Being A Leader


A leader of any business needs to earn the respect of fellow workers.  A dentist in a small business model has three or more key players and to have continued success, these players need to know and have bought into your vision of where you are headed and the standards which are important to you.  

As a female leader of mostly other females, this vision must be vividly played on a consistent basis.  The standards to which you adhere must be evident and all players need to be fully enrolled and engaged.  Write office agreements like being on time, wearing the clean uniform even if you don’t like it, finishing breakfast before you arrive, no subgrouping (talking about another team member behind their back), completing your tasks during the patient day with no overtime and more.

The leader’s vision needs to be written, displayed and in motion. 

We all need to know the direction and standards, which are most important to you.  In hiring, the leader would share her vision of conduct for success.

This all sounds perfect and lofty.  In action, vision is the road map. The Doctor and team make decisions minute to minute based on that vision.  Yet, we are human and things can get messy when vision is on the back burner. Let’s discuss some possible messes.

When the group is all female, we have a desire to be a friend. We are a business and you are the leader.   The female leader walks a tight rope here. Define “friend” and the level of information and support to which you might be exposed, if you allow. There is a line that cannot be broached.  

You are the leader, not the counselor

When a staff member is having difficulty at home or displays conduct unbecoming or is inappropriate, you need to nip this action or conversation in the bud.  Know a counselor to whom you can refer. You are the leader, not the counselor. These conversations have no place in a dental office yet, you need to have outside counsel to help your teammate.  Let them know you feel for them but these conversations with team members are inappropriate for the office.

Prior to our coaching, a male Doctor indicated his low production and morale in the last 18 months was actually due to one staff member sharing all the physical and emotional trauma of her divorce. The whole office knew her side of the story and was living that drama with her.  The leader had allowed this divorce to be the vision for the practice and the results were financially a failure.  

The leader carries the vision and makes the decisions.  There is kindness and love yet, this is a business and lives depend upon its success.

As the leader, you set the standards and live them. 

You may enjoy one person’s company over another and if this is evident to others, you can split the loyalty which is so important for the team’s success.  You cannot allow yourself to show favoritism. Some females are already jealous of your success as The dentist. Do not play to those feelings. Every team member must be treated the same.

Which leads me to my next point.  The Blatchford bonus is equal for each team member, regardless of their pay per hour.  And, we feel strongly vacationing together is a can of worms. If you offer a week in Hawaii for reaching a goal, will you be taking and paying for spouses?  What if one is not currently with anyone? What are the expectations for conduct, activities and time? Who pays for childcare for the week?  

We have actually seen staff members enjoy the expense paid week and give notice upon returning or a staff member is fired for words or conduct during the week.  Let’s implement a fair bonus system and allow each person to spend bonus money on her choosing. It is a rare team that can vacation together successfully.

Address Problems Immediately

When office agreements are in place and a staff member is showing signs of lateness, the leader needs to address it immediately.  If you do not, all of us team members are watching you, the leader. If you little or nothing, we can start violating our agreements, too, and now everything falls apart.  Stepping up and addressing the lateness with, “Lisa, we have an agreement to be here at 7:45. You have been late three times in the last two weeks. We need you. Can I count on you to keep your agreement to be on time?” If she has a flimsy excuse or does not re-engage, you need to make a decision as the leader.

To work three and a half days, or whatever you choose, team members must work together to make patients and treatment happen.  No one, including the Doctor, should be working overtime to complete chart notes, clean instruments, file insurance, etc. Figure out how to work as a team to complete all tasks during your patient day.

As the leader, you set the standards. 

If your team observes you being lax, they will match your level of caring for details.  An example might be having a cash envelope and using it for going to lunch. What is wrong with that?  It could appear to a team member, there is money to be used for any purpose we might need. They did not see you with your receipt for lunch and making that known to your CPA.  Staff might see “opportunity.”

There is so little cash in our businesses today, yet, embezzlement occurs in one of six dental offices every year.  As the leader, you need to know and use the audit trail feature on your computer system. The scenario might be an emergency patient is treated, pays cash and a staff member realizes this is a one-time patient from three states over and chooses to erase the entry of this patient and the payment.  This is never really erased. Your audit trail should show you on which computer this occurred and the leader makes decisions.

Your declared standards and subsequent actions are being watched daily by your team members.  You lead by example. Do the right thing. Know your business. Avoid being involved in team members’ lives beyond business.  It is a tight rope the leader walks but if you do the right thing, the right team members will follow and respect you for your leadership. 


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