April 1, 2022
by Nada Albatish, DDS
Being a boss is hard! Ask any business owner in any industry the most challenging aspect of running a business and they will all give you the same answer: people. As dentists, our focus is on seeing patients and we can easily overlook the most important aspect of being a hands-on business owner, which is leading a team. So why do most of us feel this way and what is it that makes those excellent team cultures stand out above all the rest?
The trap that most of us fall into as we become inundated with the problems of daily practice is that we start to become reactive leaders. If you get into the habit of “putting out fires,” as dentistry is so well known for, you are basically waiting for challenges to arise and then struggling to overcome them.
The alternative to this is to practise proactive leadership, which involves anticipating challenges before they occur and having a plan for handling them. This sounds like a big feat – how can you possibly think of problems before they occur and plan solutions in advance so you and your team can have a strong culture with trusted relationships and small wins each and every day?
The answer lies in something we all know, as dental business owners, to be very important, but very few of us practise: the establishment and strong recognition of your core values as a team. A great team core values exercise is to brainstorm two lists: the “right” people and the “wrong” people, a spin-off of a concept in Jim Collins book “Good to Great”, in which he talks about getting the right people on your bus. Everyone on your team knows the people they love working with, the people that are a challenge to work with, and even the people they’d rather not work with at all. Knowing this, I encourage the team to draw on the characteristics of these different types of people, and we use this to find our core values as a team. This “right and wrong people” exercise is a fantastic way to have your team learn about themselves and their own values. After verbalizing the qualities of their favourite people to work with, you will notice your team members starting to emulate these qualities with intention more and more each day.
Now, imagine if, as a leader, you did this for yourself? Your core values impact every single part of your business and you should be able to use them as guideposts to steer every decision you and your team make. For example, if learning and growth are among your top core values, you would be making a mistake to hire someone who does not like change or who prefers to learn something once and never address it again. This applies not only to staff, but to your associate dentists as well.
The real secret to creating a powerful team in your practice is to take the time to get to know yourself, and identify and communicate your core values in such a way that each person on your team aligns with, lives and breathes those core values in the practice every day. The key to successfully leading your team is to lead yourself first!
About the Author
Nada Albatish earned her DDS from the University of Toronto in 2007 and completed a GPR at Lutheran Medical Center (currently NYU Langone Health). She is the founder and principal dentist of All Smiles Dental Centre, a multidisciplinary practice in Newmarket, Ontario. Nada’s niche is cosmetic and rehabilitative dentistry. She lectures nationally and internationally focusing on comprehensive restorative dentistry, interdisciplinary treatment, leadership, and the business of dentistry.