It’s because of this that I am here…
This happened to me…
They did this to me…
It’s their fault…
My patients won’t…
My staff won’t…
This won’t work here…

Do you ever find yourself saying something like this? Do you blame others or events for what’s happening in your life, and in your practice? I know, it’s difficult to get people to…. I mean, how do you take someone who doesn’t run a business to go above and beyond and deliver more? How do you take a patient who is so adamant about doing only what their insurance will cover and turn them around? How do you look at your own business and not find an event or circumstance that you can blame for it not being what you wanted it to be?

‘Out there’ is all around us. Our staff won’t do what we tell them, our patients won’t accept the treatment we recommend, our businesses won’t do as well as we’d like, all because we can’t influence ‘out there’. Events happen, situations happen, people happen, all things that are out of our control. It’s not our fault, after all. It’s “out there”. We can’t influence ‘out there’. So we choose to react to it instead, mostly in a negative way, with either frustration, or anger, or guilt, or blame. And then, for a brief moment, we feel a bit better. Because now it’s not our fault that things are the way they are. It’s out there. So now we are reactive to the circumstances around us. And reactive people are always affected by their environment. If work is good, they feel good. If it isn’t, they can’t handle it and take it out on others. If something isn’t going their way, they get pissy, reactive, but they don’t communicate well and so they create bigger problems as a result.

The first step to becoming more effective as a dentist, as a leader, and as a human being, is to take responsibility for our own behaviour, our own reaction to events and circumstances, and begin to build a better response. We may not be able to influence what happens out there, but we are able to change our response to those events. And we are able to learn to communicate more effectively in order to improve what happens in the future. When speaking with dentists, I often hear complaints about staff. My staff won’t… or my people won’t… or they just don’t get it… all things we’ve all said at one time or another. And all that may be true. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t change that. By changing the way you communicate what it is you want to achieve, and by changing the way you paint the picture of your vision, you can change the way your staff responds.

Let me give you an example. I’ve been a dentist for 25 years now and so in those years, I have had numerous people come and work for me. Some stayed briefly, others longer, one retired, one died, and then a handful is still with me to this day. Some of them came directly out of school, and others came with a lot of experience with other dental offices. And each and every time a new employee came on board, I had to train them, teach them, and influence them to respond to common issues in the office in a way that was consistent with what I believed. Now here is the challenge: I don’t take insurance in my practice. And my fees are much higher than anyone around me. And my office hours do not include evenings or weekends. I also don’t give discounts nor do I negotiate a reduction in fees. So how do I get a staff member who has worked in many different dental offices that do all those things to shift in everything they’ve ever known and be able to communicate that to my patients? How do I teach my people to believe what I believe so that when a stubborn patient insists on sending a pre-determination to find out what their insurance will cover, they know how to refuse in an elegant way?

It always starts with the end in mind. Knowing what it is you want in the end, and WHY you want it, is the key and the beginning of communication and training. When you can passionately explain your WHY, your reason for doing what it is you are doing, you will influence and motivate your people more than you could ever imagine. So for me it starts out something like this:

“I love doing dentistry. I love doing the right kind of dentistry in an environment where I am calm, my patient is happy and excited about what we are doing, my team gets along and supports each other, and I especially love it when I don’t have a single worry in my head when I am about to start a procedure. We can change someone’s life, we can provide them solutions to their life-long dental problems, and we can deliver beautiful cosmetic results when we are surrounded by this type of environment. And so that is what my vision is. I want this because I believe that is what we all deserve. To work in an environment that supports that vision, that result, that win-win-win outcome where our patient wins, we win, the business wins.”

So that’s the beginning of my conversation and it outlines my end result and the reasons behind it – my WHY. And that leads to the HOW.

“And the only way I can achieve this outcome, is by eliminating certain stressors, certain situations that inhibit this result. I like to call them “limiting factors” and those include things like lack of education or understanding about the treatment I am presenting, insurance dependence, lack of desire or motivation, lack of urgency, and lack of finances. Fear can also be a limiting factor, but I find that it’s more often used as an excuse and to hide the true limiting factor, which is usually one of the others I mentioned. So by eliminating all the limiting factors, I can reach my destination, complete my equation, faster, easier, and in a more calm environment. But I can only do that if everyone on my team also understands how to eliminate and deal with the limiting factors.”

So by saying this to a new staff member, I am basically setting up the basics to let them know that we all need to be on the same page in order to win. And if that staff member does anything different than what I am about to teach them, then they themselves become the limiting factor, and they themselves are the reason we are not achieving my ultimate vision.

By starting with the WHY, and leading into an overview of the HOW, we can then define the WHAT of behaviour, communication, and specific actions that support or limit the outcome I am after. And that can include specific verbal skills, templated answers to common questions, actions to take when certain things happen frequently, and even how to behave or react when unexpected events occur. I’ve had many conversations with my team about what I want to happen in specific circumstances. How I would want everyone to behave, or communicate when an unpleasant or difficult situation occurs. And it always starts with why. Why do we want a specific outcome? How can we achieve that outcome? And what specific action or words do I need to use in order to best attain that outcome?

When your people know your why, and they understand the limiting factors that need to be eliminated in order to get us all closer to a win, they become more equipped and empowered to deliver the what in a way that you would have wanted. They will play by your rules, if the rules have been explained up front, and with clarity.

Try this in your practice. Have a meeting with one person or the entire team, and tell them not what to do but rather tell them what it is you desire and the why behind it. Explain with passion, WHY you truly want something that you are not getting now, and watch how the meeting changes from a group of employees who would normally be there because they have to, to a group of peers who want to help you get there.