Dr. Scott H. Craven
DDS | MS | PhD
CEO and Founder of Synergize Dental

As dentists, we all strive to have highly functional teams. Sometimes we are more successful than others. There are many dynamics that influence team unity and effectiveness, but Patrick Lencioni consolidated these dynamics into five behaviors that have significant effect on the effectiveness of teams. For a more detailed view of these behaviors I would strongly urge you to read his book, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”. This article will highlight the antithesis of these dysfunctions along with some of my personal insights on each.

1. Building Trust

This is a foundation element of effective and cohesive teams. In most cases, the absence of trust among team members will lead to significant deficiencies in team function that ultimately leads to a reduction in your bottom line. A culture that breads mistrust will quickly sabotage any business strategy, goal or objective. Here is a good question to ask yourself to see where the trust level is with your team.

Do team members readily admit mistakes? Do they actually trust coworkers more if they do admit mistakes? The numbers show that 80% of people trust coworkers more when they admit mistakes.

Building a foundation of trust among employees takes effort and begins with the leadership (you) within the organization. Creating a safe environment for your employees is critical. I think most of us have had the experience where we had a highly talented and capable employee in the office who, unfortunately, also seemed to stir up drama or had a toxic effect on the culture.

I have had many dentists tell me that they do not want to get rid of that employee because they are such a good assistant or hygienist or office manager. Well, that always leads to a culture devoid of trust. The team can’t trust YOU to do the right thing and protect them from this toxic individual. My experience has been that until that individual is gone, there is little that can be done to create a trusting culture within the practice.

2. Mastering Conflict

Most of us hate conflict and most dentists I interact with would just as soon pull a tooth as deal with a problem with a team member. Certainly, pulling a tooth is much easier! However, not addressing problems is not a very proactive way to manage your office.

So how do you make conflict productive? How do you get to a point where it does not create so much anxiety for you? Usually it boils down to your mindset around feedback and the purpose for it.

In most cases feedback is meant to provide information for a team member to help them improve. It is designed to help them grow and be more effective at their job. Feedback is a good thing.

Sometimes, because feedback is taken negatively (or even given poorly) we associate this information with that negativity. What if that feedback came from a place of helpfulness and love for your team member? What if you approached the person by saying, “I really see great potential in you, and I want to help you achieve it!” If you are genuine with the feedback it will be received in the spirit it is given.

Do you find that your team members freely engage in passionate dialogue around issues critical to business success? Do they feel like they can disagree without repercussion—even with you? 71% of people say that the workplace would be more effective if team members would be more frank with their opinions.

Often I see teams that are very guarded in what they say for fear of creating conflict or for fear of reprimand if they disagree with other team members or leaders. Research has shown that this can seriously stifle creativity and growth in your business. Examine the image below and see if your team members use healthy behaviors during conflict of unhealthy behaviors.

3. Commitment

Have you ever had that team member that just seemed to be coming to work to collect a paycheck? They do their job but really don’t buy in to the practice vision. It is frustrating for a leader and it can be very limiting for the business as well. Over 86% of people surveyed felt that work projects suffered when there was a lack of commitment of team members.

Your job is to help team members buy in to the vision of your practice. To do this, involve them in developing values and vision statements. Let them participate in the process. If the company’s values coincide with their own values then they are more likely to be committed to the team and the practice. When team members show that commitment is slacking, revisit these values with them personally and help them see how achieving practice goals and values aligns with their own values and goals.

4. Embracing Accountability

Almost 90% of people surveyed feel that their teams would be more effective if all team members were better at holding each other accountable. Once team members are committed to a goal or project, it is important that each are held accountable to that commitment.

I experienced a situation where a doctor and his team were very reluctant to be accountable for their actions within the office. Instead they became angry, resentful, and oppositional. Far from embracing accountability. It didn’t help that one of the team members was the dentist’s family member. As you can imagine, it created havoc among the entire team causing productivity and culture to suffer significantly.

This behavior ties in to the second behavior ‘mastering conflict’. In order to hold others accountable, you and other team members will need to master the skill of giving and receiving feedback. It is a skill and it can be learned, but it will require practice.

You and your team will need to have a solid base in trust so that you can learn and develop this skill together. Holding someone accountable for sub-par performance in never easy. Nevertheless, it is crucial for healthy team culture and practice growth.

5. Focus on Results

Focusing on results is a critical behavior for dental teams. What clinical result do you want for your patients? What results are you looking for with patient experience? What goals do you have for the practice? Focusing on key elements of practice success are necessary for every team member.

When team members put their own needs and desires above the team or the practice, the practice suffers. In fact, 87% of people surveyed state that work projects suffer when team members put their own needs ahead of the team’s needs.

All of us have probably experienced this. We’ve seen team members sabotage other team members to make themselves look better or complain to others about a certain team member’s performance instead of taking it directly to them.

This is all done in an effort to further that team member’s personal agenda and only serves to slow down and disrupt the team. Keeping team members focused on the overall goals of the practice will help eliminate these behaviors and help team members be accountable to the desired results and success you are working towards.

As dentists we certainly have our plates full. We went to dental school to provide dentistry to patients. Now we find ourselves thrown into a situation where not only do we need to provide superb dentistry for our patients, but we also have become bookkeepers, accountants, human resource managers, and business strategists.

It may seem quite overwhelming at times but realize that you have many resources to help you focus on the dentistry you love. SynergizeDental is dedicated to providing resources to independent dentists, like you, so that you can focus on what you went to school to do—provide dentistry.

 If you would like to dive deeper with your team into these concepts, contact SynergizeDental to schedule a “Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team” workshop customized for your practice.

About SynergizeDental

Our team at SynergizeDental is dedicated to helping independent dental practices thrive in a competitive environment. We know independent dentists can unlock their growth potential as they invest in themselves. They deserve the peace of mind that comes from trusted business support, proven practice management systems, and a team of experts dedicated to their success. 

If you have any questions, please reach out to our team to schedule a free consultation. We also provide free Dental Intel Growth Reports to show exactly where you can save thousands of dollars instantly. 


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