performance partnerAs I have pointed out many times, dentistry is an essentially solitary profession. If you have your own practice, nobody is there to tell what you need to do to get better—you have to seek that advice out for yourself. When you are in the operatory, nobody is looking over your shoulder. If you have goals for improvement, they are goals you set yourself, and you have to be self-accountable for them.

The problem is, when we are the only ones holding ourselves accountable, we tend to be pretty generous in allowing leeway. As you know from your years in school, if others are holding you accountable to certain standards, or if you have natural competition in the form of peer performance, you have built-in motivators. But once you are on your own, where you are the only one who knows what the goals and standards are, the motivation to improve is harder to sustain.

That's why I suggest finding a performance partner.

By that I mean partnering with another dentist who is in your area and comparing notes on what you intend to do and when you intend to do it. This dentist could be someone who is in your circle of colleagues in a continuing education program or in your study club. Give them permission to follow up with you on where you are in your progress, and offer to do the same for them. Give each other the gift of being the conscience that keeps you both honest to your intentions.

This is how you keep yourself true to yourself. In a professional environment where you have absolute autonomy over what you do and when, one of the bravest things you can do is to allow yourself to be challenged.


Commenter's Profile Image Barry Polansky
July 2nd, 2014
One of the best partners a dentist can get is the lab technician. Together , the dentist and the technician can learn and grow together. In general, this is not the case. In many cases there is a power hierarchy that controls the relationship - that is a shame because it is such a great opportunity for a learning organization. This is a good door to open for further discussion of learning organizations.
Commenter's Profile Image Shirley Cheong
July 2nd, 2014
What a true comment and suggestion. I am lucky to have my Performance partner right in the practice. We are a dentist couple who knew each other since dental school. We have our respect with each other, our own autonomy in our clinical decisions and yet we are each other's check and balance. We adopted the habit of taking digital clinical photos of our cases from the first comprehensive oral examination to periodic updates. Not only we share and review what we do between us, the patient and our team are involved in this accountability habit. We are the luckiest and happiest dentists for sure because we strive for improvement everyday. Thank you Imtiaz for being our coach.