How would you rate your staff member support?

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

There's a notion out there that once you find the right employee, they should perform according to the standards you set for them and their position. Sounds reasonable, right?

For those of you that paused at that initial comment, something didn't sound exactly right, did it?

Unfortunately, what is practiced all too often is a "I-hired-you, now-show-me-what-you-can-do" attitude. Certainly, taken to the extreme, it's a sure prescription for employee turnover. To a more realistic sense, it leads to underperformance, low morale, dissatisfaction, and, ultimately, disgruntlement.

When hiring a staff member, I often ask doctors how committed they are to that person's success. If it's not 100%, I advise them to not hire that person. Why? Because, ultimately, that new hire will fail. Some people have the talent, drive, and enthusiasm to make a job "work" even if their boss doesn't support them, but those people are in the minority. Most people need support, guidance, and training -- and lots of it -- to make it a successful relationship. So how do you make that happen?

Dental practices are neither large corporations nor families, but they have characteristics of both, making it challenging for doctors to know the best ways to handle employee development.

First, most dental teams work closely; there's dialogue and interaction all day long. There's work to be done, and teams figure out how to make it happen, sometimes at great expense. Second, feedback on performance can happen quickly when the need arises. No need to wait a year for a performance review!

Yet, dental practices are businesses and, because of that, they do retain many of the necessary characteristics of all businesses, including large corporations.

So what's the best way to develop that employee?

From my experience as a longtime practicing dentist and professional coach, the best way is to communicate. Surprising, huh? Not really, although having a context for that communication is where many doctors stumble. Over the years, I have tried many forms, systems, and protocols that consultants have laid before me. Most are ineffective, to be honest, because the necessary communication skills to navigate the conversation around an employee's development isn't there. Being able to have the right conversation takes practice, skill, judgment, and training.

As a coach, my communication skills must be superb. As a dentist, my communication skills must also be superb ... IF I'm going to retain good employees, develop great relationships with my patients, and lead my team effectively. Good coaches help doctors learn how to communicate effectively.

Looking for a good context for having a great conversation with your employees about their growth and development as a team member? Send an e-mail to me with a request for "Developing Great Employees," and I'll send you a valuable document you'll use time and time again throughout your career. I'll also add you to my coaching newsletter and the Dental Coaches Association newsletter.

Here's to your success!

Don Deems, D.D.S., F.A.G.D., known as the Dentist's Coach, is a co-founder of the Dental Coaches Association, an organization of dentists who are professional coaches committed to bringing professional coaching to the dental profession. Learn more about professional coaching by visiting or

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 © 2010

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