When you first started your practice, you likely did it for the love of dentistry. You wanted to help people, and you did. As your business grew, you hired more and more people to round out your team. At this point, you may have asked yourself, how do I become a successful dental office manager?
Many times, as business owners in any space approach this stage of growth, they have a hard time transitioning into the leaders that will ultimately lead their teams successfully toward the next steps in a growing business. They don’t have any dental leadership training, and it shows.
These dental practice owners often have many of the leadership skills needed to become great leaders. Still, they don’t know how to harness those skills into a company culture that influences and empowers employees to contribute value in taking the practice to the next level. Some of those skills may need improvement, but they are things that can be honed if you put some effort into them.
Dental leadership training
There are many leadership styles in dentistry, but the most effective ones rely upon continual growth. Since the skills required to become a great dental practice manager are things that can be learned and improved upon, it’s natural that engaging in proactive dental leadership training strengthens and sharpens those skills. Improving upon those skills will not only prove helpful in the workplace, but they will make you more effective in all of life’s arenas.
How to become an effective dental team leader
Once you’ve decided to take your dental leadership training seriously, the first thing you need to know is what leadership looks like. Some well-meaning but misguided entrepreneurs think that by simply getting people to do what they want them to do, they are effective leaders. That’s not entirely correct.
If your means of getting them to do what you want is driven by things like yelling at or punishing them, you aren’t being an effective leader. You are simply producing robots. In contrast, if you are completely “hands off,” you cannot truly know what is happening within your business. Fear of reprisal or lack of support and development may work for a period of time, but it’s not the way to run a successful dental practice and shows a lack of understanding of what leadership is all about.
An excellent dental team leader uses personal traits and skills that motivate team members to want what is best for themselves and those around them. A good leader empowers them to succeed by creating an environment that allows them to understand and excel in their positions, knowing they have the support of a great team. Let’s look at how to create that kind of culture for your practice.
Work on your leadership skills
The only true way to create a culture of excellence in any business is for those in leadership positions to be true leaders who impact their team members’ lives in meaningful ways and not just play the role of a leader. In order to do that, we must focus on the skills that create great leaders. Dental leadership courses may teach you all the nuts and bolts about every skill you could ever want, but there are a handful that are universal.
People can tell when we fake it. Some people are great at selling illusions, but most people can tell when we are being disingenuous. Having strong values, intellectual abilities, and a personality that makes people feel at ease are great ways to instill trust and confidence in others.
Becoming a more genuine person isn’t always easy for those who have been hiding or putting up walls around themselves for a long time, but it is something that can be learned and improved upon by all of us. It’s important that we do so if we want to become great leaders.
One of the most essential skills for dentists is that they have credibility. People don’t mess around with their oral health, so it’s crucial that their dentist possesses all three components that make up credibility; competence, character, and caring. Not only does credibility go a long way with patients, but it’s also one of the most important aspects of being a great team leader.
People seek out the guidance of those who know what they are doing. We also need to know that the people guiding us are trustworthy and genuinely care about our success. When we find someone who checks off all these boxes, we perceive them as credible people. We will gladly follow their leadership, knowing that they deliver the best advice they can, based on their extensive knowledge in the field and their respect for those around them.
If there is a single most important characteristic in a dentist, it’s that they’re competent. No one wants a dentist that isn’t. In fact, we don’t want anyone leading us if we see them as incompetent. Have you ever had a boss or two who “didn’t know what they were talking about”? Were they effective team leaders? Probably not. When the practice leader is competent, that knowledge translates into confidence into your talented team. When your team is skilled and confident, patients feel at ease and know that they are in good hands.
People throw around the term “moral compass” a lot, and for a good reason. Our moral compasses drive everything we do. When we choose to follow any leader, we want to know that they possess the qualities that we find good and true and awe-inspiring. We want to follow leaders with character.
When a leader is a flake, they are unable to lead. When the team doesn’t believe the management team is straightforward or trustworthy, they put up protective barriers of their own. These barriers cut off communication and lead to ineffectual relationships between employees and management. A great leader does their best to keep lines of communication open and clear.
As is the case with any procedures affecting our health, finding a dental leadership and management team that cares about us is paramount. The simple act of showing kindness and concern goes a long way toward gaining people’s trust. Showing empathy allows patients to understand that you want the same end result as they do.
In order to become a great leader, those you are leading need to know that you care, just like your patients. You care about your patients, and you care about your team. It’s hard to make employees care when management appears unconcerned with their lives and the things they care about. On the other hand, showing generosity, gratitude, and humility connects us on a very human level that creates a desire in employees to do their best for themselves and their teams.
Improving your communication skills
Even if you have all the skills necessary to make you an effective leader, they won’t do you much good if you can’t communicate with your team. Each person may have a different communication style and emotional makeup, so it’s important to have a decent grasp on emotional intelligence. Read the room. Reading verbal and nonverbal cues and adapting to each team member’s communication styles will make you much more effective at leading a dental team.
Making dental leadership training a daily focus
To be genuinely effective dental team leaders, we must not only learn what skills we need and how to use those skills to better the entire team, but we have to live that reality daily. This is because we don’t become leaders in a finite way. It needs to be a constant cycle of learning and improvement. When we focus on making the entire team just a little better each day, the culture of the practice builds leadership qualities in every member. Isn’t that what we ultimately want out of our dental leadership training?
What makes a great dental office?
Some patients love the dentist, and others shudder at the thought. A great dental office makes patients feel at ease and leaves patients feeling empowered to maintain a bright, healthy smile.
A great dental office creates this atmosphere through a happy and confident workforce. When all players know their role and love what they do, patients can feel it. We like to stick with a good dentist when we find one.
Who is the most crucial person in the dental practice?
Aside from the obvious importance of having competent dentists behind a practice, they aren’t necessarily the most important people in creating a great dental office. You might be the world’s foremost dentist, but if unhappy receptionists and a disorganized presentation ruin the overall experience, people may not wish to return. The most important person in a dental practice is the leader who keeps the machine running smoothly.
Why is leadership important in dentistry?
Leadership is important if any business wants to be successful, but it’s especially crucial in dentistry because visits to the dentist puts patients in a vulnerable position.
We want to feel comfortable with the place where somebody is going to be digging around in our mouths. We are also entrusting you with our oral health, so we want to feel that the team we are dealing with is competent, with clear ideas on keeping our teeth healthy with a long term plan. Again, that environment isn’t created without a strong leader.
How do you become a dentist leader?
Dental leadership training is an ongoing pursuit, but it’s well worth the time and resource investment. Learn to communicate effectively and show you care. Also, show that you have character and credibility. We as humans work at our best when we have competent teachers who care about us and set us off into the world with the skills they’ve given us. If you can make yourself a teacher like that, your practice will thrive for years to come.
Want to talk more about leadership? Shoot us a message at [email protected]!