3 ways to improve team performance

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The psychology of motivating and inspiring people is one of the most discussed aspects of business management taught in business schools. Perhaps this is because it is not a pure science with black-and-white steps and solutions for managing people.

Conversely, finances can be managed in a black-and-white environment and so can a great deal of clinical care. However, the management of people requires an entirely different approach to help them reach their highest potential.

Motivating and inspiring the team

There is no question that motivated and inspired people perform better if they have the right training and skill sets. The following three recommendations will help to elevate any dental team to a higher level and help increase statistics, production, and income for the overall practice.

1. Implement systems as a way to train the team

Dr. Roger P. LevinDr. Roger P. Levin

In many seminars, I have taught the basic systems that are essential in every dental practice. In some way, I think that as dentists, we may occasionally feel that all we must do is design the right systems and everything will improve.

However, practices will experience greater overall improvement if systems are viewed not only as a way to operate the practice but also as the primary method to train the team. When you think about it, how do you train a dental team? The answer is complex.

The first approach you can take, and I do not recommend this, is to have new systems designed for your practice and simply tell the team to follow the systems without any discussion or feedback. Unfortunately, this usually causes the team to become unmotivated, they don't follow the systems within a few weeks or months, and they often find it difficult to react properly to different patient behaviors, which leads to customer service challenges and lower productivity.

The second approach, and a far better one, is to implement systems by teaching them to the team as they are being designed and implemented. When people are part of a learning process, they typically perform at a far higher level and master new skills more quickly.

The more the team practices the steps of well-designed systems, the better and quicker practice performance will be. Systems are not only a guarantee of accelerated production, but they are also a fantastic teaching tool.

As an example, we recently worked with a practice on systems that needed some modification to suit its unique situation. As the systems were taught to the team, team members had full input as to what would work, what might not work, and how a system might be redesigned.

The team was very positive about change and more than willing to implement new systems. There was no resistance or pushback but highly insightful information and feedback from the team that allowed the final systems to be designed in the best interest of the practice for its situation.

At the end of 12 months, the practice had grown by 17%. This growth would have been less likely if the team had not been involved in designing the systems and given the opportunity to provide feedback and insights.

2. Use motivational psychology

Business management is often taught in a step-by-step, black-and-white manner. We learn methods for handling negative aspects of management like conflict resolution, termination, and performance reviews. We also learn many of the key factors of management, including recruiting, hiring, training, correcting behavior, financial management, etc. What we don't learn is how to motivate people.

The first step in motivating people is to start with yourself. Ask yourself if you are motivated. If the answer is not an enthusiastic "yes!" then you need to work on your own motivation first, because the team will take its cues from the dentist and/or office manager. We have met dentists who did not understand why their team did not display more motivation until we pointed out that they needed to first motivate themselves and act motivated.

The second step in motivating others is going out of your way to consistently display certain behavioral traits. Complimenting people daily, demonstrating appreciation through gratitude, bonuses, fun team activities in and outside of the practice, and time off can all contribute to creating a highly motivated team.

When one dentist we know stepped in to help pay the rent of an assistant who was in danger of losing her apartment during the pandemic, he created a lifelong motivated and dedicated team member. Sometimes all it takes is creative thinking.

The third step is to bring excellent energy to the practice. Are small wins celebrated? Do you ever give out champagne or flowers for a great month? Does the team go out for a fantastic dinner after completing a major project like implementing new software or renovating part of the office? Again, it is often a matter of creative thinking.

3. Assign every team member one to three practice performance metric numbers

Somehow, it became a popular dental business strategy for managers to know the performance metric numbers and use those numbers to monitor the team. In our opinion, this is backward thinking.

The team needs to know the numbers, and the managers should then review the numbers to strategically devise ways to improve performance. It is not about a team member's individual performance but the overall performance of the practice.

Team members have jobs, and jobs have measurements. Every team member should have one to three numbers that they are responsible for tracking. People love to know their numbers and what results are expected. This knowledge adds significantly to motivation and inspiration.


Motivational psychology is complex and requires more than a step-by-step approach. The recommendations in this article can help any dentist and office manager create a more motivated team that is excited, energized, and enthusiastic every day. After all, you want to have a successful career and a fun career as well. Motivated people are also more fun!

Dr. Roger P. Levin is CEO of Levin Group, a leading practice management and marketing consulting firm. To contact him or to join the 40,000 dental professionals who receive his Practice Production Tip of the Day, visit LevinGroup.com or email [email protected].

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

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