Leadership is situational. There is no one method, approach, or answer. But leadership does need to change as the environment changes. Leaders who are using the same methods to run their practices that they did prepandemic may find they have new challenges.
Loss of staff, less staff motivation, staff members with personal issues or changes in attitude, and difficulty hiring are just some of the staffing issues that practice leaders now face in the postpandemic era. This article will review five methods that can be added to your leadership style right now that will benefit almost every orthodontic practice and allow the practice to increase revenue every year within an easy, effortless, and enjoyable culture.
1. Implement leading-edge and innovative systems.
Data indicate that almost every orthodontic practice has a minimum growth potential of 30% to 50% over the next three years. We have seen this over and over with hundreds of orthodontic practices that believe they were maxed out and could not handle any more patient flow.
By using many different management tactics to create high levels of efficiency, practices can increase growth consistently year after year. Some of the approaches are large, such as analyzing procedural time studies and building new mathematical schedules or dramatically increasing the level of delegation through team training. Others are small fixes, such as attracting the siblings of new patients and creating an opportunity to build a larger patient base through the observation program (which is typically ineffective).
2. Create an enthusiastic environment.
Teams today want more than a paycheck. They want to enjoy their work and belong to something that has a purpose, and enjoyment begins with the leader. Orthodontists and office managers need to raise their enthusiasm and raise it right now. This creates the beginning of a belief by team members that they work in a positive, energized, and fun environment.
It also allows team members to feel happy and comfortable at work, which is becoming a criterion for many employees. Practices that want to retain their team and allow them to reach their true potential must motivate and inspire their teams, and it starts with the enthusiasm level of the leader.
Every doctor should raise their enthusiasm level by 20% or more. This sounds funny because there really is no way to know what your current percentage of enthusiasm is. However, the heart of this message is that you must significantly raise your enthusiasm regardless of what it is now.
Simply work every day to bring a higher level of enthusiasm to yourself and the team, and you will automatically begin motivating and inspiring team members to perform at the highest level and increase staff longevity, which is now critically important.
3. Define the purpose.
We have heard about values, mission, and vision for the last 20 years extensively in the business world. These are excellent and sound principles, but most practices don't focus enough on helping the team understand their real purpose of being in the practice.
People today want to feel a purpose in their work, and companies that help to communicate that purpose and continue to focus on that message retain team members longer, create higher work performance, and attract new team members more easily.
Again, people today don't simply want to work for a paycheck; they want to know that they're making a difference. Dentistry offers a wonderful opportunity to improve the quality of life for patients.
4. Keep training.
Every team member should be improving in their work every year, and this can only happen through training. As a leader, you must evaluate every team member regarding the next skill that needs to be either added or improved.
Ask yourself what type of training (i.e., seminar, webinar, book, adviser, etc.) each team member needs. Helping each team member to improve every year will create more loyalty, commitment, and excellent relationships. Again, you will increase staff longevity and be attractive to new staff members considering a position in your practice.
Don't be fooled into thinking that because you're the one doing the hiring, you have the upper hand. In the face of today's staff shortages, it's the applicant who is deciding on you more than you are deciding on the applicant.
5. Have fun.
The dental practice is no longer simply a place of work for the staff. It is also an extension of their personal lives. Dental staff members, like many employees today, view the workplace as pleasant or unpleasant, and, during the pandemic, we saw many staff members resigning their positions without other jobs simply because they did not enjoy the practice they were in.
This has never happened before, so we need to ask ourselves what is missing. The answer is fun. As I like to say in seminars, "Bring back the fun." Having fun in the office creates better work, better focus, and a strong desire to do well and support colleagues and coworkers. People want to go to work and have a good time, not go to work to be stressed out, not appreciated, or have conflict with coworkers.
So how can you create fun in your offices? One practice we know regularly brings in lunch for the team, pays for the first round of drinks at happy hour, gives half-day off awards for exceptional performance, and even periodically hands out $100 bills as a thank you for a job well done. Think about it like this: Every day, the practice leader has an opportunity to appreciate and recognize team members for the great job they are doing.
The leadership model is changing, and those who don't change along with it will face greater staffing challenges than those who do. We recently met a practice that had a long-term staff but lost five team members in two years. While we cannot say with certainty what happened in this case, we believe that not moving toward the new leadership model and understanding what team members really care about leaves a practice vulnerable to staffing issues. You can move forward on these five leadership principles starting today because they are easy, effortless, and enjoyable.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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