Success seldom occurs by accident. In dentistry, the determination of the dentist creates the environment and the parameters of success. While superior clinical skills are obviously important, they do not dictate how successful the practice will be.
What are the benchmarks of a flourishing practice? Levin Group has observed that the most successful dentists, like successful CEOs, consistently focus on:
1. Establishing a Vision – Running a successful dental practice is about leading a group of people on a journey. It is about maximizing teamwork to accomplish something that could not be done individually. In short, it is about vision. All good leaders have vision. Establishing that vision requires that you ask yourself a series of questions:
1) What type of practice do you want?
2) How many days a week do you want to work?
3) What types of procedures do you want to offer?
4) What types of patients do you want to see?
5) What type of dentistry do you want to learn?
6) How do you want to manage the practice?
A vision statement is not where you are today, but where you see your practice three to five years from now (or even further).
2. Setting Goals – To achieve their vision, highly successful practices have well-defined goals that drive performance and lead to success. To be effective, goals must:
• Be written in clear, specific language
• Have deadlines
• Be measurable
Not only should you document the goals you wish to see your practice achieve, but you should share those goals with the entire staff. Only by communicating your goals effectively to the dental team can everyone work together to move the practice in the right direction.
Measurement is critical to accomplishing goals. Just because a doctor feels that he or she is “getting there” does not mean the practice is headed in the right direction to achieve the desired goal. If a goal is to be achieved, it will be numbers, not feelings, that verify that achievement.
3. Maintaining Energy – Dentists should be passionate about what they do … and not be hesitant to show it. Why? Because passion is contagious. What practitioners wouldn’t want their teams to be as excited as they are about what the practice does for patients?
Dentists should understand that their behavior is viewed by the team as the model for how to act in the office. A dentist who is upbeat and motivational and interacts positively with patients will inspire the team to act likewise. By observing the dentist’s behavior, the team should be able to perceive that the main purpose of the dental practice is not to make money for the dentist, not to employ the team, but rather to create the right environment for the patients and deliver outstanding care.
4. Initiating/Managing Change – There is an old axiom in business that says, “If you do what you have always done, you will get the same results you always have.” This thinking now seems outdated. Today, if you keep doing what you have always done, you will get less than you have always gotten. Increased competition, new technologies, and the prevalence of dental insurance have all served to alter the dental landscape.
Pick up nearly any book on business and you will see a reoccurring motif – businesses must understand the importance and the inevitability of change. Clearly, change is no longer an option.
5. Providing Leadership – Leadership makes it possible to successfully accomplish all of the preceding objectives. As business management guru Peter F. Drucker once said, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Only by demonstrating strong leadership skills can the doctor move the practice to the next level, creating a patient-focused, highly profitable business. Dentists must hone their leadership skills for the good of the practice.
Leadership requires being brutally honest when confronting issues that relate to self, staff, or patients. The three biggest issues that must be addressed are:
1) Are you leading in a way that will achieve your practice vision?
2) Are you giving your team opportunities to grow?
3) Are you providing the best possible care to your patients?
Today’s dentist must develop a vision, set goals, convey his or her passion, and guide the practice through change. Successfully accomplishing each of these tasks hinges on the dentist’s ability to master leadership skills.