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February 21st, 2023

Episode 48 – Moving Your Dental Practice from Good to Great – Part 3: The Unspoken Secret Your Team Wants You to Know

“Tapping into the talent of people is one of the gifts of great leadership.”
– Dr. Victoria Peterson

“Help me help you.”

I think that is the unspoken mantra of employees in America today. And as a dental practice owner who is crafting your Investment Grade Practice™, you know you can’t bring your vision to fruition alone. You need an awesome team to support you. 

Almost 100% of the time, your employees want to do a great job in their jobs. And it’s your job as their leader to create a safe environment where your team can say these are the things I need to do my job well. 

Your team will not naturally come to you and tell you what they need. Its very difficult for employees to speak up about what they need, even if what they’re asking for will make it easier for them to do their jobs.

I want to encourage you: Don’t take the silence as a good thing. Your job as a leader is to set the vision and then clarify, clarify, clarify. And when you think its clear, go back and clarify again. 

For those of you wanting to create an IGP business, I want to take today to explore what is possible when you engage your team by sharing:

  • What your team really wants
  • Practical tips for employee engagement that are more effective than a raise
  • A leadership challenge that will help you unlock and leverage the full potential of your team

Want to know if you have an Investment Grade Practice? Click here to use the completely free Investment Grade Practice calculator: What’s my IgP Freedom Number?

Want to have a conversation about your Investment Grade PracticeTM? Contact Brent at
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Regan 0:00
Hi, Dr. Regan, Robertson, CCO of Productive Dentist Academy here and have a question for you, are you finding it hard to get your team aligned to your vision, but you know, you deserve growth just like everybody else? That’s why we’ve created the PDA productivity workshop. For nearly 20 years PDA workshops have helped dentists just like you align their teams, get control of scheduling, and create productive practices that they love walking into every day. Just imagine how you will feel when you know your schedule is productive. Your systems are humming, and your team is aligned to your vision. It’s simple, but it’s not necessarily easy. We can help. The demand for these workshops is so high that our March 2023 workshop is completely sold out. But there are still seats available for the only remaining workshop in September 2023. Visit that’s productive to secure your seats now.

Victoria Peterson 0:57
Don’t take the silence as a good thing like no news is good news. That is not the case when it comes to building a great team. Your job as the leader, really is to set the vision, this is where we’re going and then your number two job is to clarify, clarify, clarify, clarify and clarify, and when you think it is clear, go back and test for clarity once again. You can’t over clarify with your team and asking them that simple question, what resources do you need in order to be more effective at your job?

Narrator 1:36
Welcome to Investment Grade Practices podcast where we believe private practice dentists deserve to get the lifestyle today while building an asset for tomorrow. Join your host Victoria Peterson, to design the practice of your dreams and secure your financial independence. Let’s get started.

Victoria Peterson 1:59
Are you a fan of the movie Jerry Maguire? Hello, I’m Victoria Peterson, your host for Investment Grade Practices, and I just love that line that Tom Hanks throws to Cuba Gooding Jr. He says, “Help me help you.” And I think that is the unspoken mantra of employees in America. Help me help you. Tapping into the talent is one of the gifts of great leadership and I want to talk about that today. So when we think about help me help you, creating a safe environment where your team can just say, these are the things that I need to do my job well. The founder of Kinkos once said, “Always kiss the fingers of the keys to touch the cash register.” So I’m going to lay down a leadership challenge really early in this podcast today and invite you to bravely go into a team meeting and ask your team, “What are the resources you need to do your job better?” Dr. Nikki green down in Fort Worth, Texas did this at the beginning of the pandemic. She asked her team, “What do you need in order to feel safe in coming back to work? What do you need in order to feel valued as you come back to work?” And she said her team came up with a list of about 25 things and what she did as a leader, she said, “I went out and did every single one of them whether they were big or small” so that her team felt comfortable. This is to help me help you. Your team will not come and naturally speak to power, you know, we’re a female-centric industry, and for a lot of women, it is very difficult to speak truth to power. It’s starting to open up, but you’re going to have to encourage this as a leader. Don’t take the silence as a good thing like no news is good news. That is not the case when it comes to building a great team. Your job as the leader, really is to set the vision, this is where we’re going, and then your number two job is to clarify, clarify, clarify, clarify and clarify, and when you think it is clear, go back and test for clarity. Once again, you can’t over clarify with your team and asking them that simple question, “What resources do you need in order to be more effective at your job?” I’d recommend doing this in a one-on-one setting. You can do it in a group setting and introduce it and then say I want to schedule 30 minutes with each of you over the course of the next couple of weeks. I really want you to give it thought and let me know, because if you have a hygienist who needs let’s say, cavitron tips, you haven’t bought them for three years. Did you know that those things were out? They may look good, but they’re not effective, and if your hygienist say, “If I had new cavitron tips, then I could be more effective at our job.” Done and done, put it in the budget, make it happen. Those types of seeing people, and really identifying with their struggles throughout the day, go further than bonuses sometimes. So make sure your team is well equipped. If your dental assistant says, ‘I know you want me to talk about treatment plans and financials with the patients, but I’m really uncomfortable with that” Then find a way for her to shadow someone else, get mentorship, get training, provide the resources, and I think as leaders, we often misunderstand the educational gap between a dentist who has right 12 years of high school and elementary education, but then another four, six, eight, 10, 12 years of education beyond that, at the college level, the PhD level, and then there’s the AGD, the MAGD, the FAGD you know, the fellows and the Masters in those levels, the diplomat status dentist. If you’re in that educational level, it can be hard to relate to someone who has a high school degree, some college, bachelor, a bachelor’s in business or something like that. So be patient with your team and if it seems like a silly thing to you, that’s okay if it makes your team happy. I really strive everything I can say yes to, let’s say yes to, let’s remove the obstacles for them to do their job. So if your team is just screaming at you, help me help you, then that’s your job as a leader, find out what they need to grow. When I read employee surveys, that’s a big part of my job is looking at employment trends right now, as we’re bringing people back to work and re-identifying work. I think our team wants the same thing that the owners want. I think they want a place to grow. Yeah, who wants to suck spit for the rest of their life and in dentistry, there’s not a lot of vertical hierarchy. You know, I don’t start at an entry-level and then move up. If you’re a dental hygienist, you’re dental hygienist, you’re dental hygienists. If you’re an assistant, you’re assistant, you’re assistant. That’s the common way of looking at this but the more elevated IGP way would be to ask the question, “How can I help my dental hygienist, my assistants, my administrators create some tiered opportunity within their role? Because a hygienist who graduated and never took CEE is still doing the things she did when she graduated five years ago, 12 years ago, is not, does not bring the same value to the practice as a hygienist who was part of AOSH, who was focused on oral-systemic connections, who was engaging their patients in full body care and comprehensive restorative dental care, And if there’s a difference in skill level, if there’s a difference in communication, if there’s a difference in restorative co-diagnosis and enrollment of care, I think there should be a difference in salary. So I don’t worry that hygienist want to make 50 or 60 bucks an hour, I want to make sure that they have the tools and the resources to produce 200 an hour, 300 an hour and there are high dentists who do that consistently, without stress. So if that’s not where you’re at, figure it out, because there’s plenty of resources to help you have a productive hygiene department. That’s just one example of help me grow. You know, our employees really love growth as much as we do. I think the most important thing, though they want is voice. They want voice and agency about when they work, and how they work, and what types of patients they work with, and their teammates and all of that. So I don’t know what it’s like in your practice but here at Productive Dentist Academy, I get input on the daily, on the daily, I have people telling me how to do my job better, asking how they can do their job better, wondering how we as a company can do better. It feels so healthy but it took a bit of getting used to. I’m like, “Wow, are they complaining? Am I doing something wrong? Like can I please anybody?” Those were my first impulses as a leader, and it was my own neurosis. What they were saying was, “Thank you. Thank you for seeing me. Thank you for hearing me. Now that I know that I have a voice. I’m going to start speaking up even more.” So be prepared for that when you start asking these questions. What can I do? What resources do you need? And your team realizes that you’re sincere, and that it is a safe space to speak up, they are going to want that more and the traditional twice-a-year growth conferences, or three times-a-year performance reviews, that is simply not enough communication for this new work environment. So plan to meet at least once a month on some one-on-ones or departmental meetings to make sure that you as a leader are tapped into and providing voice for your employees. Once they understand it’s safe, they’re going to have a lot of input and that’s a great thing for you. The third thing that I think most people want, particularly if we’re in this field of healthcare is they want to make a difference. I think our teams get as much or more joy out of seeing that patient with a brand new smile as the doctor who created it and oftentimes, our auxiliaries are a huge part of that process, holding the hand, making sure that they’re appointed well, that the financial burden is not stressful, that all of those things that have to happen. It’s not just the drilling, it’s not just the handpiece, it’s not just the porcelain, it’s not. It is the brilliance of the dentist but, it’s also the patient’s journey, and nine times out of 10, patients accept care, because they have had a smooth path, there have been smooth handoffs from one person to the other. So the patient journey, and mapping that out is so critical, particularly if you’re in a fee-for-service environment, or you’re moving out of network with your insurance plans, and you’re going into a value-driven type practice. Did you know that patients who rank you a five, a five out of five star versus four, get a five-star rating versus a four-star rating. The five-star ratings are six times more likely to refer someone to your practice than the four-star ratings. So it really is the clarity that your team has in doing their role, and how they hand off that create that five-star experience. So now that we know that the team wants the same thing we want, they want to grow, they want to have voice and they want to make a difference. They’re saying “Help me help you.” How do you create clarity? First and foremost, go back to your vision, your mission and your core values from that your key characteristics. How would we have to show up, you know, to accomplish what we want to accomplish? Then filter it through the practical. So each person wants to know their role. Literally, what is my job description, and for most practices, when we start working with them, these have not been updated in a very long time, or they’re written in a very vague way, you’re in charge of patient care. All right, well, what does that mean? You know, so be, you can’t list everything out of an SOP manual on the job description, but it should have clear guidelines on what is my part and what is someone else’s? So what is my role? How do I contribute? They’re hungry for this. Number two questions. How do I fit in with everyone else? So if it’s everybody’s job to be in charge of sterilization, who’s ultimately accountable for that? And the third thing is, how will I resolve conflicts? So who’s in charge of sterilization? We’re all in charge of sterilization, but what if Pam gets stuck doing all the trays, and Lisa always has to pop out early for her personal reasons? These are the little things that aren’t so little between your team and having a structure of accountability and a chain of command and a place of taking these, so as you grow, you need departmental leads and your departmental leads need to be trained in conflict resolution and team agreements and setting boundaries and all the emotional intelligence soft skills that are needed to help people get along. My goodness, this is a topic that I am so passionate about. All my experience as a dental hygienist and office manager, a consultant, a practice owner, trying to manage 55 employees across five locations. It really does come down to a sincere and honest effort of the owner to give time and space to creating clarity. What are we doing? Where are we going? Why is it important? What is my role? How do I fit in?

Victoria Peterson 14:48
How do I resolve things? If I feel like I’m being treated unfairly, or I’ve had a misunderstanding? It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? And yet it’s so difficult. When I talked to some of my CEO counterparts out in dentistry, we talk about the problems that we want to solve within a dental practice. Number one problem everybody wants to solve is cashflow, AR things like that. Number two is patient flow. How are they coming in or out and systems? The thing that no one really wants to talk about or dive into, are the people problems, like don’t get me the people problems, and it’s because people are messy and that’s okay. As a leader, you can be vulnerable, you can be messy, too, and you can be honest, and you can say, hey, I’m trying my best. Thank you for asking the question. Help me help you. I will take your help. Let’s enter into a dialogue and together we can grow a really great practice. Thanks again for tuning in to this edition of Investment Grade Practices. I look forward to seeing you again next week.

Narrator 15:54
Thank you for tuning in to this episode of Investment Grade Practices podcast. If you find value in this episode, help us spread the word by passing it along to a dental friend, subscribe and give us a Like on iTunes or Spotify. Learn more about building your Investment Grade Practice at Today

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