Editor's Note: This article was originally published July 24, 2014.

dental team

There are alot of factors that go into making up a well-functioning, smoothly-aligned, high-performing dental team – but I would say that one of the most important characteristics is flexibility. What I mean by flexibility is, the ability to break out of compartmentalized thinking and respond nimbly to what needs to be done.

I'll give you an example. I have spent a lot of time coaching dentists and their teams on the importance of the new patient experience, and breaking down each step in the process. It's a process that starts with the all-important first contact when a prospective new patient calls the office. That's where you begin to gather intelligence, set expectations and set the tone for the relationship.

But what happens when the person taking that call from a new patient begins the conversation and then finds a patient standing in front of her waiting to be acknowledged? What happens when another line rings? How can she devote the right attention to this important call and keep up with her duties?

This is where real teamwork comes in. I recommend using something like a card that someone at the front desk can hold up and show a co-worker nearby, or even a buzzer that can summon an office manager or other team member from a back office —essentially a red-alert notification that says to other team members “I am engaged in a high-value conversation. Please cover for me.”

A good team is made up of good people who are good at their jobs. A great team is made up of people who are not only good at their jobs, but have also been instilled with a deep understanding of how their contributions are part of a larger purpose. And they are ready to do what it takes in the service of that higher purpose. That's not my job is not part of their thinking, because they know that their role is bigger than their job. Their primary role—everyone's primary role—is to contribute to the success of the practice.