Leading through change

Leading our staff through periods of change and uncertainty is one of the most critical roles for us as leaders. We must recognize that not everyone is comfortable with change and that which we may perceive as minor change may be viewed as a major upheaval for certain members of our team. It is important that we introduce new and different ideas or processes in a manner that reduces staff concerns and ultimately staff pushback. Here are a few tips that may assist you in bringing about orderly and peaceful change within your practice.

1. Develop trust

The essential key element necessary for voluntary change to occur is trust. Unfortunately, trust takes time to develop. New practitioners, especially those who have purchased a mature practice, should avoid the fatal mistake of introducing significant change within the practice before establishing a bond of trust with the staff. This scenario will often lead to failure, frustration, and potential loss of staff.

2. Speak with one voice

The entire leadership team must be unified in their support of change. For solo practitioners, this is a simple task, but when a practice manager or other doctors are involved, it is imperative that all key players present a common message in support of the suggested change. Division among the leadership team will send a negative and confusing message to the staff.

3. Be perfectly clear

Nothing incites confusion, concern, and pushback more than poor communication about a desired change. In the absence of clarity, the staff members are left to draw their own conclusions about the nature of change and its impact on them. Unfortunately, when this lack of clarity occurs, the staff is more likely to assume the worst possible scenarios regarding the desired change.

4. Present the vision

If we expect change to occur, we better have a clear vision of what the change will look like once it is implemented, and we need to be able to communicate the vision so that it is shared by our staff. Included in a well-presented vision is an explanation of why change is necessary, what will need to change for the vision to become reality, and how the change will benefit the practice and staff.

5. Seek out early adopters

It is important to identify those staff members who are not threatened by change and can buy in to the vision and necessary change early in the process. These staff members will have a calming and reassuring effect on the more skeptical and uncertain members of the team. We must let these early adopters know how much their support means to us and how important their input is to achieving the overall vision.

6. Engage the staff

For those of us who have seasoned veterans for staff, we simply need to define the desired result and allow the staff to determine the process for achieving the result. This technique encourages maximum buy-in by the staff because by using their own creativity and resourcefulness, they feel more relevant and essential in facilitating the change and making the vision a reality. With less seasoned staff, we may need to play a bigger role in defining the process, but we should always allow the staff to provide feedback and feel like they are vital to
the process.

7. Be patient and supportive

Taking a supportive role is essential for our staff during a time of change. Change does not occur spontaneously or without potential issues in a healthcare practice.  By accepting that there will be a learning curve and by making allowances for inevitable mistakes and miscues, we create a psychology safe environment for our staff, and they will be more willing to contribute their feedback and best efforts toward making the vision a reality.

Finally, we must always remember that change is inevitable and necessary, yet change also presents a degree of uneasiness as we move beyond our familiar comfort zone toward an unfamiliar future we have yet to experience. Knowing how to guide our staff through what may be a difficult journey for them will ultimately solidify our position as leaders and provide them with the security they desperately need throughout the change process.

Joel C. Small, DDS, MBA, ACC, FICD, is a practicing endodontist and the author of Face to Face: A Leadership Guide for Healthcare Professionals and Entrepreneurs. He received his MBA, with an emphasis in healthcare management, from Texas Tech University. He is a graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas postgraduate program in executive coaching and limits his coaching practice to motivated healthcare professionals. He is a nationally recognized speaker on the subjects of leadership and professional development. Dr. Small is available for speaking engagements and for coaching healthcare professionals who wish to experience personal and professional growth while taking their practices to a higher level of productivity.

**To receive a free copy of my “Core Values Exercise,” please contact me at joel@joelsmall.com. I am also available for a complimentary coaching session to discuss your practice-related issues.

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