Are your team agreeing with you because you’re too vague?

dental coaching blog

Are your team agreeing with you because you’re too vague?

Why is it that some dental business owners lead teams that deliver what is expected of them and yet others don’t?

We’ve all been there, the boss spouting on about the next big thing and hoping that this time the message is going to make a difference. But too often nothing changes and this is the frustration of running  a dental practice by ‘remote control’ and from your surgery.

One of the fundamental problems is that the message is often too vague (and unless you have a really open team and you are equally open to listening to them) it’s too easy for your team to agree to something that is subjective. These are the warning signs:

  • You or your manager are frequently being asked “What to do”
  • You’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and trying to ‘get the team onboard’.
  • It really easy to get unanimous consensus to your ideas at meetings with your team.
  • You’re frustrated and running out of ways to ask for things to be done a certain way, and then for them not to happen that way.
  • You have a grand list of ideals, some kind of mission or statement of purpose and yet you have poor results.


Sound familiar? I have seen dental business owners try and address these warning signs in many different ways and yet the simplest solution is to just stop leading with vague concepts and ideals without exploring how you expect them to be applied in the real world.

For example, a quick glance at most dental websites is likely to show a variation on…”At ABC Dental we strive to achieve the best level of patient care.” But what does that actually mean at the front line? What behaviours are you really expecting to see?   Your big vision for your practice is all well and good but at 8.30 on a Monday morning, two nurses off sick, and the phone being bombarded by emergency appointments, none of what you have said at your last team meeting is really going to make a jot of difference.

The solution is therefore twofold. Yes, by all means have your big vision or plans, your ‘why’ or whatever you want to call it and do make sure that everybody understands it but, you have to spend time with your team discussing how this can be applied in the real world. You need to spend time with them exploring ‘what to do if…..?’

Do this by making sure that you get really clear on how you expect your team to behave in certain situations. You cannot achieve this with scripts, tick lists and more and more pages of rules and regulations. Prescribing what to do in advance when two human beings interact in a dental practice, will not give your team enough behavioural flexibility. Your are not running a fast food burger franchise.

In my direct experience, taking a few typical day to day scenarios and then discussing some key questions, will equip your team to know what to do when those scenarios happen again. Do this by discussing what you need your team to think about that will then shape their behaviour, rather than trying to script the actual behaviour. For example:

  • A patient with no track record of being late, turns up late.
  • The phone is ringing off the hook and you step in to help by taking a call from a new patient, just as your next patient walks in.
  • A patient says yes to booking their next appointment in the surgery but they announce that ‘they need to have a think about it’ at the reception desk.


I am sure you can probably think of many more. But whatever the scenarios are, take the time to look at them with your team from the following perspectives:

  • What might be happening in your patients world, because this really matters.
  • What do we need to understand to see things from their point of view, because this is the essence of providing great service.
  • What might we need to ask to be to apply our otherwise vague vision of ‘striving to achieve the best level of patient care’.
  • What are the risks…how could this scenario go ‘wrong’ or become a complaint?
  • What do we need to do in order to avoid the risks?
  • What is the ideal outcome?
  • What is the second best outcome?
  • If we get it right what have we learned and how can we share the learning?
  • If we get it wrong, what have we learned and how can we share the learning?


By discussing with your team these questions, you will equip your team to have a real understanding of how to behave when those inevitable scenarios happen. As a dental business leader, it is your job to take what is in your head and make it a reality for the patients that you serve. As a dental business leader it is also you job to equip your team to know what to do if…..

If you are ready to explore if and how we can help you, we have a limited number of places to join us in 2021. One to one coaching, training at your practice and a peer development group.

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