'When we are doing things in a thorough manner and with purpose, I love what I'm able to do every day...' partial quote from Casey Murdock

As a dental practice owner, I love what I can accomplish in my practice every day. I'm one of the lucky ones – I have a team I can trust, patients I enjoy working with and plenty of clinical challenges that inspire me in my day-to-day work.

That said, I know what it's like to arrive to a practice plagued with chronic inefficiencies and stress – and the unique challenges you face as a clinician when your team isn't on the same page. I struggled for years in my Billings, Montana-based practice to find a rhythm with my staff that would allow me to take on the cases that motivated and challenged me. I knew there was a limit to what I could manage without the full support of my team.

This is one of the most enduring challenges we face as practice owners. To be effective as clinicians, we must also be leaders by motivating and guiding team members with distinct and complex personalities.

My office manager, Tiffany Dalton, describes this aspect of practice management as the “emotional work,” and it's how she thrives. Looking back, the best decision I made as a practice owner was empowering Tiffany with the resources she needed to develop and align the team. It meant I could focus on expanding my clinical skill set while she invested her time in making the practice as efficient as possible.

There were a few characteristics Tiffany embodied that convinced me she was the right person to trust to develop and manage a team training plan. I'll share them here in the hope that they will help you identify the person (or people) in your practice to help get your team aligned.

No. 1: Empathy

In Tiffany's recent Spear Digest article, she stated that getting the team to “buy in” to a team training initiative is a matter of getting them personally invested in the overall vision. She notes that no matter how dedicated or hard-working a team member is, they will inevitably struggle to stay engaged if the end goal doesn't benefit them in some way.

For this reason, your team training delegate should be able to tap into what matters most to your individual team members based on what they want to achieve personally and professionally. The more naturally empathetic your delegate is, the more honest and upfront your team will be about what they care about in and outside of work.

From there, your delegate can help you prioritize more narrow improvements that blend individual team member goals with your overall practice vision.

No. 2: Resourcefulness

I think most practice owners know what it feels like to never have enough time, money, or motivation. An effective team training manager needs to be great at making the most of what they already have.

In our case, we were lucky to have plenty of team training resources at our disposal through my access to Spear Online – but like many dental practices, we were time-poor. To make the most of the limited time we had together as a team, Tiffany and I worked together to utilize Spear Online resources in our existing team huddles and communications.

While I used Spear team meetings to guide monthly discussions with our staff, Tiffany would assign follow-up courses to specific team members for individualized training.

These days, this approach allows us to bring training value to our interactions with the team on a more regular basis. Team members appreciate the consistency and consequently feel more comfortable dedicating time and energy to practice improvements.

No. 3: Enthusiasm

It takes a lot of energy to run a successful dental practice and it can feel like a lot of pressure to shoulder on your own. I find that having an enthusiastic office manager like Tiffany makes it easier for me to stay focused and energized even when times are tough – and I believe it does the same for our practice team.

In times like these, enthusiasm and positivity are hard to come by – so it's important that someone tasked with leading and motivating your practice team exudes enthusiasm in their day-to-day work. I happened to find this with my office manager, but I know many doctors who work closely with a dental assistant, hygienist, or associate doctor to manage practice-wide training initiatives.

Remember that this delegate will set the tone for the entire practice team. If you select someone with the right combination of empathy, resourcefulness and enthusiasm, you're already well on your way to achieving your vision for practice success.