Ideas about leadership evolve but often only in line with our understanding of what our teams want, with our own experiences and those of others. From time to time some well meaning ‘top tips’ will no doubt appear in your social media timelines and then of course there is always the current New York Times best seller that’s ‘guaranteed’ to make a difference.
Be careful. That’s often my opening line of advice when exploring with dental business leaders how they can get the best out of their teams. Be careful, because although the workforce evolves, it’s expectations will and do change over time, there are some constants that seem unlikely to separate ‘millennials’ from ‘baby boomers’. There are certain ideas that are as relevant for a new start private practice as they are for a dental corporate and you ignore them at your peril.
For example, it seems unlikely that Maslow’s Hierarchy is going to become defunct in the foreseeable future and unless our instinct as well as the extensive research (Buckingham and Clifton et al) into what the best leaders do differently is fundamentally wrong, we know that you cannot talk your team into being loyal any more than you can buy them.
So what can you do? Well, if we cut out the management speak and have a conversation with any member of a team that ‘just gets it’ then you will notice that there are a few key messages beyond the basics. The basics such as having a clear understanding of what is expected of them and an employer with the right values have to be there, but go beyond that and you will observe that the member of your team who ‘just gets it’ knows something else.
They know that they have had and will continue to have the opportunity to develop and grow. They also know that their ability to do so is for the time being at least, better with you then anybody else. Beyond the basics, to provide them with this opportunity is really all that you have.
The challenge therefore for any dental business leader is to understand what their expectations of personal development are, and to be able to satisfy them. If you can’t they will go somewhere where they think they can (and tell you it’s about money). If you can, they will reward you with loyalty for as long as they can (and money gets discussed once per year).
But there is a twist and I think it’s a very special one for dental healthcare because so much of it is about process and there are plenty of members of your team that want processes. That is a massive generalisation but it’s based upon observation and feedback. (To test that theory, imagine the nurse that can’t work within a clear structure whilst you undertake a surgical procedure, or the decontamination room with no regulation).
The problem with wanting process is that the moments of excellence you strive for and the ones that you observe when your team are really performing as you want them to, simply don’t come from a manual, they never have. Caring for patients and caring for each other doesn’t come from a tick list, asking for loyalty or offering pay rises, it never did.
What you can do, is do your best to understand your team. This takes time. I have been seeing this with a number of clients recently, dental practices at various stages of their development. Those that can provide their team with the opportunity to develop and grow do better than those that don’t.
So before you start calculating the effect of an extra 50p per hour and pondering it’s benefits, before you hang your hopes on an even bigger and better Christmas party and rather than enduring the inevitable frustration that will follow when non of these well meaning ideas fail to make a lasting change in your team, give this some thought…
…when was the last time you had a really good conversation with each member of your team and allowed them to share their ideas with you?