Shared Leadership in the Dental Office – Part 2

March 13, 2023

Shared Leadership in the Dental Office – Part 2 of 2

In last week’s blog, we explored the different types of leadership that can exist in dental offices. We also started defining the Six Functions of Leadership. Let’s pick up where we left off.

The six functions of leadership.

How do you measure yourself on these six concepts, and how do you measure your practice?

1. Practice Vision.

What do you really want?  Dental practice leaders need to be working on developing a vision statement or vision scenarios for the future.  This is what the office should look like a year or two from now.  Leaders are people who keep the vision alive. Leaders are beleaguered by day-to-day emergencies and activities. They continually ask, “are we moving to our preferred future?”

Visions are extensions of your value system and your attitudes. If you think that you psychologically own the office and you believe that its success is important to you, would you own the office? The leader must monitor the vision as well as reinforce it, especially to new members of the team.

Leaders must decide when their vision must change. If you are going to keep the vision, you are going to have to be able to articulate it clearly. To serve as a leader, you must be a model of one.  This is very difficult to do.  If you can’t model it, the people whom you are leading will not follow.

2. Setting the tone.

Tone is defined as long-term spirit and not short-term mood. The tone of an organization is always set from the top down.  Tones never come from the bottom up. A leadership tone, for example, is as follows:  “I believe in dentistry, I believe in this practice, I believe in our future, I believe in our team, I believe …”

Leaders encourage a positive professional attitude in the practice.  They help to encourage the belief that everyone in the practice is contributing to the whole effort. Everyone is responsible for the short-term mood.

The tone of the office also affects the client relationships of the practice.

Leaders create a certain climate of relationships so that people say that “I am going to trust.”  “The next time that I go to a team meeting, I am not going to say anything, and when it is over, be mad at myself.”

Leaders communicate the need to confront differences in tone, attitude, and commitment.  If there are problems in these areas and they are not confronted, they rarely go away.

3, Clarify expectations.

Most of the reason that there is conflict in a dental office is the fact that one or more people don’t measure up to the expectations of the other.

It is the responsibility of the leader to clarify what they expect of the rest of the team. This could be the dentist or other leaders in the practice.

The following conversation is frequently heard; “Even if the dentist doesn’t like what I am doing, I wish he would tell me so that I would know where I stand.”

The impact of this comment is that we have to tell people what we expect because if we don’t tell them what we expect, how can they say that those expectations are reasonable, and how can they work toward meeting them?  At times, I think that people think they should get the expectations by osmosis, but most people don’t.

It is hard to take time away from the schedule to talk about expectations.  The time taken to do this, however, is much shorter than the consequences when it is not done.  It is hard to clarify expectations with someone else when you have not clarified them for yourself.  What do you expect of yourself first?

4. Leaders nurture and confront people when necessary. They also build them up when necessary.

Nurturers do not give advice.  They understand that we have the answers within us. They help us to understand that the problems are within us.  They do more by listening than they do by speaking.

5. Leaders anticipate the future.

It is dangerous to live totally in the present in your business because the present does not last for very long.

There is a technological change coming in dentistry, and you must be aware that it is going to change your practice.

6. Leaders refocus.

Even if you have worked on your philosophy, mission, or vision statement, there comes a time in your future when your practice gets lost.  Everything works for a while, and then things get into a world of ambiguity.

When this happens, leaders bring their groups back to refocus.  They review the purpose of the practice with their people.

It is the leader who refocuses and re-clarifies the original objective of what their business is.

According to John Gardner, the last responsibility of the leader is to keep faith alive. Everyone goes through hard times with their practices, but we must keep our faith alive or we will fall.