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The first quarter of the year is a perfect time to assess your practice culture and identify opportunities for growth and improvement.

A great leader cultivates an environment that inspires teams to achieve new levels of commitment and success. If you want to motivate your team to follow your lead, “Look in the mirror,” as Ken Blanchard said.

There are eight simple steps to lead your team to excellence. Simple to understand, but they take a lifetime of effort to master – so fasten your seat belts, let’s do this!

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1. Find your ‘why’

One of my favorite quotes begins with, “A task without a vision is drudgery.”

People are inspired by the vision, outcomes and the North Star goals that you set. In other words, their “whys.” If the leader is not inspired by the vision, the team won’t be inspired either. The word “inspire” is derived from the Latin word “inspirare,” which means “to breathe life into.”

If you have “Walking Dead” team meetings, your meetings are too focused on the drudgeries and not your aspirations.

2. Create your culture

The definition of culture is the shared expectations, attitudes and belief systems that serve as the guiding foundation for an organization’s success.

Your culture is the practice’s X factor. It’s what brings ideal team members to your doorstep and keeps them long-term. Your culture should not only match your vision and values, it should promote them.

The mark of an excellent culture is the amount of “we, us and our” that is heard, rather than, “I, me and you.”

3. Communicate in a way that influences and inspires

Unfortunately, many clinicians sound more like a “Peanuts” teacher – “wah, wah wah” – when they communicate to their team. A common misconception about communication is that it is always effective. Have you ever talked about something during a team meeting and then had your team act and ask questions as if you had never communicated with them in the first place?

To improve communication with your team, you must be honest, authentic and specific with a healthy dose of active listening.

4. Focus on one goal at a time

When everything is important, nothing is important. A great leader can prioritize and chooses their battles wisely.

What’s one thing we can focus on as a team that reduces stress, increases efficiency or morale? Once you have chosen a focused path, stay focused.

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5. Use your resources wisely

Many leaders feel they must do everything on their own. Delegation and trust are essential for a team to flourish. What gets in the way of effective delegation is a desire for perfection, which prevents the “subgingival” dentist from recognizing excellence.

Get comfortable with being good enough as you strive for great, otherwise the burden will always remain solely on you.

6. Inspect what you expect

The biggest mistake a leader can make is to assign new goals, tasks or skills and wait months later to notice that there is no change.

As part of inspecting, a leader must acknowledge their team when they see things being done right, almost right or not completely wrong. Tasks and skills that get rewarded get repeated, so encourage the rightness and life will get easier.

7. Jump into new challenges with your team

If you ask your team to change, you do not get to stay comfortable. Being a role model means always helping your team.

There is an old antiperspirant commercial with the tagline, “Never let them see you sweat!” This thought process is the exact opposite of successful leadership. There is nothing more empowering than a team seeing their leader go through the struggle of a major change and making it out the other side. There is value in being real and vulnerable.

8. Celebrate the small, medium and large wins along the way

Celebrating the small wins helps to reinforce positive actions. Unleash childlike joy for your team’s success and let them win.

In every sport there is a myriad of opportunities to check the score and high-five. If you wait for a major success before celebrating, you will be waiting a long time.

The secret to leading your team to excellence lies in this list. If you make a commitment to openly and honestly working on these steps, you will create inspired team members who want to do what you want them to do.

Now get out there and inspire!

Amy Morgan is Vice President of Consulting Strategy, a member of Spear Resident Faculty and former CEO of Pride Institute.