Throughout 25 years in practice, Dr. Agatha Bis admits she’s made some mistakes. In this blog series – 12 Mistakes I Made When Starting in Dentistry – Dr. Bis shares some of the lessons learned and solutions that helped her carry on to achieve the success she wanted. This post discusses why, in successful teams, trust is even more important than performance.  

We all want performers in our business, don’t we?  Every dentist wants people on their team that perform, produce, and create results.  We measure these things. We call these KPIs or Key Performance Indicators, and these might include things like production, collection, percentage of treatment scheduled, things like that. 

Those are all tangible and easy to measure. They tell us if someone is “performing” well and producing. They tell us who is lagging behind when we compare hygienist to hygienist or dentist to dentist. And those are all important numbers to keep track of. I keep track of those too. We measure these daily, report them weekly and monthly, and quarterly, and annually. So yes, performance is important. It’s critical to a business. Without meeting targets, you won’t have a business for long. So we must watch the numbers. We must meet the targets.  

Mistake #4 – Hiring a Performer

But there is one other important key factor that many dentists forget about or ignore. And that factor is even harder to measure. It’s an intangible. It’s based on gut feeling at first, then observation. But we all know when we have it and we all know when it’s lost. It’s called trust.  

What is trust? Define it. You can’t. It’s vague. Trust is basically how you are to each other and to the leader. This is the key. Nobody wants a team member who is a ‘low performer’ AND ‘low trust’ person. That’s true. And everybody wants a team member who is a ‘high performer’ AND ‘high trust’ person. That’s true, too. But what I learned some time ago is that the ‘high performer’/‘low trust’ employee is a toxic team member. I would rather have a ‘medium performer’, and sometimes even a ‘low performer’/‘high trust’ person, over this toxic person. I can teach and train someone of ‘low performance’ and over time, teach them how to perform better. But I can’t teach trust. 

Toxicity Breeds Chaos

I learned this the hard way, when I had 3 of those toxic people together in my office, and, for over 8 months, they “added” hours to their payroll to bump up their pay. Thousands and thousands of dollars stolen before I realized, actually what one of my other staff members noticed (she is ‘high trust’), and put an end to it. Imagine the chaos and stress it caused when 3 people were gone at the same time. So many patients were wondering what was going on in my office. And I couldn’t tell them.  

So the problem I see in a lot of dental offices is that many dentists measure performance only and don’t pay attention to the trust factor. We end up keeping and raising, our rewarding toxicity in our business, which is bad for the long game because it eventually destroys your entire business.  

Find Them, and Get Rid of Them

The irony is, it’s unbelievably easy to find these people. Go to any team member that you actually like and connect with and ask “who is the asshole” and they will tell you! They will all point to the same person. Equally, go to any team member and ask, “who do you trust more than anyone else, who’ll have your back when things are bad”, they will also point to someone.  And this person they point to may not be the highest performer. But this person, you’d better keep this person on your team. 

 For more information on building a high-performance team that works together, check out our Ultimate Team Culture Program at UPB Dental Academy.    

Dr. Agatha Bis is the founder of UPB Dental Academy. She practices general dentistry in her Oakville, Ontario clinic. In her latest blog series, Dr. Bis shares some of what she has learned along the way to help other dentists through similar challenges. UPB Dental Academy offers online training courses that help dentists realize their potential to achieve their ultimate goals. Learn more about Dr. Bis and UPB Dental Academy Courses on our website.