I recently sat in on a Facebook Live interview with a dentist who was discussing practice management for young dentists. Like so many times the interviewer asks the guest, “What’s the one piece of advice you would give to a dentist who is just starting out in his or her career?” And like so many “experts” he replied with a simple answer that I think would help —- no one. He said, “learn leadership.”
It was like asking for advice on how to live a long life and responding by saying…keep breathing. Yes, leadership is the right answer, but have you ever looked at the number of options there are on the leadership shelf at Barnes and Noble…not to mention Amazon.
Young dentists need better answers. More practical answers. Answers that allow them to apply what they know. Leadership comes in many styles and sizes. Leadership is a universal concept. Did the dentist mean the Leadership Lessons of Abe Lincoln…or the Navy Seals? There is a big difference.
A better question might have been in studying leadership, where should I start regardless of style, personality or even mission…or what is the one thing that all leaders have in common? The answer…duh…is followers. No one can be a leader without followers and in a dental practice that would be patients and staff.
So what is it that the followers in a dental practice want to know? Trust me, not one will take one step forward if they don’t believe that you are the doctor that will take them where they want to go. In order for you to create that belief you must answer the two silent questions that everyone has in their mind.
They want to trust you, and they have to trust you.
The first question is: “Do you care about me?” So that is your starting point. Don’t take for granted that you are being perceived as someone who puts their patients and staff ahead of themselves. In my time I have met many docs who believe that they cared more about others than they do about themselves. Generally I met them when they came to me for a second opinion. It takes time —lots of time to develop that mindset and habit set—but the question was where I would tell the young dentist to start.
To that mentor (leader)—I would ask…do you care about me and can you do the job?