What I know now (that I wish I knew then!)

Drs. Joel Small and Edwin McDonald show how effective leadership skills can create a sustainable advantage with your practice team.

Drs. Joel Small and Edwin McDonald share how to cultivate effective leadership qualities

If you were approached by a young endodontist just starting out who was seeking your advice on keys to success, what would you share with them? Here are some of my suggestions that I learned the hard way — from experience.

The shift from “ME” to “WE”

The challenges we encounter in academia require a high degree of self-management to be successful. Thriving in this environment is a solo endeavor. In other words, our success is determined by what we know, what we do, and how well we do it. Once we leave the academic environment to begin clinical practice, we must undergo a major shift in our mindset from self-manager to team leader, and as a team leader, our success is now determined more by what others know, what they do, and how well they do it. These others are the group of individuals that make up our practice team.

To successfully transition to a team leader, we must learn a new skill set, new communication skills, deep listening skills, motivational skills, emotional intelligence, etc. Unfortunately, none of these skills are taught in our dental schools or residency programs, so many of us struggle with these essential interpersonal skills that are now so vital to our success in this new environment. Over time, our deficiencies in these vital areas may become a major hindrance to developing our practice culture and a peak performing team.

The fine line between being the boss and being a member of the team

One of the most challenging lessons to learn as we transition from academia to clinical practice is that we are both the boss as well as being a member of the practice team. Let’s face it — our team cannot work without us, and we cannot work efficiently without the team. The question is how do we position ourselves to be effective in both capacities? Some would say that we should have an arm’s length relationship with the staff, fearing that becoming too close with our team members is an invitation to being taken advantage of. My response to this approach is that there will always be those who wish to take advantage of us. We prevent this from happening by setting strict boundaries that protect us from these attempts. Dealing with staff is no different. We must embed ourselves within our teams so that we can feel the pulse of the team and respond accordingly based on their needs and the perceived needs of the practice.  We do this while maintaining personal boundaries that prevent us from being abused.

The problem, as I see it, with maintaining an arm’s length relationship with the staff is that we become unapproachable and never hear their needs or receive valuable feedback that potentially could make our team more cohesive, more efficient, and more productive. Smaller organizations like dental practices exist in feedback rich environments, and we do ourselves and our team a great disservice if we fail to acknowledge and appreciate this valuable feedback.

Our knowledge and technical skills are NOT the driving forces to our success

The academic environment prioritizes knowledge and technical skill as the keys to success, and this is as it should be in institutions of higher learning. In a practice environment, however, our IQ and technical skills become secondary drivers of success.

The vast majority of dental schools and residency programs provide an exceptional education for their students who are required to meet a very high standard of proficiency. Upon entering clinical practice, these same high standards of proficiency become what I refer to as table stakes, or the price of admission.  In other words, we are expected to have and maintain this basic skill set, or we become irrelevant. Maintaining these high standards of knowledge and skill no longer distinguishes us from our fellow doctors with the same skill set or provides us with a sustainable competitive advantage in the dental marketplace. Our IQ becomes secondary to what Daniel Golman in his seminal book Emotional Intelligence refers to as our EQ, a measure of our capacity to be aware of, control, and express our emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. In simpler terms, EQ is a measure of our ability to effectively engage with others, and this is where the rubber meets the road.

Today’s effective leaders and successful practitioners are no longer authoritarians. They are instead exceptional influencers, and influence is a function of one’s ability to communicate in a manner that is engaging, compassionate, and motivating. These are the skills that set us apart from our competition and create a sustainable competitive advantage. Furthermore, doctors who have a high degree of emotional intelligence (EQ) are the ones who create exceptional practice cultures and peak performing teams.

These are just a few of the things that experience has taught me. I know I share these same thoughts and experiences with many of you. Hopefully, they will resonate with our younger colleagues as they begin their journey into private practice.

Effective leadership can be obtained while honoring your values. Find out how in this article by Dr. Small. https://endopracticeus.com/become-essentialist-find-happiness-success-2/.

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 www.lineofsightcoaching.com.

Stay Relevant With Endodontic Practice US

Join our email list for CE courses and webinars, articles and more..

Scroll to Top