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Episode 168: The Art of Emotional Self-Control

“What do you think it does to your team when the first thing they see in the morning is a frowny face?” ~Dr. Bruce B. Baird

I’ve told you the story about the smiley face frowny face. When I was a young dentist my team would put a smiley face on the board if I was in a good mood that morning, and a frowny face if I was in a bad mood. What do you think the reason was that my team was putting that up there for everyone else to see? That was them reaching out in the only way they could and saying “help”.

I have a question for you: how productive do you think your practice is going to be when the first thing they see in the morning is a frowny face? Not good, is it? For a long time, I was like a walking time bomb. I would let things build up and build up until I exploded. And I used the excuse “Well that’s just who I am and you have to deal with me.”

But I realized in my mid-thirties that my goal of creating the model dental practice was not going to happen unless I got ahold of my emotions. I had to learn to self-reflect, and how to govern my emotions instead of letting them govern me.

Now, years later, it comes easily to me. Don’t get me wrong, there are still things that irritate and bother me, but I am now in control of my emotions so I can be the leader my team deserves.

And today I’m going to share some of what I learned about governing my emotions including:

  • Discovering why I was acting the way I did
  • Understanding the impact my behavior had on my practice and team
  • Sharing resources I used in my journey to be a better leader

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Hi, this is Dr. Bruce Baird with the Productive Dentist Podcast. Really excited about this topic that I’m going to talk about today and why am I so excited about it? Because it’s the one thing that I have, early in my career, I had the most difficulty. I just had extreme difficulty and that’s governing my emotions. How do I, how do I control my emotions? I’ve told you guys a story about the smiley face and the frowny face in our break room and when I walked in the door, they would put this smiley face up, if I was in a good mood, and when if I was in a bad mood, they put the frowny face up for everyone to see and, you know, that was them basically reaching out and saying, “Help,” you know, because how, how productive is your practice going to be when the first thing when you walk in, they put a frowny face up for you. You know, and I had, I was, I’m Scotch Irish, you know and for many years in my life, I just assumed that I had all the characteristics of Scotch Irish, you know, I and I love, I love being Scotch Irish, don’t get me wrong, but you know, the Irish temper, you know what, I’ve just got the temper, you’re just gonna have to deal with it. In other words, it was just me, that’s just the way I handle things, is I lose it, you know, I will not say anything, I will not have a crucial conversation with another person because I don’t like conflict until it gets so heavy, that I finally explode. So I’m like a walking time bomb and I was like that until I was probably 35 years old, 38 years old. If somebody said something to me that I didn’t like, I would get in your face.

I was, I was one of those kind of guys. I just, you know, again, my, my marine upbringing, my dad being that marine aviator, you know, it’s like my way or the highway, but at some point in time, I had to start to learn to govern my emotions, how to self reflect. Nowadays, the older I’ve gotten, that starts to become, to me now becomes very easy, but I wasn’t able to do it until I put down this, “Well, I am Irish, so it must be, this is the way I am.” In other words, this is just if you think, you’re this way because of any other outside influence, self-evaluate, look at yourself and say, “Am I really this person that blows up at people?”, because if you see me on the golf course, I’m a caring, loving person, or if you see me at the at the mall or if you see me up at the grocery store. I just I’m an outgoing gregarious person and I love visiting with patients. I’ve told you I love working on my friends. I love having a team that are friends, but for years I literally was just ingrained with this, “This is the way I was raised, so it has to be.” Love is a choice, is a great book, I would tell you if you, if you grew up a child of an alcoholic, it’s a book that can free you. It’s a book that can actually give you information to tell you that you’re the way you are not because of what’s happened in the past, although there’s some of that, but you’re who you are because you’re allowing that to be who you are and having those you know governing those emotions. How do I do that as a leader in my, in my practice? Yes, I was never an instrument thrower, but I would be upset when a patient was upset if a patient wasn’t being treated.

Remember, I wanted to have the model practice. You know, I wanted it to be the perfect practice, although there is no such thing and today, you know, I put the handpiece up 24 months ago, but today, I still work with the office up there, just because I want it to be a model office, you know, I don’t go in and do treatment, but I kind of help support that vision of that model practice, but you have to conduct yourself in a different way. I’ve talked about it a couple podcasts ago with legendary leadership, how to be that legendary leader, you know, and those are all things that are going to be extremely helpful for your business, but they’re also going to be the things that grow your business, they’re going to be the things that change.

Change the culture, change, you know, we hear culture a lot, what’s your culture? What is your tribe? You know, what are the things that you believe in? What are your why’s? Those are all super important and it’s really hard to do that when you can’t govern your emotions. When you blow up and then you have to go apologies to people. How do I know this? Because I did it for years and you know what, there’s so many great books out there, don’t sweat the small stuff. You know, it’s all small stuff. You know, if there was a major disaster, and think about this and think, does this sound anything like you, if there’s a major problem, somebody’s choking on a bone, somebody’s having a heart attack, somebody in extreme duress, I’m the guy you want because I can I can, you know, coordinate, I can make the phone calls, I can do the CPR, I’m the one who you want to be there. I don’t lose my mind, when in those situations, I become hyperfocus and I’m here to help, I’m going to help take care of you. I’m that person, but if you forgot to mirror on the, on the exam tray, I would go nuts. That’s where I would lose it. It was the little things that would cause me to lose it and I’m like, why is this? You know, why is this? And that’s where that book, “Love is a Choice”, and it doesn’t matter if you know, if you’re an adult child of an alcoholic, I think it has great input. Another one that gives great input is love, you know, love and what is the book, I’m sitting there looking, it’s “Love and Respect”. It’s another great book, you look it up. Love and respect. Men want respect, Women want love And when you read the book, you’re going to go oh my gosh, I wish I had heard this 20 years ago, But you are an accumulation of everything that you allow to go in your brain.

Everything that you read everything that you do, you, you can change your state. Instantly, you can change. Like if I’m in a bad mood and somebody comes to me and my team has learned, they, they have learned and I do the same thing with them. They have learned if I come in and I’m stressed and they know it. I mean you can look at me and you know when I’m stressed and they go “Hey, Dr. B, are you okay? Is everything okay?” I call that confrontational management. They come to me and say, “Are you okay?”, and I go, “Oh, yeah, yeah, I’ve got this going on. Yeah, I am. Thank you so much for just asking.” I’ll do the same thing to them. Okay. “Are you okay? You seem really stressed today.” “Well, I, you know, so something happened a little, little Jerry and I had something come up. I’ve got a super bad headache.” “Okay, well, let’s do this. Let’s get you some aspirin. Why don’t you go upstairs, we’re turning the lights off, get it dark, get that massage chair and just take an hour, you know, we’ll be okay”. So it’s you got to be able to have people around you that can make you the best version of yourself. Does that make sense? It’s like, if you’re a team, you’re truly a team. Cynthia, my wife is amazing. You know, she knows when something’s bothering me, like, and I don’t let things bother me to where I have outward bursts anymore, but I’ll get introspective. I’ll get, I might not sleep good, I’ve got something on my mind. She’ll bring it up and we’ll discuss it. So as a leader, you know, it’s easier to govern my emotions, because I know what’s at stake in the practice, but if I’ve got a team that also knows what’s at stake, you know, am I asking them to govern their emotions, they do it because they’re part of this team that is working together and we all have the ability To be able to go to him and say, “Are you okay?” Wouldn’t that be wonderful? In any business you’re in, if you’re having a bad day, and one of your team members comes up and says, “Are you okay? I was just worried about you, you seem so stressed out, what can I do to help?” Now, when you get into an environment like that, you know, we’re, you know, we’re, at Productive Dentist Academy, that’s what we do, we teach them to be productive, but in order to be productive, you’ve got to be able to control these emotions that you have. You know, and I’m doing that by confrontational management, I’m helping my team also be able to deal with their, their upsets, their angers, they’re things that aren’t working well and sometimes that might be a system that we have in the office, that’s just not working the way it should work and they may bring that up to me like, “I just hate the way we do this, that or the other,” and I say, “You know what, let’s, let’s evaluate that. What I’d love for you to do if you could, can you come up with some other thoughts on that, and talk to Summer and talk to, you know, Tamar and Cutlass, come up with some other thoughts of how we can eliminate that stress that you’re having that that training, training model at training mode, or training opportunity,” and those are things that can really, really, really help you.

Ultimately, this comes down to taking great care of the patient, taking care of excellent, so you know, in other words, you want this place to be a place where when people come in, your people aren’t stressed. Their main concern, they are now the patient advocate, everybody in my office is a patient advocate, we all want the patient to win and if we end up with that kind of an attitude, that all of us want the patient to win and we’re going to do anything we can to help that patient win. Guess what? Productivity takes care of itself, you don’t have to worry about productivity when everybody takes care of themselves. It’s just, it’s just what it is, okay and now you have patients who, when they leave, it’s like leaving family, it’s like leaving friends, because they are our friends. We built that kind of business together. and it’s, you know, I call it governing our emotions, but it could also be called reflections. You know, as you get older, you start to reflect a lot. I’m glad I am where I am, I’m glad I’ve done the things that I’ve done, I really wouldn’t change anything, I wish I would have been better, better in relationships, better at communication, better in all those things early on in my career, but I don’t know many people who can’t say that, you know, all of us wish, but it’s reflecting and changing. It’s reflecting on why did this happen and realizing that many things that happened to you. happened to you, because of you and the way we deal with relationships and the way we deal with communication skills and so I tell you step back, always be evaluating situations that cause you stress and are you a part of it, are you not a part of it. If it’s something that two people in the office are having a problem, that’s not necessarily you causing the problem, but you can help them, you can help them better communicate, you can put systems in play that better communicate. So these are all things that, to me play a critical role, an absolutely critical role in having are we going to call it up productive and profitable practice, or a great place to work, that also happens to be productive and profitable to levels that people who aren’t doing this are what I would call average and below.

People who do the things that we’ve talked about aren’t average. These are uncommon practices, they’re practices that once they realize what’s going on in their business and how to handle their own emotions, and how to help their team handle their emotions, all of a sudden you have a practice that was doing 800,000 that’s now doing 3 million a year and more important, more important to me. If a practice is doing 3 million, they’re helping more people than a practice doing 800,000, that’s the way I look at it. They are helping more people get their oral health and the more I can communicate and the better we can do, the better off we are. Anyway, Dr. Bruce Baird, Please send me a message if you have any messages. I would love to. I would love to Have any questions, please send it. It’ll be part of a podcast. So tell your friends about Productive Dentist Podcast and I hope to see you soon.

Thank you for joining me for this episode of the Productive Dentist Podcast. If you found this episode helpful, make sure you subscribe, pass it along to a friend. Give us a like on iTunes and Spotify or drop me an email at podcast@productive don’t forget to check out other podcasts from the Productive Dentist Academy at Join me again next week for another episode of the Productive Dentist Podcast.

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