The Stories We Tell Ourselves
Up early, ready for the new day.
Eye of the Tiger energy leading you into the office.
It’s going to be an awesome day!
The team is all on time, prepared for your huddle, the day is well-scheduled, productive and you’re excited about the good people you’ll see today and the great work you’re privileged to do. Zip a dee doo dah! I love dentistry!
How do we bottle this positive energy, mindset and can-do attitude so it’s there for us as we start each new day?
How do we make this predictable?
What do we do when ‘life happens’ and we have challenges that threaten to derail us?
How can we maintain this positive attitude when the schedule is falling apart or the unexpected happens that extends an appointment causing you to run late?
Let’s dig deeper for some answers.
A Fable and a Frog
Fables are short stories intended to teach us some moral lessons. Most of us are introduced to these stories as children, notably The Tortoise and the Hare, Little Red Riding Hood, and The Ugly Duckling.
There’s another popular fable about a frog that instantly leaps out when placed in a pot of boiling water, immediately aware of the danger. That same frog can be placed in a pot of cool water that is slowly heated to the boiling point and the frog will not sense the gradual change in temperature until it’s too late and the frog meets its demise.
Perspective based on stories we tell ourselves…
I’ve asked hundreds of dental teams what they think the lessons in the Boiled Frog fable are for dentists and their teams. The two most common answers are interestingly at odds with each other.
#1 Change has to be gradual in order for it to be accepted (placing frog in cold water)
#2 Change won’t happen without a proper sense of urgency (placing frog in hot water)
Which is the real lesson, the best one? That’s a matter of perspective, based on the stories we tell ourselves.
Whatever you believe will become your reality, as you prove yourself right. For example, you may believe that change won’t happen without a proper sense of urgency and yet how many times have you gone shopping and bought something you didn’t need? There was no urgency for the VitaMix Blender, but it is awesome and you wanted it. You’ll wake up to smoothies and make hot soup because now you can, all the while still believing that there has to be a proper sense of urgency for change to occur. I’m always fascinated that as humans we can hold two seemingly opposite beliefs at one time.
It’s important to realize that our subconscious brain believes what we tell it. This is the root of the limiting beliefs we have that hold us back. I believe our greatest opportunities lie in challenging those limiting beliefs, those stories we tell ourselves at a conscious level with an open mind.
There is a third option…
Back to the boiled frog fable. Here’s a third option that has a pivot point for breaking through many limiting beliefs. It’s most common to see ourselves and our patients as the frog and craft our stories based on which of the two most common choices listed above.
What happens when we approach the question of the best lesson in the story with a totally different perspective: are we the boiled or the boiler? Each of us, as a practice leader, provides the framework for our reality (the pan). We create the culture (the water) and we provide the heat source (the flame).
Eureka! This can change everything.
How does your perspective change when you realize you have the power to determine your outcome? What happens when you start telling yourselves a new story with possibilities you had not previously believed to be possible? Take a look around, if someone else is doing it, there’s a better than average chance you can do it, too. If it’s not being done, who’s to say you can’t be the one to break the barrier and create the freedom to practice the way you want to?
There are 10 top limiting beliefs I see in dental practices
1. Patients only want what insurance covers
2. Ideal day scheduling is a pipe dream
3. There’s just not enough time
Click here to download the full list of The Top 10 Limiting Beliefs in a Dental Practice.
My challenge for you this week is to come together as a team and identify your limiting beliefs and then bust them wide open to create your new reality and that Eye of the Tiger energy that will propel your team to even greater impact and success.
Where’s your focus at work?
While for many this seems like a rhetorical question, it’s a valid reality check that determines both your level of happiness at work, the results you can achieve and the degree to which your patients will recommend you to their family and friends. The emotion you lead with makes a difference. Let me explain my recent experience.
My mother was in the emergency room with a developing situation requiring her to be hospitalized. I think it’s safe to say that anyone who has visited an emergency room with a loved one knows the whirl of emotions that both the patient and family members are feeling. The urgency of the experience is palpable and the faces of those waiting in the ER show the concern and anxiety in play.
Adding to this apprehension, the ER can often be bursting with patients seeking treatment, creating a situation that presents a challenge to the team of medical professionals at hand. Like all challenges in life, the ER team can see this reality as a burden or an opportunity. That choice determines the experience for doctor and patient.
Imagine this scene:
Your Mom is in the ER, a nurse is in the process of placing an IV and a doctor storms into the room. Oblivious to the nurse, he places his hand on your Mom’s back forcing her forward so he could listen to her breathing while asking a series of questions in a staccato rhythm.
Now consider two questions in that moment:
1. What emotions do you think the patient is feeling?
2. What emotions do you think the doctor is feeling?
A few minutes later, the ER team changed shifts and a second doctor entered the room. He smiled, introduced himself to your Mom then knelt by her side asking, “How are you feeling?” He took a moment to listen to her answer. He then asked all the same questions the first doctor had asked.
Consider the same two questions:
1. What emotions do you think the patient is feeling?
2. What emotions do you think the doctor is feeling?
Here’s an actual rhetorical question: Which experience do you want for yourself and for your patients?
With that in mind, how well are you delivering the best experience on a consistent basis? Not just when it’s easy, but when you are running behind, stressed or understaffed? Have you talked about purpose with your team? There may be a great opportunity here for you to talk with your team and help them come together to see their primary purpose at work and how they can support each other in this purpose.
As my Mom’s staunch advocates, we reported the first doctor’s behavior to the nursing supervisor who genuinely understood our concern and offered her apology. Turns out the nurse had also reported the doctor’s behavior. The first doctor returned to the room, stood in the corner and said, “I’m sorry that you were upset. I am very busy and was just trying to do my job.” A classic non-apology, apology. I reached out to him to explain that a more empathetic approach would benefit him as well as the patient, may only have taken an additional 30 seconds and would have been rewarding for him. He didn’t get it. He left as harried as he entered, maybe even a little more. I was sad for him.
“Let’s do things not only to create progress… but to create purpose. Purpose is that sense that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, that we are needed, that we have something better ahead to work for. Purpose is what creates true happiness.”
~ Mark Zuckuerberg, CEO of Facebook
Thankfully, my Mom is home and well, with this experience behind her. This was a cautionary tale demonstrating the power that purpose brings to our ability to create happiness in our daily lives. We all face challenges; how we respond to these challenges is the difference between fulfillment and frustration.
We all have stressors in our life. Have you noticed that some people can keep an even keel and move gracefully through the process, while others get caught up in the urgency, losing themselves in the process? I believe the most destructive impact of stress is that it can blind us from the freedom we have to choose our next steps and move forward on our own terms, creating a culture that embraces joy, gratitude, empathy and respect.
Your practice culture can’t simply be announced, it must be earned one day at a time.
Here’s a challenge for the coming week:
Talk with your team about the freedom of choice you have to choose the emotions you will lead with and to determine where your focus will be at work. Identify potential stressors in the day at your morning huddle and set an intentional plan of action that will build the culture you all want to live and work in. Proactive planning will be a powerful tool for your team.
I enjoy the opportunity to speak to many team members around the country and to learn about their goals and dreams as well as their frustrations. It’s in those interactions that breakthroughs often occur. One person recently told me, “I worked for that doctor for over 15 years and he never once did anything for me.” Wow, where do I begin? I decided to listen and learn this person’s perspective.
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak up – courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” Winston Churchill is the genius behind this quote that teaches the value of quiet strength and wisdom.
I’m a big fan of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People; in this case, I was practicing the Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood habit. Once I gain a better understanding, I’ll be able to ask the questions that will give the other person the courage to stop making their case for unhappiness and instead face the future with renewed enthusiasm.
When this woman was finished with her story, I asked:
Question #1: “Now that you’re with a new practice, why is this coming up?”
Her answer, “My new doctor is doing reviews, which the former one never did. We’re talking about me, which is good, but my new doctor doesn’t appreciate all I know, all I do and how good I am. He just wants me to do more.”
I then asked question #2: “Are you happy in your work?”
She responded, “Lately, I’m feeling frustrated and bored at work. I rather be appreciated for what I do now than have to attend meetings to learn more.”
And finally, question #3: “Do you think your best work days are behind you or ahead of you?”
Her energy changed as she was very quick to respond, “I’ll probably work for another 15 years, so I sure hope they’re ahead of me!”
Whoop, there it is! That’s the enthusiasm I was hoping was still there, although masked by her own ego and disconnect with the new doctor’s vision.
Enthusiasm is what fuels our passions to create, to enjoy our work and to take our personal and team performance to the elusive next level. Enthusiasm isn’t about what we have – we can be appreciative of what we have or have accomplished. Enthusiasm exists for what’s to come, where we’re going, what we’ll achieve next. Enthusiasm is about the future. I’ve met this woman many times through the years; her name and face have changed, but her story remains the same.
How about you? Have you met this person, unhappy in the present, not sure how to move forward? The choice is to step up or to step out of the practice.
Gratitude shows up in many ways. About ten years ago I was invited to speak to a group of referring dentists celebrating the retirement of an orthodontist who had practiced for over 50 years.
I asked this doctor, “How many families would you guess you have you supported during your career?” He answered that he wasn’t sure how many patient families he had treated.
“Not patients” I responded, “I am wondering how many team members you have helped support their families.”
I was surprised when his eyes got teary and he told me he had never even considered that question. He then thanked me for the gift of the question that made his heart so happy. This was a moment I’ll never forget.
It’s often said, that in business your people are your best competitive advantage. Some even describe employees as your human capital. While true, I think the value your team brings to you, your patients and your practice far exceeds those descriptions. Dentistry is a team sport, you can’t do it all by yourself. Your team members are essential to your success and they should be the beautiful representation of the face, the voice and the essence of your practice. Don’t settle for any less.
...his eyes got teary and he told me he had never even considered that question. He then thanked me for the gift of the question that made his heart so happy.
In my experience, if you wish to provide world-class care and service to your patients, you must first:
- Provide world-class care to your employees; they are basically your first clients
- Treat them well – Care about them and their families
- Establish clear boundaries and guidelines via a policy & procedures manual, and protocols
- Support team member growth and development within their roles in the practice
By recognizing and rewarding the behaviors and deliverables that you want to be repeated, you will be proactively nurturing the seeds of success while creating a culture of gratitude.
Your team may change through the years; your systems, protocols, and boundaries should grow with the practice and support a win-win environment. It’s near impossible to be in a state of appreciation and annoyance at the same time. Lead with appreciation and gratitude.
Doctors often tell me they are grateful for the team, but they don’t know what to thank people for since they spend their days focused on patient care. I have a favorite activity to share with you that increases awareness and the opportunity to lead with gratitude.
Download a copy of The Gratitude Initiative. Give it a try and let me know what you think. #PIVOTstrategy
First Step… Celebrate Your Successes!
There are five fundamentals of PIVOT Leadership. This post will focus on Strategy. Click this link to the article, Go Right Ahead, Play Favorites that addresses where your leadership focus should be to celebrate the high performers on your team. Today we’ll talk about the how to celebrate and come alive in your practice. Here we go….
“Seems like as soon as we reach one goal, we move onto the next goal. I think our practice could do a better job of giving us that high-five feeling when we’ve earned it.” Brave words from a team member during a recent meeting.
- Could one of your team members be feeling the same way?
- As the practice leaders, could you do a better job of celebrating success and encouraging your team to celebrate each other?
Who doesn’t love a celebration? I especially like when I see team members recognizing one another for great work by sharing their ‘wins’ from the day before. This is one of my favorite parts of my client on-sites and Skype meetings.
“Tell me something good” is a key fundamental strategy for success as well as an uplifting way to start each day and celebrate each quarter with your team. Below I’ll take you through the 5 Steps to Celebrating Your Success Team Meeting.
5 Steps to Celebrating Your Success Team Meeting
Step #1 Schedule a special team meeting
The first quarter [Q1] of the year begins with holiday celebration, fanfare, party hats and noisemakers. This is a time when many teams focus on strategic planning and thoughtful intention for the new year. It’s high time we give some attention to the start of the second quarter [Q2], too. Let’s start with recognizing and celebrating your Q1 wins.
Step #2 Create a fun atmosphere in your meeting room
Celebration meetings should not look the same as every other team meeting and usually involve festive foods. You could bring in lunch or snacks, decorate with balloons or noisemakers. Some teams choose snacks like fruit, yogurt, or crudité while others go for nuts, candy, and chocolate. You could also decorate with small potted plants that the team members can take home. This is also a good time to plan a fun activity for the team during the meeting.
Step #3 Brainstorming Time
Let the team know it’s important to you that the team recognizes and celebrates success and you realize that some ‘wins’ are obvious to the entire team, yet many times a team member has a personal win the rest of the team would love to know about. Then, break into smaller groups, give each group a copy of the Celebrating Your Success worksheet attached and have them begin their brainstorming session. Each team’s challenge is to create a list of the accomplishments [big & small] that you as individuals and as a team have accomplished in Q1 and identify how you achieved your results.
Step #4 Synergize
After about ten minutes, bring the small groups back together so you can share your lists. Have a large sheet of easel or butcher paper and sharpies available. Draw straws to see which team will create the main list on the large paper and then have the other teams call out their ‘wins’ and together create one long list. *Tip: Brainstorming is most successful when it begins in small groups and you’ll build momentum as you come back together. * Chances are the group will think of more accomplishments as you synergize to create this one big list. more accomplishments.
a. Talk about how you made these achievements happen
b. Encourage team members to share details of the most meaningful patient connections they had in the previous month.
c. Clapping and cowbell celebrations should be encouraged too!
d. When discussing the team behaviors and actions that went into these special moments and practice wins be sure to notice any recurring themes. This exercise sets the stage for establishing Q2 strategies goals and we’ll talk about that in next week’s email blog.
Step #5 The Take Aways
Our lives are enriched by the quality of our relationships. Look for opportunities to build the quality of your team relationships. Yes, this takes time, but less than you may think. Begin every day by sharing “what was great about yesterday” so you authentically create an atmosphere that supports and encourages the team to raise the bar on their connections with each other and with patients. Like a new pair of shoes, it may feel awkward in the beginning. Stick with it. One day you’ll notice you all have come to love this strategy for team success. Ask me how I know ☺
To get you started please download my Accomplishments by Quarter Worksheet.
I was having coffee recently with a new client and wanted to get to know him and his leadership style. He is working on getting better at doing the ‘4 things employees really want’ [PIVOT page 8].
Does this conversation sound familiar?
I asked him how things were going back in the practice.
“Awesome”, he replied, “the change in the team is incredible, people are excited about what we’re doing. I just love the can-do energy.” Then with a little wince and a wink, he said, “Well, except for one person, I’m so frustrated with her negativity.”
Compassionately, I asked him to tell me more about what was frustrating him.
“It’s the same thing all the time, Ginny.” The sarcasm in his voice was palpable as he continued, “She has been in dentistry for over 30 years. She knows what she’s doing. She doesn’t need to change a thing. She’s vocal about how she feels and it brings the rest of the team down. I’m really trying to engage with my team, learn from their ideas and hold them accountable. Her behavior is like a wet blanket on this goal.”
I asked more questions trying to understand how this was playing out.
“Well, she seems to be onboard when our meetings first start. Then at some point, she starts talking with the people closest to her and it’s like she’s holding her own separate meeting. I have to keep reigning her back in, it’s exhausting.”
Accountability isn’t just about results – it’s about behaviors.
It seemed to me that the doctor had resigned himself to this pattern of disruption so I asked him if he had spoken with the employee about her behavior? “What’s the point? She’s been with the practice for 36 years, what’s a few more years of dealing with this before she retires?”
We talked about the likelihood that this employee’s behavior was impacting others on the team. It’s not about the doctors sucking it up ‘for a few more years.’ This behavior will have a negative impact on the team and practice growth. I reminded the doctor of four of the core values the team had established: Respect, Flexibility, Growth, Positive Team Spirit. Clearly, this employee’s behavior was not in line with these values.
I asked the doctor the KEY QUESTION at hand, “Do you want to change the values – or change the behavior?”
He chose to uphold the values. In that decision, a smile came over his face, “Wow, this is now so clear to me. If I allow her behavior to continue, I’m a hypocrite. My actions would not be upholding the core values any more than hers do.”
We had reached our learning moment. “Ok, Ginny I’m ready. Tell me how I can be a better leader and resolve this problem.”
Be the change you want to see
This clear and immediate shift in the doctor’s mindset was the key to positive change. When he could shift from feeling and acting like a victim of his circumstances to the realization that, as the practice leader he was letting down everyone else on the team when he tolerated the employee’s disruption, he had the fortitude to become the change he wants to see in his practice.
What are your non-negotiables?
In his perennial New York Times bestseller, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen R. Covey speaks to the power of strongly held core values in the following true story he learned of while reading the Naval Proceedings Magazine:
It was a dark and stormy night.
Crewmember: “Captain, Captain, wake up.”
Crewmember: “Sorry to wake you, sir, but we have a serious problem.”
Captain: “Well what is it?”
Crewmember: “There’s a ship in our sea lane about twenty miles away, and they refuse to move.”
Captain: “What do you mean they refuse to move? Just tell them to move.”
Crewmember: “Sir, we have told them; they will not move.”
Captain: “I’ll tell them.”
The signal goes out: “Move starboard 20 degrees.”
The signal returns: “Move starboard yourself 20 degrees.”
Captain: “I can’t believe this. Well, I mean I’m a captain. Let them know who I am. I’m important.”
Signal goes out: “This is Captain Horatio Hornblower XXVI, commanding you to move starboard 20 degrees at once.”
Signal returns: “This is Seaman Carl Jones II, commanding you to move starboard 20 degrees at once.”
Captain: “What arrogance? I mean, what presumption? Here is a seaman commanding me, a captain. We could just blow them right out of the water. We could just let them know who we are.
Signal: “This is the Mighty Missouri, flagship of the 7th fleet.”
The signal returns: “This is the lighthouse.”
Dr. Covey goes on to explain that in life there are certain lighthouse principles and you cannot break these principles, you will only break yourself against them.
As the practice leader, you always have a choice! You can’t keep employees from acting out, but how you respond to any situation will determine the experience you and your team will have, positive or negative. Establish your lighthouse principle, hold people accountable for their behavior and you’ll earn your positive culture one day at a time.
As we left the restaurant, we agreed that the entire team, including the employee at hand, would benefit from the doctor’s clarity and strong leadership. He said, “Ginny, I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I think I just made a very important PIVOT and it’s only 8am!”