I’d like to discuss your relationship with practice, and when I say that, I don’t mean your private practice. I mean practice. It’s not something most professionals really focus on, but I feel it’s incredibly important.
We spent the last few months teaching my daughter how to catch a baseball. She got her first ball glove – it’s an adorable, tiny thing. At first, she was trying to catch with two hands, and really struggling, but eventually she learned how it has to be done.
That’s what I’m talking about, the intentional practice of a process in order to develop skills and eventual mastery over it. It’s what you need to do in order to become a successful leader in your private practice, and in your personal life.
Anytime you’re trying to learn something, there’s a curve. There’s an intentional process about it. Malcom Gladwell’s 10,000 hours theory states that you need to do something for 10,000 hours to become an expert. That’s roughly five years or so. It’s true, and you’ll see that if you look back at your first couple of days in your private practice. You also need to apply that to anything in your life that you’re struggling to master. It’s an invaluable concept to get your head around right now.
There are many things that we struggle with in our practice – getting results, ensuring accountability from team members, etc. Mastering anything takes intentional study and practice. So, if you’re struggling to achieve results, you need to practice, and that includes aspects of leadership like having awkward conversations with team members.
There are so many examples that I could list – learning to play the guitar, learning to play an instrument in conjunction with other band members, learning to put on a Broadway show. Those are just a few examples off the top of my head. It all comes down to practice. Practice makes perfect, and if you’re not intentional about it, and you don’t set out to improve in areas where it’s needed, you’re going to fail. You want to build that experience and mastery so that you can consistently deliver a “wow” experience to your patients.
What I want you to do is examine your professional life (or even your personal one if necessary). Identify at least one area where you’re not quite up to snuff, where you could use some improvement. Then, adopt that 10,000-hour mindset. Put in the work. Put in the effort. Practice, practice, practice. You’ll begin to see improvements over time, and you’ll develop true mastery. That’s what’s necessary to run a successful business and become a true leader.
I’d also like to point out that your journey never truly ends. There will never come a point where you can look around yourself and say, “I have arrived. I’m a true leader now”. In point of fact, a true leader will never seek that opportunity, but will always look for ways to make him or herself better suited to leading others.
Today, I’d like to talk about what you, personally, bring to the office. What is it that you deliver every single day?
Try this exercise – ask your team to write down everything they thought about from the time they woke up until they got to the office. Have them write it all down in chronological order. How many do you predict will have thought about patient outcomes, or patient satisfaction or patients at all? Most won’t have.
You’ll see thoughts about how they’re running late, or how they burnt their toast. You might find that some people are fighting with their spouses. What you won’t find is any thought about serving patients.
Here’s the problem. No one is coming to the office with an attitude of serving others. Chances are good that you don’t either, but you should. In fact, that should be the thing that you deliver eve
There are several things you’ll need to master to do this. One of those is just being conscious of your energy levels. As they drop, you need to build them back up, because an attitude of service requires high energy levels and a positive outlook. You also need take stock of where you are at all times in terms of energy and what you’re showing on your face.
One thing that I’ve found that works well is this: Let’s say I’m about to step into an appointment, and I’m struggling with things that have gone on in the office today. Maybe someone called in sick, or perhaps we’re super busy and I’m behind. I’m tense and not particularly happy. I realize this is showing on my face, and what do you think that will do when you step into the room with the patient? It’ll immediately make a negative impression.
So, to combat that, I stop at the door and take a deep breath. Then, I throw back my shoulders, and I make sure there’s a genuine smile on my face. That’s it – smiling confidently gets the entire appointment off on a positive note. I do the same thing before I walk into the practice in the morning – a big, genuine smile helps to start the morning off right for everyone, and it feeds into the rest of the day.
Here’s my challenge for you – I want you to put positive energy into yourself, your team and your practice. Try smiling before you enter the office in the morning. Smile before you step into a patient’s exam room, and as you step into team meetings. Be the positivity that your practice is lacking, and you’ll find that what you bring to the office every day is what helps keep you all together as a cohesive unit, functioning smoothly, with a positive attitude.
Don’t worry if it takes you a while to really master this. It takes some practice. However, it will eventually transform not just how you feel, but how everyone in the practice feels and acts.
Today, I want to talk about a myth that too many of us fall for. That is, the myth of dental practice location. You hear it all the time – we’re taught the same mantra as real estate professionals. “Location, location, location”. Let me tell you right now, before we go any further, that’s B.S.
It doesn’t matter where your office is located.
There’s this perception out there that your office needs to be located on a busy street corner in order for you to see success, but that’s not true. You might think you need to be right down town, or right in the heart of a major shopping area. Those are both lies.
Again, it doesn’t matter where your office is located. You can find success whether you’re located on the horror-movie-inspired 13th floor of a building, if your practice is in the middle of a nondescript office building, or if you’re in the middle of 20 other dentists. You can build success through marketing. It has nothing to do with location, whatsoever.
Ok, so why doesn’t location matter? Here’s the thing – your marketing message and materials will sway more people than your location ever will. You could be located in an ultra-modern office right in the middle of the most heavily trafficked shopping area in a 50-mile radius, but your marketing is still going to be a bigger draw for potential new patients.
Location’s great for some things, but it doesn’t apply in the dental industry. Who just happens to be walking by a building and thinks to themselves, “Oh, this is great! I think I’ll pop in and get some dental work done”. No one. It doesn’t happen.
Dental work isn’t done on impulse. It’s scheduled ahead of time because it’s not something that anyone really wants to do. No one goes window shopping at dental offices. No one takes their dog for a walk at the dental office.
If you really want to drive traffic to your office, you need two things. First, you need the right frequency when it comes to your marketing. Second, you need a strategic plan that will guide your efforts moving forward. Without those two things, you’re going to fall flat on your face. With the right frequency and the right strategy, you can create familiarity with potential patients. That’s a must – if they’re not familiar with you, then no amount of coaxing, and no stunning new, modern office, is going to get them to step through your doors.
Now does that mean your office can be located in a dump? No. Location matters to some extent, just not when it comes to driving new patients to your doors. However, if your office is located in a crime-ridden area of town, or if the wall facing the street is covered in graffiti, you can count on having a hard time getting new patients.
So, location matters, but not in the way that most of us think. Use marketing to build familiarity and drive visitors to your practice.
I’d like to discuss your success environment today – what that environment is, and why exactly it’s important. So, what is your success environment? It’s the place where you work for maximum productivity.
Think about your dental office. It’s designed and laid out for maximum efficiency and productivity, right? It’s set up so that you can work quickly, and provide necessary patient care in a logical, smooth, efficient manner. So, what about those days when you’re working on building a better business, rather than directly serving patient needs? What’s your success environment then?
To really dig into that, let’s discuss the importance of having a success environment. It insures and facilitates. Second, it eliminates distractions. Make sure your success environment doesn’t contain anything that would pull your attention away from what you’re doing. Schedule your time appropriately, put your laptop and wireless devices in airplane mode, and avoid the Internet completely, even just to check email. You also need to plan – schedule what you’re going to do that day the night before so that you can roll right into it without a lot of delay.
Know going into the day what you need to accomplish to make it feel successful. Set at least three goals that you need to meet. Plan those out ahead of time. What will it take to reach those goals? Know that going into the situation.
I struggle to stay focused sometimes. I’ve found that the right type of music helps a great deal. Another thing that helps me is an app called a presentation clock. You can download that for both iOS and Android, and it works like a countdown timer. As you listen to your music, you can set your timer to count down the workflow blocks you’ve created.
I’ve also found that the right foods can help. I enjoy a product called Lion’s Mane Elixir from Four Stigmatic. It’s a mushroom-based drink, and you mix it with hot water to improve clarity and focus.
My point is that you need to create an environment that fosters focus and clarity, while eliminating distractions. Your workspace should include only those things most important for achieving your goals during that session. For instance, my workspace right now includes only a laptop. There’s not even a cellphone on the desk. That ensures I’m not distracted and that I’m able to focus on achieving my goals.
Your success environment is your space – it’s the place you go to get things done without distractions. Only bring into that space what you need to get stuff done. Don’t bring in distracting things, including needless technology. It also helps to not bring in emotional baggage and negative thoughts. Practice leaving your day at the door. Don’t worry about how a patient’s outcome will turn out, or the argument you had with your spouse or partner.
I get the same question from practice owners in many different countries. Everyone seems to wonder how you get your team to do what they’re supposed to do. How do you get them to do more? It really all comes down to leadership. If your practice is suffering from a lack of forward momentum, I believe it’s a leadership problem, not a people problem.
Leadership comes down to four key elements – clarity, having the right people in the right roles, realistic time frames, and emotion.
You first need a clear vision of where you want your practice to go. You can’t get your team moving in one direction if there’s no clarity. Where are they going? Without a vision, they don’t know, and chances are good that you don’t, either.
You need to make sure that you’ve filled all of the positions in your practice with the right people. This means more than just not hiring warm bodies. It means finding roles that fit the interests, talents and passions of your team members. Someone on your marketing team might actually be better with hygiene, and someone in hygiene might be better in accounting. Find the right fit for each team member and you’ll go farther, faster.
Realistic time frames are also important to master. Training takes time. Retraining also takes time. Know how long it will take to ensure that each person has a firm grasp of their responsibilities, and don’t push them to run at your own speed. You’re a high-performance person. You want everything done now, and don’t see why it can’t be. Not everyone is like that, so establish realistic time frames for your team members to get a firm handle on what they’re supposed to do, and why it matters.
The most important element of leadership is emotion. You need to tap into your team’s emotions in order to weld them into a single, cohesive unit. They need to feel like they’re part of something larger, and that their efforts are achieving something more than just earning them a paycheck. If all you have are people who do what they do because you tell them to, you’ll never experience real success.
Incentivizing your team with money doesn’t really work – you need to get them to see their role in your practice in a positive emotional light. What do you achieve outside your practice? How do you give back to the community? What have you all achieved as a team? These are all ways that you can tap into that positive emotional viewpoint and get your team members to think and act as one, motivated by success, not a paycheck.
Those four building blocks are needed to create a successful team, and you need to put them in place in that order – clarity, the right people in the right roles, establishing realistic time frames, and creating an emotional connection between your practice, their role, and each individual team member. Anything less will result in failure, ultimately.