When Please And Thank You Is Not enough

Kevin at Rose & Co gives his advise on how laying proper groundwork and communicating your values with your team can provide positive results.

When Please And Thank You Is Not enough


Now don’t get me wrong, this is not an article about manners or even whether respect for each other is important in your dental practice, but what I would like to explore with you is whether socially accepted norms on their own are enough to make changes in your business.

Let me explain. Let’s take one of the persistent issues that dental practice owners seem to be plagued with; A request (will you do it this way please?) is made for a particular non clinical task to be done in a certain way (answering the telephone, meeting and greeting, handling recalls, discussing money etc) and at first, perhaps for a day or two the owner sees a change in behaviour within the team. These quick wins are praised with a thank you and the problem is solved, right?

Well, perhaps so but it is more likely that some of the bad habits and the old way of doing things creep in once again. The answer? Another request for a change in behaviour and when that has been ignored enough times then the obvious answer is to send everybody on a course. The result? This time, an external person desires the same change in behaviour but it is framed differently and comes with with some notes, slides, role-plays, scripts, CPD and things to take away. Problem solved?

Well lets hope so, least of all because it won’t have been a cheap day out, but once again it is common to then see some of the old habits and the old way of doing things creeping back in. The answer? Blame the trainer…probably not. Blame the team…well only if there is a fundamental issue and you simply have the wrong person in the job. In this case you have a recruitment and selection issue.

But let’s assume that “they are not a bad team”, that the training is up to scratch and both the trainer and content are flexible enough to get the best out of the people that they are presented with, then in theory why wouldn’t it work? But then again why would it?

All that has really happened here is that the same message is being delivered through a different mechanism but in a slightly different way. The question to consider is, that if the request didn’t work the first time and nothing has really changed in the meantime then why are you expecting a better result? This a “CPD and fingers crossed” leadership style and it has it’s obvious limitations. Putting the onus upon simply requesting your team to change their behaviour is not usually enough and helping a member of your team to create a new belief by providing them with a new skill (that they can now do it this way or that way) by sending them on a training course is only half of the equation.

Think about it. When you have paid for yourself to go on a course, you have no issue with implementing the new skills that you have learned, so why is this? Well, partly because the course is likely to be something that interests you and also because you are suitably motivated to do something about it. In other words you know “why” it is important to you, your patients and your business. Somewhere in your mind you have a plan and a vision for your business and in your world there is an intrinsic link between that and the behaviour that the training course is trying to encourage or the application of a new skill that it has provided you with.

Now play this forward and you will see that talented leaders are able to translate why and what is important to them (their values) into something that is important to their team. In other words talented leaders find common ground where values are shared. When this is happening, values are being shared by the stakeholders, everybody agrees why the new behaviour is important and you have the basis for making changes that stick. In other words;

Values (what is important to you) and beliefs (what you believe to be true) shape behaviour.

So can “please and thank you” ever be enough? Yes, but only when you have done the groundwork and through your leadership, communicated your values to a team that have either been recruited or retained because they share enough of the same values with you. This is where change happens.

What can you do about it?

  • Be absolutely clear about what you want to achieve with your dental practice. Remember that nobody buys what you do unless they also agree with why you are doing it. Dare I suggest that this is one of the reasons why having an imposed increase in ARF has caused such an outcry (I haven’t yet met a dentist who agrees why they are doing it!)
  • Build a team where “the way we do things around here” is shared by everybody and is founded upon your values and what is important to you.
  • Recruit by your values and only retain those that share your values. If you keep recruiting people that just don’t work out then you have a recruitment and selection problem, not a training problem.


Shared values + application of learned skills = change in behaviours

Incongruent values + application of learned skills = frustrated business owner


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