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The King of Drills

April 29, 2013

Filed under: Art of the Examination — Barry @ 10:54 AM


John Wooden at a ceremony on Oct. 14, the coac...

I spend a fair amount of time reading other dental blogs.  Two of my favorites are Spear Education and Lee Ann Brady’s blogs.  I enjoy these two because they are intellectually stimulating.

Blogs should be a source of worthwhile conversation…after all they are really forms of social media.

A recent post on Lee Brady’s blog related to one of my favorite books, The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.

Gawande is a surgeon who has made a second career out of writing…and he is excellent.  The book that preceded The Checklist Manifesto, Better, is the one that really stimulated my intellect.  In that book he thoroughly discusses the idea of improvement, a subject that hasn’t slipped the minds of so many great thinkers in the business community, like E. Edwards Deming who helped the Japanese auto industry get better at making cars.  The ancient philosophy of kaizen is one of continual and never ending improvement.

One of the reasons I wrote The Art of the Examination was because I needed a process, a checklist if you will, that I can measure my performance by and continually improve.  Through the years I have found that I can add a certain amount of style to the exam process…but never abandon the process.

That’s sort of like watching an athlete like Peyton Manning play football…but before every game he practices the fundamentals.  Watch him if you doubt me.

I always wondered how dentists get better at their job.  Through repetition?  You see most of what we do is during the game…we don’t drill (as in practice).

Dentists practice dentistry…but they never practice.

Sure, through repetition we can get better at preps and impressions but what about the skills that really matter, the ones that make or break the success of a dentist…the non-technical skills…the soft skills.

By slowing down my exam process I was able to see how poorly I was doing at certain things, how well I did at others, what needed improvement and what made the biggest differences.  In other words, the exam process is a compilation of many key skills that matter.  Yet most people (dentists are people) take these skills for granted.I wondered why, if these skills are so important, why don’t we practice them?   I will list some of them at the end of the post.

One answer may come from the legendary basketball coach John Wooden.  Most coaches make a distinction between drills and scrimmages.  Scrimmages are game simulations…like a dentist role playing with his staff, or doing a role play at a practice management session.  Drills are where the real coaching occurs, because he could work on specific individual skill areas—the key skill areas.

Wooden held his drills without a basketball in the player’s hands.

Why?  Because the ball tempted the players to take a shot—and not work on the drill.  Scoring was so tempting.  John Wooden called the basketball “catnip.”

The biggest problem for dentists is that it’s always game time…and we always score a little.  But the goal is to win…to score a lot.  As long as the catnip is present we will never slow down enough to practice those sweet soft skills.

As promised here are a few of those skills:

  1. Listening skills.
  2. Sales skills.
  3. Storytelling skills.
  4. Relationship development skills.
  5. Interpersonal skills.
  6. Coaching skills.
  7. Negotiating skills.
  8. Delegation skills.
  9. Questioning skills.
  10. Conceptual skill…seeing the big picture

These are just a few.  There are many more discoverable ones.  Look out for an upcoming blog post that will offer some free coaching around these areas.



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1 Comment

  1. This is nice information blog. Thanks for Sharing.

    Comment by Russell Mclain — May 12, 2013 @ 6:08 AM

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