Every great leader — even a great leader of a dental practice — cultivates an environment that inspires people to achieve new levels of commitment and success. If you want to motivate your team to follow your lead, “look in the mirror,” as author and leadership expert Ken Blanchard said. I have found that there are eight simple rules for leading your team to excellence. And when I say simple, I mean they are simple to understand — mastering them, on the other hand, requires a lifetime of diligent effort. In this article, we’re going to go through those eight rules.

So, fasten your seatbelts — let’s do this!

there are eight simple rules for leading your team to excellence
There are eight simple rules for leading your team to excellence.

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1. Find Your “Whys” When Leading Your Dental Team

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

People are inspired by the vision and the “North Star” goals you set – in other words, their “whys.” If the vision does not inspire the leader, the team won’t be inspired either. The word “inspire” comes from ancient Greek, meaning “to breathe life into.”

And that should be the purpose of your vision and your “whys”: to breathe life into your team culture. If you have “Walking Dead” team meetings (you know the kind I mean), those meetings are too focused on drudgeries and not aspirations.

Speaking of culture, that leads me to our next rule …

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 is what brings ideal team members to your doorstep. It is what makes them want to stay. Your culture should not only match your vision and values; it should also 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.” An inspiring culture is a shared culture.

3. Communicate in a Way That Influences and Inspires

Too many clinicians sound like a “Peanuts” teacher — “wah, wah, wah” — when they communicate with their team. A common misconception among leaders about communication is that they are always being heard in a meaningful way. 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? If so, you, as a leader, need to make your words “stick” by presenting them in a clear and memorable way.

Truly effective communication with your team 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 prioritizes and chooses their battles wisely.

What’s one thing we can focus on as a team that reduces stress, or that increases efficiency or morale? Once you have chosen a focused path, stay focused. For instance, giving the team a North Star goal for the quarter gives them a sense of direction and a context for their everyday actions.

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 good enough as you strive for great. Otherwise, the burden will always remain only on you.

6. Inspect What You Expect

The biggest mistake a leader can make is to assign new goals, tasks, or skills — only to find months later that there has been no change. So, for every new goal you establish, ask yourself how you will measure success and commit to taking those measurements regularly, so you can course-correct when necessary.

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

7. Always Let Them See You Sweat

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

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

8. Celebrate the Small, Medium, and Large Wins

Celebrating the small wins helps to reinforce positive actions. Unleash childlike joy for your team’s success and let them win. If someone does something — or something happens — that supports your vision and your immediate goals — celebrate! Again, rewarded behaviors become repeat behaviors.

In every sport, there are myriad opportunities to check the score and high-five. If you wait for a major success before celebrating, you can wait a long time, and the team can lose motivation.

The secret to leading your team to excellence lies in this list. If you commit to openly and honestly implementing and working on these rules, you will lead your dental team and 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 Practice Growth Strategy at Spear, a member of Spear Resident Faculty, and former CEO of Pride Institute.


Commenter's Profile Image Ricardo M.
September 14th, 2023
Really cool article Amy, Loved the concept of celebrating wins regarless of how big they are. I see that work in our team all the time, very uplifting !!!
Commenter's Profile Image Promila M.
September 20th, 2023
Thank you so much for these practice management tools. Ken Blanchard is an excellent author and leader. He keeps everything simple and practical. I will implement these 8 rules over my next few staff meetings. Much appreciated! Dr. Mehan