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Positions of Privilege in Your Dental Practice

Positions of privilege in your dental practice
What do you do if somebody is underperforming in your business? Common answers to this question, when I ask dental practice owners, seem to fit on a scale somewhere between ‘bury head in sand through to baseball bats in the car park’ and everything in between. There are often no simple answers to this question of course and the potent mix of various strengths of clauses in contracts, no contracts at all, the ‘employed or self employed’ debacle, loyalty due to length of service and TUPE, to name but a few, are often reasons to do nothing, which of course never works out.

So what are these ‘positions of privilege’, where underperformance, lack of accountability and little official responsibility are rewarded? The characteristics of such a position typically include;

  • Bigger title, salary, percentage or hourly rate but no recognisable increase in responsibility or extra contribution
  • Autonomy to have whatever holidays they want
  • Not to turn up to training sessions or social activities
  • Little or no contribution at team meetings but plenty to say as soon as team meetings are finished
  • They claim to be ‘with you’ when clearly they are not
  • Fear that patients will leave in their droves if they ever left

….and many more, no doubt you can think of some too.

So, with the fear fuelled background of a potent mix of reasons to do very little, it’s no wonder that nothing ever happens. Those with a position of privilege can then add even further damage and have impact upon the practice, staff morale and the sanity of the practice owner. It seems odd doesn’t it, that in a profession which is so regulated and controlled, that the most powerful person in the building is not the one that can do the most harm to your patients, it’s the one that can do the most harm to your dental business. Try explaining that one to the CQC!

It’s easy to see how positions of privilege develop but it’s harder to fix. Simply allow any poorly recruited (or reluctantly acquired) member of the team to have pretty much zero official responsibility, allow them to be accountable to nobody or no thing…apart from their monthly pay or earnings statement, for which they will quibble over even the smallest discrepancy…and sit back. On the other hand, you might want to think about how to prevent these positions arising in the first place, to which like most things involving leadership and human behaviour, any attempt to produce a magic formula or a list of ‘top ten tips’ is frankly going to be about as effective as a cure all ‘for all your leadership needs’ as Marvellous Marvin’s Magic Snake Oil.

Fixing the problem, put in the equivalent language of a dental health professional, is like trying to reduce rampant perio disease whilst your patient continues to consume 8 cans of fizzy drink per day…in other words you have to look at the cause. As I frequently point out to clients, recruit once and get an under performer and you have a management issue. Recruit twice and get two under performers and you most likely have a recruitment issue. Get the recruitment right with a well lead and managed team and positions of privilege are less likely to develop.

This just leaves us with those that have developed a position of privilege and as hard is it might be to recognise this in any business, anybody that is ‘just in it for the money’, refuses to recognise what they are really responsible for and is not prepared to be accountable, will either leave when they are ready on their terms or will destruct and devalue your business for as long as you allow it to happen.

At Club Connect we frequently work with clients to help them understand the cause of problems in their dental businesses, rather than imposing magic formulae and ‘top ten tips’. This is the only credible way to solve these problems, in a way that gets to the cause and provides longevity to the solution. Here are some of the types of questions that we might work through with our clients if positions of privilege have been recognised;

  • How has this role become a position of privilege and what impact could this be having on the rest of the business?
  • What is the person with a position of privilege really responsible for and how can this be recognised?
  • What should the person with a position of privilege be made accountable for and to whom?
  • What internal processes need to change in order to reduce the impact of positions of privilege?
  • What stops you delegating to other team members?
  • What most keeps you awake, issues of technical competence within your team or issues of your team understanding what you are trying to achieve?

Just like understanding the cause of problems in your patient’s mouths are key to improving their health, understanding the cause of problems in your business is key to the success of your dental business and your wellbeing. Failing that, there is always Snake Oil.

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