The best entrepreneurs make a habit of reading books, listening to podcasts, and digging into whatever resources they can to develop business acumen. By studying those who have climbed to the top or succeeded in their business, we can learn lessons to apply in our own worlds.
And that’s why I write blogs like this. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes, trust me. But I’ve also found tons of success as a dental entrepreneur. Now, I want to help others—like you—to unlock the patterns of success. I want to help folks like you leverage important lessons for your own business.
No matter what type of entrepreneur you are, you need to be able to lead a team. In the dental world, this is more true than ever. But leadership just isn’t an easy trait to develop. That’s why, for this week’s article, I’m giving you three things to keep top-of-mind when leading a dental team.
1. Know yourself before leading others.
While I’m a big fan of studying your fellow entrepreneurs and trying to follow in their footsteps, it’s important to invest equally in studying yourself. What many learn, the hard way is that you must first look inwardly and learn about yourself before you can learn from others. You must know your own limitations and capacities before you start to implement those that have worked (or haven’t worked) for others.
The same goes for those who try to serve others before they serve themselves. Many entrepreneurs take the approach of caring for others through “servant leadership,” prostrating themselves for their team, putting their staff on a pedestal, and so on. It’s a valid premise, but it’s critical to understand that you can’t fill from an empty cup.
Those of us who put our nose to the grindstone tend to forget to look up, unplug, and pursue personal growth. We need to back up and invest in ourselves before we can invest in others, our lives, our business, and so on.
A big piece of investing in yourself and knowing yourself is to step away from the lens of business. Wearing so many hats is the name of the game, but you can’t always be wearing the practice owner hat. Part of this does have to do with the business part of you and building around what you like to do most during work, whether it be sitting in the chair spinning the handpiece or running the business.
2. A good leader sets an example.
The unfortunate reality is that it only takes one misstep to ruin the trust you’ve built with your team, and ten steps to building that trust with your team. Those missteps can come in the form of not being honest with them, falling short in your professional performance, and so on. One of the biggest blunders, however, is to be a hypocritical leader. A leader will quickly lose the trust of their tema if they ask their team to perform at a level they themselves are not at.
You must put in the effort you want your staff to put in. You need to come at your best every day, or you’re implicitly letting your team know that it’s okay for them to not come at their best. If you come to a morning huddle slouched and tired, it’s giving them permission to show up the same way. It might sound obvious, but they’ll feed off your energy. It’s better to err on the side of bouncing off the walls and doing cartwheels in that morning huddle than it is to show up looking like you’d rather be anywhere but there. Leadership is about how you show up, how you act, and what you’re okay (or not okay) with.
The same goes for being late every day. You can’t be coming in three minutes or twenty minutes after you’re supposed to arrive, or you’ll be setting a bad example for your team about urgency. So, put yourself in the shoes of your team. In their eyes, what would make you capable of leading them? Why should they look up to you?
3. Habits compound.
If you think about it, how different are your days from one another? In all likelihood—like most dentists—your days and weeks are made up of similar activities. Maybe one day you’re spending more time in the office while on another you’re pursuing your passions outside of work, but I’d bet you have a pretty consistent mix. And, around those activities that make up your daily agenda, you—like all of us do—have fallen into habits that dictate your day-to-day behavior.
There’s no harm in developing habits. Some habits can be helpful, like remembering to feed the dog on the way out of the house or locking up the practice before you leave at the end of the day. However, other habits may not be so useful. For example, maybe you have a bad habit of checking your phone compulsively to scroll through social media when you have some downtime. How much could be accomplished if you were to replace that phone-scrolling habit with crunching numbers for the financials of your practice?
If you can replace your bad habits with good ones, it’ll create a snowball effect—and this can serve you well in your business. We underestimate what we can do in a year, but we seriously underestimate what we can do in ten years—and the same goes for how habits can impact our lives. Bad habits may not be super noticeable over the course of one year, but they will be if you keep them over the course of ten. The habits you have now will become more deeply ingrained in you as time progresses, and adjusting them now will make a huge difference later on.
In other words, getting a little bit better every day will pay dividends down the road. When you look back one day, you’ll realize you’d never be able to get where you are today without putting in the work of developing small habits along the way. It may feel frustrating to try new methods and strategies when it’s so easy to do things the old way but, trust me, you’ll be shooting yourself in the foot.
Leadership skills are the Achilles heel for many dental practice owners—don’t let that be you.
Being a leader feels natural to some of us but, to most, it’s not so easy to do. Even if we’re top-notch dentists in the clinical setting or have a great business mind, not honing in on our leadership skills could mean we’re missing a very important piece of the puzzle. You may untether everything else you’ve worked so hard for.
I run a community full of dental professionals who can give you some nuggets of wisdom about leadership in a dental practice. So, join the Nifty Thrifty Dentists Facebook group and reach out! People from all across the globe will be happy to let you in on their two cents.