When we begin our careers straight out of dental school, we are mighty “green.” We’re just trying to learn how to properly diagnose, treat and navigate molar canals, section roots, etc. Leadership, conflict resolution, systemization, rules — these are totally foreign to us. And, at least in my experience, these were some of the hardest concepts to grasp as I moved into my partnership role, but ones that are absolutely, unequivocally necessary for health of the team, the day-to-day running of the practice so I don’t pull my hair out when I get home at night.
With these concepts comes a necessity to dictate your own terms: “This is how I want my crown prep set up to look”; “This is the rule on vacations days and requests”; and “These are the options for patient financing.”
These are all examples of ways in which you will be required to dictate terms (there are too many to name them all). This, however, does not equate to a dictatorship, though some staff members and patients might disagree. And the drama begins!
Especially in a large office or multi-location practice, you cannot function without clear policies and procedures in place. You can’t get around it. You also cannot let others dictate those terms for you, i.e., assistants saying, “I’m not working past 2 p.m. when my kid is in summer camp,” or “I’m not paying for that crown upfront; I’ll pay you $10 a month.” These are practice killers! But it takes some courage to be firm and confident in your selection, presentation of, long-term adherence to these policies and procedures. It’s the only way you’ll stay sane and still make a living.
It’s a fine line to walk, but as you move along in your practice life, you must acquire, develop or magically gain the ability to set the ground rules in a way that not only exudes confidence in yourself, but also elicits a sense of comfort among your staff and patients. You go about setting these rules to make their lives easier, not harder. It just takes time to transition the flow of your staff and patients to be system-driven. And that’s OK. Find the patients and team members that truly want to be on that path with you. As for the rest of them — sorry, but you’re better off without them. And you’ll have less hair-pulling and headaches.
So dictate your terms. And know your staff and patients respect a confident doctor and team members who have a set of clear policies, procedures and rules they follow. I questioned the very notion as we move in this direction, and it’s been eye-opening to see what a difference it makes. Cheers!
Donald Murry III, DMD