I believe that leading a dental practice can either be a rewarding and fascinating experience or it can be non-stimulating, boring, stressful, or confusing. It ultimately boils down to a daily choice. To experience the rewarding option, our choice needs to be both deliberate and resolute.
Whether we like to accept this or not, our mood and energy may heavily influence the behavior and performance of those around us, to the degree of inadvertently alternating between becoming inspiring or toxic to our team.
When leading any type of organization, output is closely related to input. This reminds me of my early school days when I was taught Newton’s third law: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
However, stimulating the members of our team to thrive needs to be part of our daily assignments and we cannot just hit the autopilot and expect magical things to happen. But if we cultivate and garner the right team around us, we can expect to be fully reciprocated, allowing the team to fuel our own drive, passion and commitment.
A few months ago during my practice’s weekly team meeting, I had the realization that as an international dental educator, I hadn’t been traveling. In nearly 20 years of teaching to international audiences, traveling certainly has given me (and consequently my team) a broader perspective in every sense, hence has become part of our practice’s “special sauce,” but now how do we compensate for the lack of traveling?
It suddenly hit me, and I was able to articulate this to my team. I told them, instead of traveling abroad and visiting the world, let us welcome the world into our office every day, as it walks in through the door in the wonderful form of ‘our patients.’ We normally see 20-25 patients a day and there is so much we could all learn from each one of them, learn from their different walks of life, their background and culture but also of course learn about their fears and anxieties.
At many levels, this simple notion has had tremendous impact in the way we go about in our every day, it essentially makes every day a special day. There is an implicit sense of gratitude that we are some of the lucky ones that have not lost the human connection in our everyday work. We simply cannot home-office dentistry. But on the other hand there is an amazing sense of daily discovery.
This means of course that our team interaction is “live,” but our connection with the world is also “live,” which is priceless.
So, in the spirit of celebrating such fortunate position, we decided to take advantage of it by implementing these three initiatives:
1) Gamifying the morning huddle
Doing a morning huddle has become a standardized practice in the dental office. It is an efficient way to review and align the team regarding what the day ahead looks like. But the reality is that coming into the huddle normally does not require much preparation other than to be attentive and alert.
In a recent article, “Creating a New Vision for Your Dental Practice,” I explain how a pillar of our practice vision is to focus in consistent execution. You would think that this is evident, but the reality is that we can do so much to improve our execution. For one thing, we can always be readier to perform.
So, what if we came into the huddle more prepared? What if we made this more fun?
During our morning huddles, I’d notice that some of our team members seemed to be more focused than others, and while I am not a big proponent of “the carrot and the stick” technique to reward our team members, I decided to entice the team to come better prepared by gamifying it.
The assignment consists of memorizing both the patients of the day and what they are scheduled for. Then we start the huddle by randomly selecting a team member to spell it out. When done right, the member received $5.
After a few days of implementing this, it started becoming common that the selected member of the team not only was able to nail the list and receive the $5 but also spontaneously received their teammates recognition via a round of applause, making this a solid teambuilding exercise through healthy competition.
Furthermore, the fact that we are all assigned to memorize the list, not only stimulates a closer connection with each one of our patients, but it collectively improves our team’s mental agility.
2) ‘One Moment Friday’
Our practice name is Grupo Dental Bosques, (Spanish for Bosques Dental Group) but we always use the GDB acronym. Over the years we’ve coined the term “GDB Moment,” which essentially stands for a unique interaction between a team member and a patient that is actually worth sharing, (encompasses a special connection charged with empathy, sympathy, revelation that becomes meaningful for all of those involved).
Being cognizant of the toll COVID-19 has had on our patients, our team has not only become diligent in providing our patients a compassionate set of ears, but also quite eloquent while providing patients with a word of reassurance, encouragement and support.
Our team members are urged to document the amount of GDB moments they garner in the week. Then every Friday, we share a few of them during our daily huddle.
If you think about it, the number of possible interactions with our patients is extensive, but having this process allows us to continually generate worthwhile moments as a signature piece of our organizational culture.
This has a tremendously positive effect in our team’s spirit since everyone has become aware of our collective ability to mitigate our patients’ emotional ailments and anxiety.
3) We the patients
In my opinion, the dental office represents the quintessential “customer centric business” and we should focus on delivering customer centric experiences. Our biggest asset is clearly the patient, and as such it can be leveraged.
It is common to see dentists on social media, particularly Instagram, posting selfies with their patients. A few years ago, we fell into this “trap” and started doing it for a while, and sure enough, we had patients that follow us on Instagram and write comments asking why they haven’t been featured in selfies.
So we could have continued doing this for a longer time, but we felt as if it was “getting kind of old.” We thought about this and decided to discontinue these types of posts, but just recently gave this idea a spin and did something even more fun and original. We thought: What if we gave patients a minute of spotlight and yet again “gamify” it into something unique?
We created a question bank that includes 30 questions intended to unveil personal preferences in music, favorite fictitious characters, books, personal traits, and other points. We shoot a quick cell phone video, asking the patient to pick a couple of numbers from 1-30 to randomly unveil the different questions.
And then we add a last question which is: “What do you like the most about being a patient in our office?”
Being that they can say anything they want, this becomes an authentic testimonial about their overall experience in our office — one that ultimately has tremendous marketing potential.
Let’s face it, as an organization the dental office is nothing but the sum of the individuals that are responsible for running it and there has never been a time when acknowledging this has been more important for every single role in the practice.