What sets dental coaching apart?

By Dan Kingsbury, DDS; Don Deems, DDS, FAGD; Alan Goldstein, DMD

August 26, 2010 -- "Coaching" has been a buzzword in business for at least a decade, and more recently has been used by dental consultants and others to attract dentists to their services. But there is a huge difference between professional coaching and regular coaching.

In many ways, all of us are coaches: to each other, our families, our friends, and our colleagues. The difference lies in the skill, experience, training, and expertise that professionally trained coaches can deliver.

Consider this: A study of 100 executives receiving executive coaching between 1996 and 2000 found that 75% of the sample (participants and stakeholders) felt the value of coaching was "considerably greater" or "far greater" than the money and time invested (Manchester Review, 2001, Vol. 6:1). And 93% said they would recommend coaching to others.

Dental coaching involves working with a coach who is also a dentist. It is a very effective developmental tool for leadership that can produce financial and intangible benefits for a practice or business. Decision-making, team performance, and the motivation of others will be enhanced. Many of these variables contributed to annualized financial benefits:

  • Increased productivity
  • Increased employee satisfaction and retention
  • Increased patient satisfaction
  • Increased work output
  • Increased work quality

Of course, there are also the intangibles that can be hard to put in terms of money:

  • Increased satisfaction
  • Increased enjoyment
  • Fulfillment
  • Peace
  • Confidence
  • Improved relationships

Real-world examples

Because dental coaching is a relatively new technique, some practitioners may not understand how it can help them become better business professionals. Consider these examples, which illustrate many dental coaching concepts:

Case study 1
Bob has been in practice nearly 20 years. He's had his share of ups and downs, but somehow has been able to survive and carve out a good living for himself and his family. Lately, he's been able to work only four days a week, so some of the pressure is off. His kids are getting older and less dependent on him and his wife. He admits his relationship with his wife could be better, but the toll of long hours at the office, not being able to spend meaningful time with her, and the stresses of running his solo practice have caused them to lose the connection they had so long ago.

The economy has further challenged him to produce and collect enough in revenues to maintain his practice and his lifestyle. He's worked with consultants to help him learn how to manage his practice, but he never seems to be able to get his practice to a level where there's not always a lot of drama going on or patients getting upset about something (usually not his dentistry).

Lately Bob has begun to wonder, "Is this all there is?"

Fortunately, Bob found a dental coach and has been able to explore and change many elements of his personal and professional life through conversation, awareness, and action. Some of the things Bob discovered were that his communication style was mostly ineffective, both with staff and patients; his concept and style of leadership was well-outdated and ineffective in today's business environment; and he had not paid attention to many issues that just bugged him to death, choosing instead to stuff his feelings away.

Through working with his coach in weekly sessions, Bob began to develop the awareness and skills to be able to take actions pertinent to his life and his practice. He now finds meaning, peace, and fulfillment in his practice, and his relationship with his wife is steadily improving.

Case study 2
Jane is a 49-year-old dentist with 25 years in private practice in a nice suburban area of the South. She feels that it is time for her to initiate some changes in her career. Because her practice is a small solo practice, she has much flexibility in her schedule. However, due to several illnesses in her family within the last five years, her production has declined. She lives 20 miles from her practice and is working three days a week. She has the responsibility of all overhead and has reached a point in which she feels her net income is not worth the responsibility. She has lost motivation and feels isolated in her present situation. She would like to consider options for her future, but she is unsure who to get advice from.

Jane knows many brokers are out there, but few who can really help doctors make decisions such as the kind she is facing. In addition, those she knows of are very expensive and would probably want her to transition over a period of years. Yet she is of the opinion that she wants to transition out of her practice fairly soon, both for personal reasons and to protect the value of the practice.

Fortunately, Jane finds a dental coach and begins to learn that she has been so distracted by personal issues over the past five years -- with kidney operations, cancer, and death in the family -- that she didn't feel she had any time to fit in anything else. After some coaching, Jane discovers that she wants a balance between her career and "so much" personal responsibility and that she has been, in fact, obsessing.

Jane had been at the same location for 23 years and thought she needed a change, but after some coaching she regroups and negotiates a better lower lease payment and some additional leasehold improvements. She then begins to examine her life from a very structured process of trying on different perspectives until she hits on one that resonates with all her values. While she had tried consultants in the past, none of them had hit on her personal issues the way her dental coach did.

After weeks of working with her coach, Jane has a powerful vision that provides her with direction and a sense of meaning again. Jane decides not to transition out of her present situation, but to begin working part time within hospital dentistry, caring for sick patients in addition to her regular three-day work week in her general practice.

Jane is once again very happy, passionately engaged with her professional interest in hospital dentistry and back on track relating to her patients. "Really nice people," she tells her coach. "And new patient growth, it's picking up, too. I've been asking for referrals two times per day."

Case study 3
VK has a flourishing practice in a mid-sized town in the Northeast. It was known as the quality practice in town, and the metrics of the practice reflected steady growth. The word around town was that VK never rushed, was always attentive, and had a great and long-standing staff. Of course, everyone assumed that the dental care was top-notch.

But after overspending for his daughter's wedding, VK begins to feel some financial pressure and starts trying to squeeze a bit more production out of each day. One day he puts someone in just before lunch, which made lunch short for the staff. But nobody complained; after all, VK was almost always on time.

But then VK starts regularly squeezing patients into his already full schedule, and the staff starts regularly losing time from their lunch hour. Predictably, the day ends later and later, kids don't get picked up on time from day care, and evening family meals are thrown out of whack. Not surprisingly, VK is exhausted at day's end, starts eating mindlessly, and begins gaining weight at a frightening pace.

Now patients are consistently kept waiting as VK rushes from room to room. Anticipating waits, they start showing up later and later, feeling as if it won't much matter since they will be kept waiting anyway. The word around town now is that VK's practice has lost its quality edge, and patients start leaving. His numbers drop for the first time in the practice's history.

VK is puzzled and more than a little scared. He has heard about professional dental coaching and decides working with a coach might help him turn things around.

After confidential meetings with VK and staff, culminating with regular staff meetings that are initially facilitated by the coach, the details of the decline are examined. VK is challenged, listening to descriptions of the chaos that his greedy behavior had generated. But he also hears what a terrific boss he had been as folks asked him to find that generous and kind place again.

VK also has private biweekly coaching sessions to generate lifestyle changes (yoga, weight training, mindful eating, and journaling) to help him be the self-aware and skillful leader he wants to be.

After six months of this staff meeting practice, which continues to this day, the relationship between VK and his staff is on the mend, and patients are returning to this quality practice where respect for everyone has been rediscovered.

Why professional coaching?

The goal of professional coaching is to put you in control of your own practice by improving your ability to lead an efficient, enthusiastic team who share your vision of providing the highest level of patient care. Coaching provides the structure to help you harness the full potential of your practice to enrich your life -- professionally, personally, and financially.

As Jim Collins wrote in Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap ... and Others Don't:

"Leading from good to great does not mean coming up with the answers and then motivating everyone to follow your messianic vision. It means having the humility to grasp the fact that you do not yet understand enough to have the answers and then to ask the questions that will lead to the best possible insights."

Copyright © 2010 DrBicuspid.com

 

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