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How is Your Charisma Score?

June 16, 2015




Presentation is ubiquitous.  Someone once said, you can not, not communicate.  Most of us fall back on our habits and say things during the course of our workday that we wish we could take back.

Everything is a presentation, and you are the message.

I realized this years ago when I read Bert Decker’s excellent book on public speaking, You’ve Got to be Believed to be Heard: Reach the First Brain to Communicate in Business and in Life.  That book set me on a journey that changed the way I communicated…to the critical emotional element of the human brain.

I have used Decker’s work for years, and now his son and daughter in-law have written a brand new updated version titled Communicate to Influence: How to Inspire Your Audience to Action. 

Some of the lessons that are discussed in both books can be gleaned from the titles:

  • Communication is mostly at an emotional level.
  • Leadership is influence and influence is communication.
  • Honesty and integrity count for everything.
  • The purpose of presenting is action.

With this in mind, why do some people seem to have it and others just never get it?  Can leadership and communication skills be taught, or do some people just have that magic “gift”?


The word charisma can be misleading.  Charisma comes from the Greek kharisma which means: divine favor, or a gift from above.  The implication is that charisma can’t be learned.

Synonyms for charisma include inspire, empower, uplift and motivate.  Now those are words I would use for any leader.

Can you be inspiring, motivating, empowering and uplifting?  I think those things can be learned.

In one word, let’s call it charisma.

In their wonderful book Communicate to Inspire, the Deckers explain a very useful tool.  They call it the Communication Roadmap.  Imagine a grid with four quadrants.  The vertical axis describes how emotionally connected we are and the horizontal axis separates those communicators who tend to be self-focused versus other focused.

Each quadrant then describes the type of communication we use: Informers (lower left), Entertainers (upper left), Direct (lower right) and Inspirers (upper tight).

Guess where the charismatic communicators go…yep…the upper right.  Inspirers…highly emotionally connected and other focused.

When you think about it, if the goal for leaders is to influence and motivate people to action, then being nice, warm and likable really works…yet the dental community seems to be just the opposite.  I know that’s a generalization but we have a reputation for being well…paternal.

Many of us are quite directive.  We tell people what they should do, because that has always been our role.  Actually most dentists lean to the lower left quadrant…we inform people.  Under the heading of educating patients we think that is most effective.

Well, informing is actually the least effective…it’s not emotionally based and it’s self-centered.  It’s self-centered because it leaves us with the impression that we have done our jobs.

After all…we told them, right?

What’s worse is that this is what is taught in dental schools and most CE programs.  It’s the blind leading the blind.

Charisma can be taught.  It must be practiced…you can’t learn it from a book…my apologies to the Deckers.

Jack Kennedy, before he entered politics was not a very good communicator.  The story that Ben Decker tells in his book is that Kennedy went to Hollywood and watched charismatic actors like Jimmy Stewart and Clark Gable.

Then he practiced (practice said Allen Iverson?), until he developed a persona that today means “charismatic leader.”

Think about what it might take for your case presentations to be better.  Better photographs?  Better explanations?  Better referrals?

Or just a bit of connection.

If you would like to learn more about leadership and communication, drop me a message…I am putting together a series of webinars.



It’s Not About the Teeth

January 5, 2015

Filed under: Leadership — Tags: , , — Barry @ 10:14 PM

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 12.22.40 PMEvery so often a patient enters my practice with a very interesting problem  The case that is pictured above is a good example that had me stuck. 

The patient came in with a toothache in the lower left quadrant.  She was convinced it was gum disease and wanted “laser surgery.”

Well, for those who know how I practice, I completed my comprehensive examination.  It revealed absolutely no gum disease.  What she thought was gum disease was a fistula associated with tooth #19.  But the tooth only had a small filling and I saw no reason to believe that caries was the cause.  I also noted that she had significant mobility on numbers 18 and 19.

Note the presence of occlusal disease…note the severe wear.

My biggest question was how she was able to wear down those front teeth…if she couldn’t get into the position to reach them.

What did I do?

Well, I am lucky enough to have some friends in high places.  I sent the photos and the records to twelve of my esteemed colleagues, members of my study club (that’s a plug for all study clubs).  We kicked it around for a couple of days and came up with a few possibilities.

Dentists are great for coming up with answers to tough technical problems.

I’m not going to give you the answer.  Most dentists love to solve these puzzles.  All I can tell you is that the answer was Sherlockian.

So I presented my case.

She was amazed and very happy that she didn’t need laser surgery because she could only imagine how much that would have cost.  I wondered how she would feel when I told her how much my restorative plan would cost.

The patient’s bigger problem, after the fistula, wasn’t dental…it was financial.  And it was real.  It was real to me and it was her number one priority in life.

She hadn’t worked in over two years.  She stayed home taking care of a disabled husband.  Things were difficult, like they are for many people these days.

I am not throwing this problem out to the dental community to see what types of solutions come back.  I am tired of all the “shoulds” I see on social media.

We have a big problem in this country.  Dentistry, with all of its technology and sophistication has the ability to fix just about anything these days…but the paradox is that less and less people are able to afford our advanced and innovative solutions.

As a community, we are better than that.  The dental community continues to get more and more fragmented.  Everyone has their own agenda yet we have a bigger more global problem that is growing everyday.

This is why there has to be a greater emphasis on leadership in our dental education.  I don’t know what the answer for this lady is…but it will be some combination of using my technical skills, and my leadership, planning and listening skills.  She doesn’t need a highly technical dentist to take care of her…just someone who cares enough about her.

I can fill this blog with case after case like this, most not as complex.  I see too many good people not getting dental work done because it is becoming unaffordable for them.  I would love to hear from you about what we can do as a community for this growing problem

If your solution lacks a sense of compassion, please put that stuff on Facebook or the other sophisticated dental sites.






Losing Your Religion

February 18, 2013



Time was expiring on my Groupon at a hot new restaurant in town.  We called ahead for reservations, but they didn’t accept them.  They asked if we had a Groupon.   When we arrived, the maître d’ seated us, throwing the menus on the table.  I sensed displeasure.  Twenty minutes later she took our order.  Are you starting to get the picture?  The only thing acceptable about the experience was the shrimp marinara which she threw on the table with the same gusto as the menu.

I am not a big fan of social e-commerce, for many reasons, mostly because of what they can potentially do to a business and the people who work there.

The maître d’ in this case was also the waitress, and the owner.  She was understaffed.  A lone busboy and another waitress helped her with the crowd.  The stress was palpable. 

I think “roller skates” is the term we use in dentistry. The scene reminded me of the way I practiced dentistry many years ago…when I participated in all of the dental plans.

I shouldn’t have been surprised.  This is what happens when we work with partners with incongruent business plans.

I changed my way of practice many years ago…to a practice driven by TAO—trust, appreciation and ownership.  Hence—the way—I practice.

I spend time getting to know each and every patient so I can serve their individual needs.  We serve the best food too.  High quality materials and and dental laboratories…really good shrimp marinara.  But what I really take pride in is the service…the very intimate caring service that can only be performed by a happy staff and a happy dentist.

Or else I couldn’t have survived in dentistry.

It all comes down to a business model.  When I decided not to base my practice on price, everything changed.

An insurance based practice doesn’t have the time to spend getting to know patients.  Dental insurance is nothing more than a (G)coupon for dental services.  The concept devalues the personal service so necessary in health care.

Yet so many health service businesses are using the Groupon model.  And dentists seem to be the number one perpetrators.  Examinations, cleanings, tooth whitening, Invisalign are just some of the services being devalued.  I met a girl last week who only goes to the dentist every six months by taking advantage of a Groupon deal.  This isn’t the dentistry that I grew up with.

I could say that I really feel sorry for the patients, but that would be presuming that the dentistry was just bad…I won’t do that, because I don’t know.

What I do know is that for a dentist to enjoy his work over a long period of time a certain amount of mastery and passion is necessary.  I can’t imagine working the way I used to.  So many dentists have a hard time living up to their business model and they let the wolves in the door.  And the wolves have changed the entire profession.

A business model is a statement of your philosophy…it should be sacred…and you never want to lose your religion.








How to Get Clear

January 28, 2013

Starts with Vision

In my long career in dentistry I notice one trait that dentists seem to have.  They seem to get in there are “do” things.  Most of the time they acquire the knowledge and then they “do.”  It’s not only dentists.  Bookstores are filled with titles that fall into the “how to” category.  The self-help genre sells millions of titles promising people how to do anything.  We all want to achieve…it comes with our software.  So we believe that the key skills for success are knowing and doing.

I would like to add one more key skill to the mix.  Maybe the most important skill of all, the one that every leader must possess to be effective.

That skill is vision.  Seeing clearly where you are going, or the “where” you are taking your patient.

We have all heard it before—Covey said, “Begin with the end in mind.”  He called it a habit, but it is really a skill. And it requires practice and developing a style.

Think about writing…even this blog post began with a vision.  There are two types of writers.  Those that just write by the seat of their pants and those that use outlines.  Some use “jot” outlines and others use a very elaborate outlining process.  But all three have some ideas where their writing is going.

And so it goes with treatment and life planning.

I recently read a quote from Dr. Peter Dawson,

“This is why I have such great disdain for the hurry up…exam.  Unfortunately, this is typical ‘usual and customary’ dentistry.  It is what most patients expect, but it certainly sets aside any competent dentist who goes beyond these expectations.”


A strong word, but I agree.  Why do dentists do a hurry up exam.  They just don’t take the time.  Most know what to do.  Most can do it.  But most don’t have a style or process of visualizing the future.  The real shame is they don’t take the time to clarify their future.

Everything starts with the examination process…a dental exam or a self exam, it doesn’t matter.  In order to find problems we must take the time, and then discover new places to go to.  Get as clear as possible.

I call the skill of vision, getting clear.

It may be the most worthwhile skill you develop.  It will turn you from a dentist to a leader.






TAO the Book – Installment 3

March 15, 2010

My first book chronicled my career in dentistry. I made many mistakes in every area of dentistry. I fell down – hard. I wish I had a book like this to help guide me through those difficult times.  Dentists must become autodidactates. They must learn to educate themselves. Our dental school experience is not enough. Seminars leave us wanting for more in terms of applying our lessons. We work alone with very little guidance. Some of us are lucky enough to work with skilled mentors who are not only excellent technicians but also know how to transfer learning through great teaching. These are rare exceptions.
This is truly about growth and self-development.  If you choose to do fillings and cleanings for your entire career, so be it.  Providing meaning for patients and staff will require you to stretch outside of that world.  Dentistry is a very complex field, that requires both technical and behavioral skills.  Sometimes we feel very alone.  You will see later that I have a vision to help dentists succeed through developing the Academy of Dental Leadership. The Academy will provide services that will help dentists and staff bring all of the skills together, to help them create successful lives by providing meaningful dentistry for their patients.
I promise that if you read the lessons in this book and apply them in a slow, methodical manner, you will reach your desired outcome. This book is about transformation (more…)