Got a problem? Take a look in the mirror

Editor's note: The Coaches Corner column appears regularly on the advice and opinion page, Second Opinion.

How does a dentist manage his or her staff? How can a dentist find the time to "manage" when it is so much quicker to just tell someone what to do? Yes, that's a short-term perspective and it may work for a while, until it doesn't. Then what do you do?

Paradoxically, when you understand that you get work done through people and you develop people through work, then you also understand that developing a staff member means "coaching" them to take on much greater responsibility than is otherwise possible when one is simply told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it! OK, you can call it training, but it still doesn't work, does it?

For most dental practices, it is all about keeping up the momentum without having the time or inclination to coach the staff to shoulder more responsibility, be proactive, and discuss issues before they become problems. If you find that your tendency is to blame your staff for the hard times your practice may be experiencing, take a long look in the mirror because it is not your staff who are to blame -- it is you and it may be time to consider a new way of framing your practice ideals by imagining a practice based on stability, sustainability, and collaboration instead of competition and growth only.

We are used to working with what we were given, but it is possible to also work with what we want. What do you want? What does your staff want? What ideas do you have collectively for a future vision of your practice? Where and how will you start to introduce the fundamental change you know, somewhere deep inside, that you want?

I have a suggestion: Start with the VISION Game, available for Academy of General Dentistry continuing education credit for the whole staff. This is a leadership and team-building card game, played like poker, that involves you and your staff actively designing and creating vision statements that are used to share your collective dreams. In playing the game, you are actually laying down the framework for your own dream practice.

Dan Kingsbury, D.D.S., life and dental coach, is a co-founder of the Dental Coaches Association, an organization of dentists who are professional coaches committed to bringing coaching to the dental profession. Learn more by visiting

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

Copyright © 2009

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