If you don’t know the feeling of complacency in the dental practice, I commend you because it is an issue in many practice partnerships.
When you have two or more individuals with varying opinions, principles, ideals, or goals, based on their individual stake in the practice — the entire team gets off-goal very quickly, and everyone runs the risk of treating patients differently due to not being centered on shared ideals and goals. It may even feel like you’re speaking different languages at times.
As dentists, you get into a rhythm. You put your head down, go through the motions, and may not realize you’ve meandered from the path you set with your partner or partners. The pain of changing feels bigger than the pain associated with not changing. So you or your teammates might think, “well this is not ideal, but I’ll just live with it.”
Let’s keep in mind: just enough isn’t always good enough for the others who are part of maintaining and growing the practice as a business that patients can believe in. If your team is in a complacent environment, then good enough is good enough. And your patients are the ones who suffer.
In a recent Dental Economics “Transitions Roundtable,” I weighed in on the question: “How can the practice management consultant effectively assist in developing a successful partnership?” In my responses to DE, I laid out several considerations for dentists and their teams, so check it out via DE, including how to “communicate the roles and strategies as ‘We’ versus ‘I’” and my insistence that you clearly “establish or reestablish parameters for decision-making and times when both partners need to be involved.”
It’s easy to get to a point where the practice is running complacently, and a complacent organization forgets the fact that the only theory that applies to business management is chaos theory, which demands you get better, or you’ll get worse.
There are a lot of reasons why vision gets eroded, and it happens to everyone. So if you’re frustrated, it’s normal.
Discover or rediscover team alignment with your practice team
In my experience in practice consulting and team training through Pride Institute and through the dedicated coaching, consulting of Spear Practice Solutions clients , I have served as a mediator between many frustrated partners.
Those arguments, nasty words, accusations, negative vibrations, and other issues are simply related to a lack of shared vision, values, goals, and strategies.
For example, you can get into the midyears’ performance of your practice and you get distracted by life — by family, by personal pursuits, by challenges outside of dentistry.
Dentistry is generally recession-proof or protected from the economic declines that many other industries face, so it’s easy to go on a sort of autopilot, which is detrimental to the team around you, who need support and direction from a trusted teammate.
Establish or reestablish communication and executive roles
By my nature, I’m not very neutral. I want to drive a point home. But that’s why I stress mediation in dental partnerships.
There have been many partnerships where I start by joking, "I’m neutral – I hate you both equally!" I get to watch the passion fight and see two people just missing each other with separate cases, neither of which is particularly strong.
Being able to put myself in that role, I get to approach it objectively, with curiosity. I get to make sure that both movies being played in these individuals’ heads get seen and validated, so everyone can put themselves in the other person’s position, so you’re in a better position to see where your partner is coming from.
“If your team is in a complacent environment, then good enough is good enough. And your patients are the ones who suffer.” -Amy Morgan, Spear Resident Faculty
With Practice Solutions and throughout my career, I’ve learned that many dental practice partners simply never established strong partnership agreements to begin with, or they failed to properly identify and establish executive roles.
Some people say, I’m just going to stuff it because it’s my dad, or my friend, or because I just don’t want to confront that un-confrontable stuff. So those loose professional boundaries that were great to begin with can eventually become unbearable for the people you rely on every day. It’s important to establish professional boundaries that everyone in the practice understands and agrees to.
When your nasty partnership turns becomes untenable for staff
If you’re at odds with a partner, chances are that your office manager or staff may feel like they’re in the untenable position of having to serve as a bouncing ball that moves between two or more leaders who demonstrate varying focus.
This can be incredibly stressful on many people and lead to significant breakdowns in your workflows or lead to conjecture among the team as individuals feel the need to “play favorites” or “take sides.”
You don’t want your team to be in a position where they’re forced to infill for a lack of executive leadership. It leaves the team struggling to understand their roles.
However, if team members will simply go to the one partner, their favorite partner, if they don’t like what they’re hearing from the other.
It’s essential to cut down on those mixed messages. As I noted in the DE piece, “it’s vital that the partners communicate their vision to the team as a unified voice.”
Amy Morgan is a member of Spear Resident Faculty.