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
Does this sound familiar?
Your 11:00 patient has arrived on time. Unfortunately, your 9:00 patient is still in the chair, you’re running behind and you still have two hygiene patients to check.
Everyone from the patient in the chair to the team to the patient in the reception area are impacted. Stressful, for sure. You vow to tease this apart at your next team meeting and figure out what went wrong. You run to the team lounge and make a note on the agenda list, What’s wrong with the schedule that we’re running behind – figure it out!
Two days later as the team gathers for the weekly one-hour team meeting, you pull the agenda list from the lounge. As the meeting begins, you ask, “What’s wrong with the schedule that we’re running behind?” Your question is met with the deafening sounds of silence. “Anyone have any ideas here? What do you think the problem is?” You realize you’re looking at the tops of everyone’s heads. They do not want to make eye contact and be put on the spot to weigh in and risk getting thrown under the bus. How can you create solutions when the team won’t weigh in and help you create solutions?
PIVOT Point: Strategy
My Dad always said, “If you don’t like the answers you’re getting, ask better questions.” Time to hit the reset button and change your strategy. I recommend two new strategies to create a breakthrough for you and your team. [Page 24 in PIVOT]
#1 Set your team up for success [The CAUSE strategy]
C Create an agenda that supports your team to grow beyond their circumstances
A Avoid the blame game. Search for innovative solutions rather than excuses
U Understand the real issue at hand. Are you dealing with facts or opinions?
S Set your team up for success by starting the meeting on a positive note with great energy
E Engage with your team to do the pre-work for the meeting so everyone comes to the meeting ready to contribute solutions. Have their backs.
#2 The FIRST 20% Solution
The most common approach to problem-solving is to focus on the result and work right there where the problem became apparent, the train derailed and the system failed. The trouble with that approach is that the problem actually occurred long before the train derailed. It’s in re-evaluating the actions in the first 20% of the process, before the train ever left the tracks, that you’ll find the opportunities for positive changes that will create a better result.
Funny coincidence, Bradley Cooper learns the value of the First 20% solution in the movie Burnt. I’d love to hear from you if you, too recognize the First 20% lesson in the movie. I’ll leave you with this, “The difference between school and life: School teaches you lessons and then gives you a test. Life gives you a test and you learn the lessons.”
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!”
Have you ever had a moment of inspiration and it disappeared as quickly as it arrived?
I had one of these moments a year ago this month as I realized the answer to the question that dentists have been asking me for years. This aha moment was so exciting to me that it inspired me to write a book over the next six months!
Here’s the question:
“Can’t I just do the dentistry?”
This question is usually accompanied by a sense of frustration over the time that dentists spend away from their clinical joy. Does this sound like you or someone you know?
I know this is the dynamic that causes new dentists and dentists that have been practicing fifty years to agree that their biggest stressor in practice is the team stress and drama.
My aha moment was in realizing that my consulting work over the past twenty years has indeed taught me (and my clients) that “Yes, you can just do the dentistry” after you make a few key leadership pivots.
When I think of a pivot I think of basketball. My dad always used sports lessons as metaphors for life, so of course, my mind went to sports as I was trying to come up with the perfect title for my book.
While watching the Villanova Wildcats win the NCAA Championship last year I noticed that the color commentators for the tournament continually talked about Nova’s star Ryan Arcidiacono’s awesome ability to pivot. Aha! I loved the sound of the word and the visual of shifting in place to create a better opportunity.
Turns out that the lean business definition of pivot is to “change strategy without changing vision.”
That’s exactly what I am proposing to you in the book PIVOT.
Today’s Pivot Point: Leadership
First Step… Shifting Your TEAM Mindset
Shifting your TEAM mindset is the first step. Start with them and you’ll experience radical results. Think about how you would want your team to treat your patients and aspire to treat your team the same way.
STOP DOING THESE 3 THINGS
[Pivot pages 46-53]
1. Do not share your financial stressors with the team
If you want to inspire your team to fully engage with head, hands, and heart, you must go first. Share your purpose and passion with your team. One thing I know for sure is that when a team comes together understanding the big why in what they do, the financial success will follow.
2. Do not think that a good paycheck alone will inspire your team
Visa’s inventor, Dee Hock, said it best “Money motivates neither the best people nor the best in people. It can move the body and influence the mind, but it cannot touch the heart or move the spirit; that is reserved for belief, principle, and morality.” You definitely want your team’s hearts to be in it.
3. Do not think that clinical excellence alone will build your practice
Your patients do not judge you by the quality of your work – they simply are not qualified to judge quality. Patients judge you and decide if they will continue to be your patient by the way they feel when they are in your practice. Excellence in care and service is the winning combination.
What SHOULD You Do Instead?
If you’ve been guilty of any one or more of the previous things and want to “Just Do The Dentistry, click below to PIVOT in a different, more productive direction!
Download your PIVOT Point Leadership: First Step… Shifting Your TEAM Mindset (aka Do This Not That)