Leading A Dental Practice

When it comes to running our dental practices we face a lot of challenges but I believe there is one unique challenge we face in dental leadership. As dentists we are at a distinct disadvantage compared to CEOs of major companies. Dentists have to be the practice’s chief executive, but also its main producer. This situation is almost unthinkable in a large corporation.

For example, does the CEO of General Motors design, market, and assemble vehicles in addition to running the company? Of course not!

Dental Leadership

But us Dentists, on the other hand, spend most of our days focused on one thing — providing the best dental care to our patients.

Due to the demands of dentistry, as dentists we have very little time to lead our practices.

Most dental leadership occurs in the few minutes between patients.

Even with these limitations, dentists are often capable of handling leadership basics such as:

  • Recognising team members for a job well done
  • Saying “thank you” and displaying appreciation
  • Motivating staff members with incentive programs
  • Providing regular feedback and performance reviews to improve staff skills
  • Holding staff meetings to focus on training, customer service, and practice enhancement

And if you are not doing these basic that your leadership really needs some examination and improvement.

But these basics and lack of hands on time with the team leads to issues that most businesses with a dedicated CEO don’t face.

Lack of Leadership Creates Poor Performance and Results

Because of the lack of suitable leadership from the dentist, the staff often reach a performance plateau that translates into a financial plateau for the practice.

Dentists we need a well-trained team to take our practices to the next level. And here comes another big issue because you’re so busy drilling teeth and managing the business you have little to no time to train your team.

This is one of the main reasons dental practices fail to reach their full potential.

The leadership challenge

Early in my dental career, I recognised that many of the classic management techniques do not apply to dentistry.

As CEOs of our practices, dentists are most productive not when managing people, but when they are treating patients. This is how practices grow and dentists achieve their goals.

Many dentists are frustrated by their inability to provide sufficient training to their team members.

Knowing the fundamental difficulties of dental leadership, I would like to suggest a new theory of dental management which is … stop trying to train the team! Yep stop trying to train them… What??? No Training won’ that be chaos… Not if you do this…

Let your systems train your team.

Systems Lead Your Dental Practice

In my opinion and experience the solution to building an outstanding team is not to spend time in training, but on implementing step-by-step management systems and processes.

Once documented systems have been put in place, team members are then taught the systems and required to follow them.

It is amazing how quickly team members become trained simply by following excellent systems.

This can turn a practice from a chaotic and stressful office to a highly productive and efficient business in less than a year.

The return on investment is huge.

Let me share an example that shows the power of systems on training and doctor leadership.

Case study

Jo ran a fairly successful Sydney practice for 7 years. With more dentists and corporate practices Jo’s practice was struggling to break even, business had declined and less new patients were coming in and patient retention was also an issue. Sensibly Jo reduced overhead, created a leaner team, did mote marketing and used the empty time in his book to train his team. But Jo still couldn’t get his practice to pick back up and in this time lost a couple of key team members as morale and motivation was very low.

Jo hired new team members and this meant he was spending more and more time educating, training, coaching, and “putting out fires.”

His days were becoming increasingly stressful and he was more tired than ever.

Jo finally reached a point where he decided that the best thing he could do was to get some help. So we took the time to work together and implement systems in his office.

Jo and his team spent six months actioning the key systems in the practice, which included all front-desk activities, administration, efficiency, clinical systems, and operational flow.

He replaced his scheduling system, learned entirely new systems for case presentation and patient financial management, honed and refined his new patient exam and customer service systems in that time.

At the end of six months, Jo was amazed by the performance of his team. They were following the systems and producing great results.

They had:

  • Reactivated 70% overdue patients
  • Reduced no-shows to less than 1%
  • Scheduled more than 80% of all active patients
  • Closed 75% of all cases presented to patients

At this point, his production was up 15% and he was happier than he had been in all of his years in practice.

All this by implementing step-by-step systems in the practice.

ROI and Your Dental Team

I believe your staff should provide a return on investment. That they should be doing more than showing up and doing the basics of their job. That they should be helping you run the day 2 day activities of your practice, building relationships with patients and encouraging growth in your business via a great experience and asking for referrals and reviews.

You want your team to be giving you 100% not only doing 50-60% of their capacity. Underperformance in your team leads to underperformance in your office – this will be seen in your numbers and bottom line.

The problem is we unintentionally encourage our team to under perform like this on a regular basis. And we do this by micromanaging, being over controlling and holding on to too many activities that should be delegated.

Extreme and aggressive delegation

An excellent team magnifies the ability of the dentist to provide patient care.

The secret of top-producing dentists is that they are simply better at delegation.

They have build excellent systems and internal marketing programs.

Their teams follow the systems, give input, and perform at the highest level based on their delegated tasks.

These dentists engaged in what I call “extreme and aggressive delegation.”

Extreme and aggressive delegation means the dentist removes all unnecessary activities from their to do list so they can concentrate on what they do best — providing quality patient care and producing for the practice.

This technique is how I and my top-producing dental clients run their practices.

By delegating all nonclinical activities and spending 98% of their day in direct patient care.

These dentists are happier and enjoy dentistry because they spend their days doing what they love and not on administrative and unessential activities that another member of the team can and should do.

Good systems allow proper delegation

Dentists the biggest issue we face is lack of time, and lack of time makes dental leadership an incredible challenge.

So rather that trying to add more their workload the best leaders implement step-by-step systems that mean they can delegate tasks and maximise the skills of each team member.

The most effective dentists use extreme and aggressive delegation to give away nonclinical activities and tasks to their well-trained teams.

This type of leadership leads to higher productivity, less stress, and greater success. In fact, I believe it’s the only way to practice! As I say “systems make fortunes and let you have fun.”

So the next time you find yourself doing a non-clinical task or putting out a fire – think systems and extreme and aggressive delegation – and get those systems training and holding your team accountable.