Becoming a proactive leader in the wake of a crisis

By Dr. James V. Anderson, DrBicuspid contributing writer

June 10, 2021 -- Being a proactive dentist means always looking for opportunities to enrich the practice. To recognize opportunities and be bold, one must be prepared with knowledge from the past, present, and future. With opportunities comes the possibility of change.

Leadership means engaging the team in the direction of the opportunity. The team, in turn, can guide the patients and anticipate, prepare, and actively search for the best solutions for them, even if it means putting in extra time. The reward is the trust from patients, and the result is growth and improved patient retention.

Dr. James V. Anderson
Dr. James V. Anderson.

A crisis can come from a virus. But it can also come from losing a key staff member, economic downturns, or a health concern. Sitting idly by and waiting for things to get better or accepting that "this is the way it is" does not lead to a proactive future.

The pandemic changed the way we relate to and process patients in our practices. Suddenly shutdown, we scrambled for answers and new ways to serve our patients, such as teledentistry and delivering emergency care and maintenance care under government guidelines. Now that the world has opened up, we are looking at what we can do to develop a better way to practice and a more prepared way to meet a crisis.

Those who shut their businesses down entirely and didn't see any opportunity in the crisis are no longer in business or are now struggling to regain what was lost. To be proactive, let's consider the three scenarios of time.

1. The past

Can the past repeat itself? Look at history, and you will know the answer. Planning for any potential problems for the business is not only wise but also necessary for survival.

Before the pandemic, you may have had 25 new patients a month. Now you have 10. The proactive dentist and staff look at this number and realize they can recreate the past if they put in the effort.

Look for ways to attract new patients and give them what they want in the postpandemic world. Seek new technology and products to improve the lives of those you touch.

2. The present

Opportunities are here in the land of bounty. Be open to them. There is enough for all of us if we embrace a positive outlook.

Opportunities can include an unlikely partnership or a new way to create value or improve production, but the dentist or manager must be proactive enough to seek them out. Take the time to listen to your team members actively. They will have ideas and enthusiasm for creating new approaches to managing the practice and the patients.

3. The future

What are we going to do to manage the risk that future decisions may bring? Risk management can be a scary term, conjuring up lawsuits and lost reputation. Proactive dentists/managers ask themselves whether there's a chance a decision will backfire in the near future.

Be proactive and establish safeguards that ensure you have covered the possible and the unlikely scenarios.

Be available to your patients and your team

It's important to remember that while people can't read your mind, they can observe and react to your behavior. Being available means listening and giving your time. Time can build relationships and demonstrate that you care. However, time can be a problem when you are too busy to give anyone the time and attention they need.

Analyze your business systems

If you are scheduled with no time to breathe and struggling with administrative duties along with patient care, you should reexamine your processes to see if there's anything you can streamline or automate. If there's something you're wasting time on that can be done by another member of the team, delegate it! If a process can be automated, learn how to make it happen. The more useless processes you cut, the more time you'll have, making it easier to get back to being proactive.

Be proactive and take the lead in building your practice's future resiliency. Your patients and your team will notice how much you care when you take the time to connect and create a better working future.

Dr. James V. Anderson is a practicing dentist in Syracuse, UT, and is the CEO and founder of eAssist Dental Solutions. He can be reached via email.

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 © 2021

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