Leadership: Key Steps

Step One:

Ask open ended questions, listen to the responses, empathise with them and don't jump to solution mode.
By practicing this step every day and reflecting later on how each iteration went, we can grow our leadership skillset whist creating an open, honest culture in our workplace.
Whether we run a Practice or work in someone else's, the team we work with look to us as leaders, so let’s take on that role and lean into the opportunity it presents to create a better patient experience, a more productive and happier workplace and less stress for us in handling those "difficult" HR challenges.


Step Two:

Decide on your story. Where are you heading, what is your personal ambition for the next five to ten years? What kind of Dentist do you want to be and so what kind of Practice do you want to run? You can only lead your team in a direction when you know where you want to go.

Tell your story, an authentic story based on your experience and your goals, a story that forms the basis of your leadership style and will determine and be reflected in your behaviour.

Dentists are in a special position as most of us chose an organisation and adapt to its culture, Dental Practice owners can create the culture they want for their Practice, once you know where you want to go and how you want to treat yourself, others, and your patients.

Now you know where you want to go and the type of Practice you want to create you can engage your team to help you get there, with a team on board you can go further and enjoy the journey more.


Step Three:

Create an environment of Trust. Speak with candour, encourage honesty, feedback, and ideas and by listening and not rushing to judge we can build a culture where team members can contribute.

Through honest conversations about how we are feeling, over communicating, and giving away information about ourselves we can build the connections our team need to feel trusted, empowered and so engaged in the important work of the Practice. 
Don't try to be something you are not, show interest and remember details - note them down, we all like to feel heard and appreciated. In this way we can start to create the environment of Trust required to fully engage the team we work with.


Step Four:

Craft your Vision. Having decided the type of Dentist you want to be and where your focus will be, we can now craft the Vision for the Practice we want to create. How will our patients feel when they have experienced our service? How will it feel for our team to work at the Practice?

For our Patients, what experience do we want to create, high end, family, boutique? As we decide on our Vision, we can plan the resources we need, the kind of team members, environment, technology and the culture…how it feels to those coming into contact with us.

For our Team, how do we want them to feel? Motivated, engaged, able to develop their careers in an environment where their personal values closely match those of the Practice and as a result they can go the extra mile, give more of themselves and as a result gain greater satisfaction from their work life.


Step Five:

Agree Vision and Values with your Team. Once we have committed our Vision to paper, we have crystalised what it is we want to create, how will the Patient experience be and how will team members feel about their place of work? Then we can share it with the team, gaining their input and ideas, their enthusiasm and ultimately have them take responsibility along with us to deliver it.

By sharing our passion and our ambition we lay out our “purpose”, describing what we want to create, something that should inspire our colleagues. An event that engages them in discussing the Vision and how we get to it, will inspire and enthuse, generating input and ideas. Once we respond positively to these ideas, incorporating them in our plan where practicable, we build a roadmap together, a roadmap the whole team will take responsibility for delivering.

The team agree together how they want to be treated, how they will treat each other and their patients, a set of values all sign up to and will live by. Each team member needs to ensure their personal values are closely aligned to the team values, that way they can move forward faster, together.


Step Six:

Create a plan with the Team. As you share your Vision, gain support and buy-in, you can start to build a plan of how to get there, a plan built with ideas from the team.

By gaining their input, enthusiasm and involvement, ownership and delivering the Vision becomes a shared goal. Each team member should have a piece of the plan that they contributed to and will take responsibility for delivering.

As we build our plan, we should consider all the stakeholders in our Practice: Patients, suppliers, investors, the local community we serve and most importantly our team members, without whom we cannot achieve the optimum result.

Now we can set goals, milestones to those goals and start building the future.


Step Seven:

Manage performance whilst supporting the individual. Many of my clients struggle with how to be firm on performance whilst being a friend to their team members. Truth is, there needs to be some distance between us and our team, as leading creates different demands to being a friend.

By separating managing the performance from caring for the person, we can help them deliver whilst looking out for them at a personal level. We should not try to be a friend, but be conscious of their needs, stress levels and overall wellbeing, so we can support them and help them be the best version of themselves. Yes we are part of the team, but we must remember when to step back, keep our distance and provide the direction, guidance and support each team member needs.

Remember to separate the performance from the person, that way we ensure our team performs whilst giving them the support they need to meet the challenges they face.


Step Eight:

Set goals and milestones. In step six we discussed building the plan, with input from the team and considering all five stakeholders in the Practice: Patients, Suppliers, Investors, the local community and the Team.

Now we have the plan we can envisage what our future will look like and set the goals we need to get there. As team members input ideas, they will start to take responsibility for delivering the plan and in addition pick up specific items they will run with.

Setting milestones breaks the big goals down into bite sized chunks that can be delivered against a realistic timeframe, progress can be reviewed, and interest renewed, each task monitored and managed to completion. Our job as leaders is to engage the team, remove obstacles, provide resources, and oversee delivery, providing encouragement, direction and support along the way.


Step Nine:

Catch people doing well & recognise them. As successful people we are conditioned to spot errors, identify mistakes and focus on remedying them. So much so that we often miss the “good stuff”, stuff that just gets done right, first time and which builds to the success of the Practice.

Now we should take time to catch people doing well, look for opportunities to thank team members where they have gone the extra mile for each other or patients. Recognition in front of peers is the most effective way to motivate teams and these instances of doing well can play a part in our regular team recognition habits, whether at team meetings or unstructured in the Practice, as they are spotted.

By building up a “credit” of appreciation we also prepare the ground for the inevitable occasion when things get screwed up. When we do have to investigate and remedy an error, we are not then seen as just pointing out when things go wrong but have a balanced appreciation of how team members contribute as we have previously recognised their successes.


Step Ten:

Develop our non-clinical skills. Just as we have plans for the development of our clinical skills, we should also have plans for the non-clinical aspects of our work. As leaders we need to learn, practice, and reflect on our skills in building and leading our teams and unless we carve out time, make a plan and execute it, we will not maximise the opportunity we have to inspire our teams, going further, together.

In addition, once we have our personal plan in place, each Team member should have a development plan for their career. Once we have created the dialogue to understood where they want to go, we can assist with the development plan, discussing opportunities, identifying training needs, plus providing mentoring and support to help them reach their full potential.

It’s easy to miss the non-clinical aspects of our work, so build them into your planning and ensure you help yourself and your team achieve even more then you expect.


Step Eleven:

Inspire a community-based project. Once we have a Team engaged and performing well, we can consider how to bring together all our stakeholders in a community project, one that inspires all to commit more to the shared Vision we have for the Practice, whilst driving towards our overall goals.

Our Team will have ideas for a project they can undertake that supports the local community, maybe it’s a charity fund raising programme, or oral care education, or supporting something important to them. The more of our stakeholders we can involve the better, customers, suppliers who can help with products, investors and of course the community we aim to help.

By encouraging the Team to pick a topic that is oral health based, we can benefit the Practice, creating opportunities for publicity, as well as advancing overall health and our profile in the community.

Team members will get so much from these CSR projects, building their confidence, creating stronger ties to the Practice, and providing valuable contributions to their personal sense of worth.


Step Twelve:

Develop your Higher Purpose.

Now that we have a strong, well briefed and well trained Team on board we can consider how to move from just good to great, how to help the Team achieve more than they ever imagined, for a cause that inspires them.

Why develop a Higher Purpose?

Providing oral care to our chosen community is a great calling, but one practiced by others, the other Practices in our locality. Just what can lift us above those others for both Patients looking for a Dentist and Team members looking for a new home.

A desire to enhance overall community wellbeing, support the underserved or to establish the best boutique practice in your locale, could be the incentive to inspire Team members to go that extra mile, both in terms of Patient care but also in collaborating and working as a Team. A team that can overcome any obstacle, work through any issue and exceed both their and your expectations.

Creating your own Higher Purpose brings meaning, ambition and excitement to our daily endeavours, making every Monday morning feel special and giving all our Team a reason to go further together.