They keep saying it’s the leader that makes a great team. They talk about how every toxic staff situation can be solved with great leadership. It’s supposed to be the dentist, the owner, the manager, the CEO, that brings people together, communicates a higher vision, higher purpose for the business, and then lift their people up to run off into the sunset and succeed. Achieve away, young souls! Go off as I taught you, take my words, my passion, my dedication, and my 18 hour days that built this place up, and do as I told you, as I wrote down in these flowcharts and systems, my manual, my bible. Go off in my image and make this business grow in a way that I spelled out for you in our meeting, in our many meetings, with my vision of greatness, and with the tools and instructions I have provided here, in my…. Hmmm, I am starting to think this reminds me of another story. And that didn’t end so well. Because those people didn’t listen either.

I am so exhausted. With the COVID shutdowns, it gave me time to think. After I freaked out, I did finally calm down, and then found meaning for the time we were closed. Time to think, time to reflect on the past 25 years of building this business, time to figure out how to rebuild after we open and how to do it better. I started to think about all the aspects of it I didn’t like. The stuff I wanted to change but never could… or truly, I was either too busy or too scared. Too fearful of what the patients might say. Or the staff. So I plugged away, year after year, allowed certain things to slide, and even with the massive recession in 2008, I did not wake up the way I did this time. I woke up like a thunderbolt, eyes lit bright, and mind stirring, I rebuilt. I rebuilt from scratch, the way I wanted my business to be, and why I wanted it that way. I built the vision, the big leaps to get there, broke them down system by system, worked out the system, made flowcharts and protocols. It was beautiful. I was so excited.

We started with this new way when we re-opened; my vision, and patients loved it! One after another, emails, calls, words of praise, even flowers, enhancing my belief in what I was building. And last week, among other routine and typical issues that are common in every office, every business, I had a tough week. It weren’t the patients, and it wasn’t my staff, but everything I touched would turn into a giant disaster. The IT guys were in to install a new computer. It was supposed to take a few minutes, but they kept coming in and asking all kinds of questions I didn’t know the answers to, putting me behind, and taking over an operator for over four hours. Drip. My hygienist was seriously behind because someone scheduled her patient incorrectly and she didn’t have enough time so I had to rearrange the rest of the day to accommodate, especially now with the changes due to Covid. Drip drip. Then I got an email, or seven, that took longer than I expected, and well, what I thought would be an easy day, ended up being 5 hours longer than expected, and very draining. Drip drip drip. I had floor guys coming in the next day so I had to move all the furniture out of the rooms they would be working on, but all our internet and computer stuff was attached so I asked the IT guys for help to disconnect things and keep the internet on but out of the way for the floor guys. Unplug, move, shift, tape cables to the wall, seemed to go smoothly. Hmmm, too smoothly with my luck this week. But I had to go home because it was getting late, and I hadn’t seen my daughter yet, and tomorrow I was having arm surgery.

Friday morning, I had my arm cut open to remove parts that didn’t belong. It was a more complicated procedure than expected, so “you will be quite sore for about two weeks”, my surgeon said. No problem, it’s my left arm and I am right-handed. “Make sure you go fill your prescription right away”. Yes yes, gotta stop by the office first and finish a couple of things with Marissa (we planned to finish our templates and I wanted to get that done), then I can get my meds, and relax at home with my daughter, all before noon. That was my plan, since as a teenager, she sleeps till then when not in school and I get my stuff done in the morning to get it over with so I can spend the beautiful afternoon with her.

When I got to the office, and tried to open my emails, the internet did not participate. I went to check on the router, reset, tried again. Drip drip. And again. Drip drip drip. And again. I pulled the “internet” folder with the instructions on how to fix it, the one that was supposed to kept updated by, let’s call her ‘Crumble’, because she falls apart constantly with every tiny change, or every tiny suggestion or criticism. Crumble’s folder is where it always is. Check. I follow the instructions but they are missing one of the pieces of equipment that’s sitting in front of me. Old instructions. Drip drip drip. At the bottom, it says, call this number if still having trouble. Ring, hold 43 minutes, typical, get through and this lovely woman takes me through all the checks to find out why it’s not working. Takes about 2 hours total (including the hold) to figure out that they are not my internet provider. WTF??? I go through my bills, and there it is. Bills & Payments from another. Call them. Internet is fine. Must be internal. Call IT guys, they won’t come out physically but will spend the next 4 hours on the phone with me, while I text them picture after picture of the equipment and how the cables are attached. Still nothing. I am bleeding through my bandaged arm now since I’ve been running around and on my hands and knees trying to do what they are telling me, so the pressure on my arm and the physical stress is causing me to bleed more. Pain is severe now. Crap, I forgot to get my prescription. It’s 6:00 o’clock so I give up and will try tomorrow but the pain, along with my cortisol levels is massive. Drip.

Saturday ends up being worse. IT people have no clue and don’t seem to agree on how to connect the cables. One guy says one thing, the other something completely different. Another full day spent and nothing gets resolved. Drip Cortisol, drip like mad through my veins as I feel the rush of stress and anxiety flush me from top to bottom. If the instructions were just updated, like I asked, if they were written with pictures attached into the document, step by step, so a monkey could reconnect this, I wouldn’t have spent the last 2 days in pain on my hands and knees with the IT guys on speaker learning to connect routers and modems, firewall and amplifiers. Words I didn’t even need to know this much about. I told the IT guys they have to come out in person. Enough is enough.

Andreas meets me on Monday, love this guy, he has a gentle way about him. He starts to work and I say, Stop. Andreas, we need to do this my way this time. I need the dripping of cortisol to stop. I need the stress to stop. I need to not go back to the old way of doing things, where I will find myself here again sooner or later. I need you to listen to me first, what I want to create here, then work with me to accomplish this. He says, “sure, whatever you want, doc”. Ahhhh, silence in my veins. For the first time in a week. Andreas, I want to disconnect everything. I want to clean each device, line it up, label it, know what it is, then have you talk me through how to reconnect all of it. I want to then label each cable, where it goes, and take pictures of each step, so I never even have an issue like this again. “I like that”, he says. He gets the vision. And despite the fact that this will take way longer, doing it my way, and he will likely be way behind for the rest of the day, he gives me all his time, his attention, his gentle voice, and proceeds to work at my pace, teaching me along the way. What could have taken him a total of 30 min start to finish ends up taking 2 hours. But in the end, he will never again need to spend another 30 min and the time it takes to travel here in order to go through this again. It’s now properly labeled, documented, and updated. It’s beautiful. And the endless visits to come back and do this again, will never have to happen. Visits that cost time, energy, lost productivity, and lots and lots of money. I feel amazing now. There is only silence in my body. Cortisol has left the building.

They say, a chain is only as strong as the weakest link. And every business, some more than others, will experience the weak link. It could be your best or most loyal employee, but there will be a time, when simply based on who they are as a person, they will be that link. Leadership can only do so much. We can provide the vision, the skills, the training, the systems, the protocols, the support, and even the warm and fuzzy for a job well done. But at some point, someone on your team of wonderful, great people, will not do what you want or how you want it, and not out of spite, but simply because that’s who they are. Crumble hates change. She likes things the way they used to be. She has habits that work for her. She’s relied on them for over 50 years so she is in full belief she is right. So when I ask her to do things differently, she gets all red and falls apart. She is on the verge of tears every second now, because Covid has brought some changes. And I brought on a ton more. She can’t stand it. She freezes and screws up and I keep having to fix it. She wants to go back to the way she did it before. The things that worked for her before. But they don’t work for me anymore. And they don’t work with today’s world. Today’s changes. And my own vision today of what I want tomorrow to bring.

And it’s not my lack of leadership that my chain is broken and I am left holding the pieces, while my arm throbs in pain. It’s, in fact, my strength, my desire to make my business better, and my tenacity to keep pushing through to create a better business for all our patients and my team, but this time, it’s also better for me. And sometimes when others say that lack of teamwork is a result of poor leadership, they can take it up their A#$ and shove it. Sometimes, a true leader must rip the chain apart with their bare hands, lay out all the pieces side by side, and reconnect from scratch.