Peak performance is a byproduct of our practice culture

Drs. Joel Small and Edwin McDonald show that teams will rise to peak performance with the support and guidance of leader expectations and a strong practice culture.

Drs. Joel C. Small and Edwin McDonald discuss how leaders need to create a compelling vision

Much of our work at Line of Sight Coaching revolves around leadership development and creating optimal practice cultures. We believe that optimal organizational cultures are the byproduct of effective leadership. This is not to say that poor leadership does not produce a culture. In fact, whether we know it or not, each of our practices has a culture — good or bad.

The theoretical concept of organizational culture can be somewhat vague and difficult to understand. This is due to the intangible nature of the concept. In practice, however, organizational cultures are powerful and potentially transformational. An organizational culture embodies the guiding principles that dictate how we work together as a team and how we interact with our patients, vendors, and anyone who has direct interactions with our practice. It embodies the expectations that we hold for ourselves and every other member of our team. It is our relational bible. We know, as coaches, that the very best and most productive clinical practices have strong cultures as their foundation. We also know those doctors who choose to disregard their practice culture do so at great risk.

There are two distinct ways through which we create our practice culture. One way is through default leadership and emotional absenteeism. This occurs when the leader is disengaged and offers no direction, guidelines, or well-defined boundaries for team communication and interactions.

It has been said that our leadership is defined by that which we tolerate, and disengaged leaders are prone to tolerate numerous forms of toxic behavior that severely diminish the quality of the practice culture. These doctors are what we call perpetual “problem solvers” because they are constantly dealing with problems that need solutions. Their staff has never been developed to think or act independently and therefore look to the doctor for even the simplest solutions. As a result, the doctors finds themselves bogged down in minutia and unable to utilize their time to its highest and best use. Furthermore, staff conflict is pervasive, and a practice with a poor culture and no guidelines has a weakened infrastructure and, like a house of cards, lacks resiliency and is prone to collapse when placed under stress.

A more desirable way to create an optimal practice culture is through purposeful, conscious leadership and engagement. These leaders are what we refer to as “people developers.” They have provided the guidelines, direction, and well-defined boundaries that are the essential ingredients for an optimal culture. They have given their team the resources, knowledge, support, and authority to think and act independently within certain well-defined boundaries. They recognize that collaborating with their staff is the surest way to discover effective solutions and make the best possible decisions. They also recognize the profound negative effect of toxic behavior and are unwilling to tolerate these behaviors. These doctors are the ones who find maximum enjoyment and profit from their professional endeavors.

Just as an optimal practice culture is the byproduct of effective leadership, peak performance is the byproduct of an optimal culture. Freeing ourselves from the burdens brought about by a negative culture allows us to concentrate on achieving goals and moving our entire team toward sustainable peak performance. An optimal culture promotes collaboration and team inter-actions that are no longer driven by ego and/or jealousy. All team members clearly understand their roles in achieving sustainable peak performance and willingly subordinate their individual egos to the concept of team-driven success.

Having an optimal culture that promotes a philosophy of abundance is another important step in achieving peak performance. Believing in abundance means that we are committed to making everyone on our team successful, and by doing so, we create something called “positive tension.” When we ensure our team’s success by giving them everything they need to be successful, we are allowing them to experience the satisfaction derived by a series of successes. As their challenges and successes become more significant, they begin to believe in their capabilities and ultimately adopt the mindset that no task is unachievable. This achievement-oriented mindset proves invaluable when staff are presented with a compelling vision of a team working at a peak level, and they have a clear understanding of the tasks required to achieve this goal. The team that has a clear and compelling vision, a burning desire to make the vision reality, and confidence in its ability to make it happen has positive tension and will relentlessly pursue the team’s goal. The team becomes unstoppable.

Given this scenario, it is our job to provide a compelling vision with the greatest clarity possible. We build the team’s desire to achieve the goal through tangible benefit statements, and we must offer the support and resources to provide the best possibility for the team’s success.

As team leaders, we must believe that our teams are capable of achieving their goals. Research has shown that teams will perform to the level of the leaders’ expectations. Expressing our confidence to our teams in their capabilities will serve as a significant motivator.

Using something we call a success formula allows us to distill these concepts to their simplest form: EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP + AN OPTIMAL CULTURE = PEAK PERFORMANCE

To achieve peak performance, a practice needs to share core values and guiding principles. Read “What do we value? A critical question and a values exercise” here:

Drs. Joel C. Small and Edwin (Mac) McDonald have a total of over 75 years of dental practice experience. Both doctors are trained and certified Executive Leadership Coaches. They have joined forces to create Line of Sight Coaching, a business dedicated to helping their fellow dentists discover a better and more enjoyable way to create and lead a highly productive clinical dental practice. Through their work, clients experience a better work/life balance, find more joy in their work, and develop a strong practice culture and brand that positively impact their bottom line. To receive their free ebook, 7 Surprising Steps to Grow Your Practice Through Leadership, go to

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