The Invisible Dental Leader

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The Invisible Dental Leader

If you are the owner of a dental practice and the main fee earner, or if you work in a dental practice and the boss is the main fee earner, there is a conundrum isn’t there.…what exactly is the boss meant to do all day?

Usually the higher you climb the tree, the less stuff you have to do (and too often the more an unsuitable person is promoted, the more obvious their inadequacies become) but in the main dentistry is different. The boss has to keep on being busy doing the dentistry and somehow lead a team, without being visible.

When a leader is invisible, issues get bottled up, things go wrong and the secret WhatsApp group that you do know about, but you’re not meant to, is pinging away at all hours. Elevate all of that to the highest level and you have a leader that gets a vote of no confidence. No surprises there.

On current and past performance, we’re not anticipating a flurry of clear and insightful leadership from the Chief Dental Officer and yet with some kind of Covid based return to work on the horizon, we need leadership.

There is going to be an awful lot of information flying about, more than ever, and some of it will continue to be contradictory.  Add in some financial pressures for all, uncertainty and nervousness about a nasty virus and…well, you can see what’s coming, and however it manifests, there is trouble brewing. We’re going to have to lead this one ourselves, in fact it’s already happening, the profession has decided to get leading.

On a local level and in your practices, what are you going to say to your team when you all do finally meet up at the practice? Here are a few pointers;

  • Values and beliefs shape behaviours. Before you dive in and start demanding the behaviours your’e looking for (and subsequently get frustrated from behind some probably necessary but largely unwelcome PPE) think about the common ground with your team. Agree on what you agree on. That will make it easier to work through the other and the more trickier stuff.
  • The team need to feel safe. That’s the job of a leader. This is about the team knowing what is expected of them. You don’t have to be the boss to be the leader. Step up. The boss will thank you for it but do it because you care,  not for an extra 50 pence per hour. The rewards will follow, they always do but be detached from them.
  • Be clear. It’s easy to get consensus if nobody understands what is expected. Allow the chaotic conversations to happen but know when to get agreement on what you are going to do next. Good leaders create a team that commit without needing consensus.
  • Plan for chaos. Talk through scenarios, explore the ‘what to do if?’ and accept that every situation will be different, particularly in a fast paced and changing environment.
  • Review. Do it more than usual. What worked and what could have gone better? Mine for any conflict and find the solutions, without looking to penalise anybody for anything that didn’t go to plan.
  • Things won’t go entirely to plan. It’s a wrench to say that ‘failure is feedback’ all of the time but do stop and pause before you try and fix things. There will be good ideas come out of rubbish ideas, if you allow them.
  • Remember that chat you had about life and perspective during lockdown? Everybody had that chat. Keep reminding each other of it and the things that really matter.
  • Want more? Join us 27th May at 3pm for a Zoom conversation.

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