Change the Way You Talk

Having the ability to shape how your team think and feel about your patients, the people you have chosen to serve, comes with the language they are led to use.

At some point we have all been told how to think about our jobs and feel toward customers, but many successful business leaders are now rebelling against what they have been told or led to believe.

Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s (the ‘olden days’ to some of the youthful dentists I work with today) there was a shift in how business owners approached leadership. What was previously to help others, the focus of business owners became to help themselves, first and foremost. As author and businessman, Stephen Covey, rightly labelled it, this was when character ethics were left behind and replaced with personality ethics.

As we already know, the values at the spearhead of a business inevitably trickle down the entire staffing structure. The new approach to business and language used shaped how employees viewed the people they were meant to serve.

  • A new customer seeking to be understood, became a lead to convert.


  • Shared objectives became KPIs.


  • Communication training was replaced with ‘SPIN’ selling.


  • And we all became human resources.


The damage was being done, and ironically, this ugly period in business history that concentrated on chasing money was ultimately at the expense of the customer. Of course, this dog eat dog strategy didn’t succeed because sustainable businesses are built upon values, not plastic awards and league tables.

The sad part is that we continue to live with the damage caused – the lack of trust that people have in private professionals including dentists was created decades ago and it continues today. If you are led to believe that what matters the most is how many leads you can convert, then ask yourself if you are really comfortable with that and how it might be shaping your behaviour.

It is true that businesses need insight from yesterday to make progressive decisions tomorrow, and the most promising leaders know that these insights aren’t just numerical. They step into their customers’ shoes, because the focus of successful business owners is to understand their customer, first and foremost. For 2023 how about the number of  ‘understood patients per month’ as a measure of success?

How we think and feel about our patients matters. How we think and feel about our patients is shaped by the language we are led to use.

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