75% of employees say that clear communication is the most important quality of a leader. This one principle makes workplaces more harmonious and productive, regardless of the industry. But setting the goal of communicating clearly is not enough to change your practice.
Leadership principles are a good starting point for improving your business. But enacting real change takes more. All businesses, including dental practices, need processes that make these principles happen.
What steps can you take to change your dental practice leadership? How can you ensure that doing so improves your business? Read on for our brief guide to changing your leadership for the better.
With communication being so important, it should be the starting point for leadership improvement. But as explained, the mission statement: “communicate clearly,” won’t achieve much on its own. You need to show your employees that you mean it by creating communication channels they can use.
Put channels in place to give employees not just permission to communicate openly, but the tools to do so.
For example, you could give your employees the following tools:
- Feedback forms
- Complaint procedures
- Suggestion boxes or surveys
- One-on-one meeting scheduling
Do these methods sound outdated? That’s because, despite their popularity, they’re often used for the wrong reasons. Employers introduce these tools to appease employees, then don’t act on them.
That’s not good enough.
For employees to believe they can communicate clearly, they need to feel heard. The responsibility falls on you as the leader to listen to them, then act on their thoughts.
How can facilitating open communication improve your business? Because sometimes, your team has a better pulse on your business than you do.
They know which equipment needs replacing. They spot patterns with your clients. They see internal problems that you may miss when you’re busy running your practice.
If you facilitate communication with real channels, then act on it, you take advantage of this inside information.
Plus, you avoid problems spiraling out of control. If employees feel heard, they will feel comfortable communicating issues as soon as they arise. Then you can find a solution early, rather than when the problem grows large enough to impact you.
Create a Culture of Honesty
56% of people say that workplace culture is more important than pay. In dental, where there are fewer qualified candidates to choose from, it’s crucial you get this right. Otherwise, finding and retaining your team becomes a challenge.
One of the most important facets of workplace culture is honesty. But on its own, “being honest,” is too vague to act on. How can dental practice leaders make sure this leadership principle permeates their business?
The first step is establishing what honesty in business means. Particularly in business, honesty is linked to transparency.
Set the example by being transparent as a leader. Admit your mistakes. Outline how you’re striving to improve.
Once you’ve set the example, how can you help your team take on this principle? A great start is by establishing clear communication, as already discussed. But the next is having clear guidelines for what happens when something goes wrong.
Imagine some treatment goes wrong, or an employee handles a situation badly. They are less likely to come forward and be honest if they fear the unknown.
Make your disciplinary guidelines transparent. Your employees need to know what will happen if they make certain mistakes.
When you’re upfront about your procedures, they’re more likely to be honest. And it can motivate them to be more careful in the first place.
This honesty also allows you as a leader to spot areas where everyone could improve. Perhaps you identify that employees could benefit from a particular type of training. By enabling them to be honest, you can see your business's shortcomings more clearly, and find ways to improve.
Develop Yourself and Others
The best leaders are always looking to and preparing for the future. They lay plans that enable continued and future success.
For your business to develop, your team needs to change and grow.
If everyone stays at their current skill level, you won’t have the tools needed to grow your dental practice. When it comes time to expand, you may be forced to bring in outside talent. While not wrong in itself, this can frustrate employees in any business.
Rather, invest in your people now. Enable them to grow along with your business. And keep developing yourself as a leader to set an example.
To begin, identify skills your team might need in the future. Help them to find courses and training that will allow them to improve their services and widen their skillset.
Of course, with more skilled employees comes the expectation of higher pay. But this is a cost worth paying to skill up your teams and make sure they can support your business. And it contributes to a motivated, engaged workforce.
Again, set the example as a leader. Take advantage of our seminars and coaching tools that help dental practice leaders develop. This not only improves your business knowledge but also motivates your employees to keep up.
Why invest in yourself and your team’s development? As we’ve stated, training keeps employees happy, up to date with the industry, and equips them to progress. But this carries over to positive patient interactions.
Skilled, well-paid, and informed team members will always treat your patients better. In fact, if this is a particular pain point, you can find patient-facing training to help them improve. Whatever approach you take, creating a progressive culture with informed leadership and teams improves patient and internal relations.
Grant Decision Authority
With more experienced and better-trained employees comes the opportunity to grant them decision authority. This is more than delegating. It’s setting the precedent that you trust your employees, which creates a healthy culture of autonomy within the practice.
How can you practically enact this leadership principle of trust?
In short – stop micromanaging. You hired your team because you trusted them to support your practice. Prove this by stepping back from their work, never overstepping into their authority.
To make this easier, remove as many management tiers as possible. Even in a small practice, unnecessary management tiers may have evolved out of habit. Trim this structure down to its bare bones, to show your employees that you trust them to do their work.
But isn’t it your right as a leader to check or veto all decisions? That is how some choose to exercise their leadership. But it’s unnecessary and unsustainable.
First of all, delegating reduces your stress and workload. Micromanaging is a recipe for stress, stress that there’s no need for a leader to take on. Rather, hand out authority so that you can focus on your own responsibilities.
Secondly, exercising autonomy trains your teams for the future.
With a new or inexperienced hire, it may be easier at first for them to default to their superior in every decision. But over time, this isn’t sustainable. Everyone needs to learn how to make the best decisions and take responsibility for them.
What if you don’t feel that you can take this step back? This indicates your employees need more training to handle their responsibilities. Invest in skilling up your team so everyone in your practice can carry their weight.
Set the Example
As we’ve explained, for any of these leadership changes to stick, you need to start the process. Communicate clearly, be honest, develop yourself, and grant authority to your employees.
Why take these steps to change your dental practice leadership? These factors are the only way to equip your business for growth. But if you don’t start, your team won’t follow suit.
No one will have the courage to speak honestly to you about a software error if they think you won't listen. No one will go out of their way to admit a mistake or invest in their qualifications if you don’t. And no one will have the confidence to make their own decisions if you haven’t granted them authority, showing that you trust them.
But without these changes, your business won't ever advance.
Simply put, only a leader can change a workplace. Only you have the power, authority, and leadership to improve your business from the inside out. But where should you start?
How to Start Improving Your Dental Practice Leadership
Owning a dental practice takes more than qualifications and business skills. Successful practice leadership comes from turning principles into action.
That being said, organizational change doesn’t happen overnight. Even a small dental practice has to introduce new processes at a pace everyone can keep up with. Where should you start?
With the professionals.
Burleson seminars are designed to help practices of all sizes grow sustainably. We connect practitioners across the country and provide the latest dental business information. Take your practice to the next level by joining our community today.
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