dental leadership coaching london

What is Success in Dentistry?

What is success in dentistry? EBITDA, tangibles, shiny things and whatever cropped images of our lives that we choose to share on social media?

Score more goals, work harder, hit bigger targets and the reward will be yours right? And yet in dentistry and just as in much of life, that doesn’t always ring true.

I have witnessed the changing of the seasons within plenty of dental practices. I’ve seen squat dental practices spring into life, to then be successfully passed on to the next generation, as well as practices recover from previous decline.

Whenever I have helped dentists achieve their financial ambitions there has always been a paradox, because they will all tell you that their success didn’t come from chasing the numbers. They still care, measure and understand the numbers, it’s just that they recognise that none of those measures of success matter to your patients.

The very busy, technically competent and highly skilled clinician was never praised by his patient for the dedication, long hours, financial investment, targets,  bank balance and sacrifices that produced the finest of clinical results. Dental patients can’t appreciate you successfully doing things that they don’t understand or care about.

It’s not that dentistry is special either. The paradox of a successful airline for example, is that the pilot’s ability to follow all of the protocols and safety regulations is more likely to be outweighed by the passenger’s desire to be on time and have their bags waiting at the carousel. Getting me there safely is not my measure of success, despite all the effort that it took from others. My Google review and desire to fly with you again will be skewed by how well you got everybody onboard and served me a cup of tea, rather than whether you hit some safety targets.

Where dentistry does stand out, is that we tend to forget the paradox when we define success. Of course I expect to be happy with the final clinical outcome, it’s just not likely to be my real measure of success. How you made me feel, understood me and gave me reasons to trust you will be what I remember and no patient is ever going to celebrate contributing to your ‘lead and conversion’ target.

When we forget that what matters to patients, we measure what matters to us. We need to do the opposite and whether you see that as standing in your customer’s shoes or reciting Stephen Covey and ’seeking first to understand’, it’s time honoured and proven that a sustainable business can only ever be built upon truly understanding those that it serves.

So, when the post Covid dust of over demand and under supply in dentistry finally settles, keep the paradox in mind. Of course you need to keep doing the things that make you successful at dentistry, but remember that patients can only appreciate what they understand and care about.

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