Building a Team Environment

Dr. Workman expands on how to build a team environment.
You know what they say, "Team work makes the dream work."

Your team is your office's most valuable asset. Patients value relationships with you and your team more than the treatment you provide to them. It takes years to build those relationships. Lose a key team member, and you lose some of the relationships with your patients.

Finding and building the right combination of team members is one of the most important things any dentist can do to build value into the office. Finding and keeping the right team is an inside-out proposition, not the other way around. The right kind of practice naturally attracts the right kind of team members. The right kind of team members - the best kind - want to thrive in the best kind of office. Every dental-office culture has two basic dimensions: productivity and fulfillment.

  • Productivity - How effective is your team at setting and achieving production and profit goals? To what degree can you set an objective as a team and execute the actions necessary to achieve the desired results? What are the results of your daily activity? Are you productive or are you just busy? (There is a difference.) On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, how productive is your team?
  • Fulfillment - How much personal satisfaction do you get from your professional efforts? Are you energized and enthusiastic about the differences you make every day? Or are you wiped out with the motions of drilling, filling and billing, anticipating the moment you finish your last patient of the day so you can bolt and do something you love? On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, how fulfilled are you?

Everyone enjoys working in a pleasant environment with happy people. There are a lot of ways to improve the atmosphere in the dental office, many of which are inexpensive or cost nothing at all. Mutual appreciation, consideration and courtesy will build team spirit faster than any bonus program, raise or gift.

Begin by showing the staff how appreciated and important they are on a regular basis. The morning huddle is a time for the staff input. Be sure to ask for opinions and information from the dental assistants, office staff and hygienists. Be aware of what the team does, and complement them on a job well done. Spread the kindness around. Everyone deserves appreciation. An end of day meeting is a good time to sum up what was done right and how to improve.

When the wheels start turning and everyone begins meshing, you'll find that your well-functioning team we be one of the most enjoyable aspects of your office. The postive environment will attract patients and promote an energetic atmosphere. Here are my 5 tips for helping you build a remarkable team:

  1. Hire good people to start with. If you don't do this, everything else is problematical. Develop good systems to select and hire dental team members. After considering work qualifications, look beyond that. Would he or she fit the vibe of your team and current environment?
  2. Hold morning huddles for 20-30 minutes every morning before you see patients. Use this time to help everyone get accquainted with the schedule for the day. You might discuss items like: Who is on your schedule? Are there any emergencies that need to be dealth with immediately? Is there any other important information you should know regarding any patients? You might also use this time to relay vital information, but keep the chit-chat to a minimum. 
  3. Alright, now you can chit-chat. Hold lengthier regular team meetings at least one morning a month. This allows everyone to have a voice and gives team members the opportunity offer input, suggestions and feedback. It also allows you to discuss any important information, updates or changes that may be occuring in the office. During this time, turn off the phone (you can check it during breaks), and close the doors to avoid distractions. If you have no important information to discuss, get to know one another on a deeper level. Play a team building game. Have fun!
  4. You need to be a leader and make team building a top priority in your practice. If it is not important to you, it won't be important to your team. A healthy, thriving, postive and upbeat office is what separates the great dental offices from the good ones. 
  5. Care for and about your team members. Listen to them, help them grow, challenge them and reward them. 

Dentists often believe they have little time to focus on team building during productive patient days. However, team communication and encouragement are keys to building a strong office, ultimately leading to a flourishing patient schedule. By incorporating even only a few of the tips above, dentists can eliminate many gray areas that can lead to misinterpretation and derail team building. The end result is a happy dentist and an even happier office team focused on the goals and direction necessary for office success.

Rick Workman, DMD

Founder, Former CEO and Active Chairman, Heartland Dental

Rick Workman, DMD, graduated from Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine in 1980. After starting his own practice, he set out to create a world-class dental support organization that would relieve the management burden for dentists by offering them an array of non-clinical administrative support. Today, Heartland Dental is the largest dental support organization in the country. In addition to being the founder of Heartland Dental, he is also the past president of the Association of Dental Support Organizations. To read more about Dr. Rick Workman, click here