or exceeding goals.

Constant communication is key in any relationship, and your dental team is no different. Remain vigilant of your overall vision and hold regular meetings to stay focused on your goals. Don't let time or the lack of it get in the way of regular meetings as a team.

Morning huddles. Hold daily morning huddles with a focus on making sure the day stays as stress-free and productive as possible. Have key points to cover during the morning huddle; keep it brief and on topic.

Monthly team meetings. Once a month set aside a few hours to hold a team meeting that lets the group participate and engage in a session that's both fun and productive. Cover items that need to be discussed as a group, but also target one area to focus on that will allow the group to improve skills and work as a team. Adding activities to these meetings can help bring out new ideas, excitement and a renewed sense of community. Don't be afraid to have a little fun occasionally.

Visual goal monitor. Create a visual reminder of goals and bonus progress. This should be creative and easy to read. Have the team participate in the creation and update of the visual tool. Make it fun!

Vision board. Create a vision board for the entire team. Have them place pictures that represent their visions. Create a visual reminder for why they do what they do on a daily basis.

Education. Look for learning opportunities in your dental community that meet the objectives of your vision for the practice. Online learning can be an effective way to give the team opportunity to learn a new skill or increase their software knowledge. Host a lunch-and-learn. Invest in training on an annual basis and give your team opportunities to learn and grow with you. A well-educated team with solid systems and good technology tools behind them makes for a productive stress-free day for everyone.

"The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say 'I.' And that's not because they have trained themselves not to say 'I.' They don't think 'I.' They think 'we'; they think 'team.' They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don't sidestep it, but 'we' gets the credit. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done." —Peter Drucker

Finally, but perhaps most importantly, every team still needs a great coach to be successful. You set the tone for the practice and it will be your consistent message and actions that guide the team to success. Keep them engaged, keep them focused and keep them excited to be a part of the practice's success and they will believe in the goals you've set.

Like any great coach, you need to be the playmaker. You set the tone and provide the plan and then let your team carry out the action. But for your team to carry out the action well, you need to have well-defined systems. Good systems in a dental practice can predict a steady outcome. Make sure you have a system manual up to date with your current procedures. System manuals are meant to be updated on a regular basis and probed for inefficiencies. Do an audit of your manual:

  • Is it up to date?
  • Does it define the team members who execute each system?
  • Who is the backup team member for each system?
  • Are the systems documented in a clear format?
  • Is it still in printed format or electronic?

Establishing great systems and calling the plays will you get you halfway, but to be a great coach, you also need to make sure your leadership is consistent. Your team should always feel comfortable and willing to approach you, whether it is with problems they've encountered, or new ideas that could make a positive difference in the practice.

With all the effort and scrutiny placed on all aspects of your practice, don't forget to also look at yourself, what you're bringing to the table and how you might become an even better coach to your team.

Author Bonnie Pugh, founding partner at Practice Dynamics, blends her love for the dental industry and business to help dental teams across the country succeed. She specializes in coaching teams to goal by blending their unique philosophy with proven systems and business practices.

Prior to founding Practice Dynamics, Pugh was the product line manager for Carestream Dental's dental division. In this role, she handled the strategic planning of the dental practice management line of products. She recently took on the role of executive director of the Academy of Dental Management Consultants. Her love for knowledge and personal growth drives her to provide balance-driven success through systems, teams and technology for the practices she works with every day.
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