1 Jun 2022  •  Blog, Practice Management  •  5min read By  • Chris Barrow

Stop firefighting and concentrate on being a great team leader

Business Coach, Chris Barrow explains why, after two years of dealing with the problems caused by the pandemic, it’s time to adopt a different attitude and start looking to the future again and developing our skills.

I believe that we have a responsibility as leaders and managers to actually change the narrative in terms of the way that we turn up on a day-by-day basis. And what I mean by that is, quite justifiably for the last two years, we’ve been in crisis management mode. Whether it was lockdown one, two or three, whether it was return to work one, two or three, we have had the best part of 24 months where it has been necessary to be more agile than ever before. It’s been necessary to pivot more quickly than ever before and ultimately, it’s been necessary for those of us that are leaders and managers to be more resilient than we have ever been before.

I think it would be good for everybody to grab a pen and a piece of paper and almost write a note to themselves on that piece of paper that says: ‘I am resilient’. And the reason that we know that is because you’re here, because you’re still standing. You’ve done incredibly well and it’s time to give yourselves a pat on the back, a moment of congratulation.

But I also have another very important message that I want to get across, which is that not everybody around us is as resilient as we are. My email inbox is filled every day with stories of team members who are not as resilient as we are and the way in which those team members are reacting and responding to the circumstances around them. Sometimes that’s manifesting as performance issues, sometimes it’s behavioural issues. We’ve heard a lot about how the pandemic has badly affected people’s mental health and as leaders, we have to look after our teams.

However, underneath the words ‘I am resilient’ on that piece of paper, there’s a second phrase which I think it’s very important to write. And that phrase is: ‘I am the beacon of light’. And it’s a phrase that I’ve carried with me through the last two years, that no matter how tired, no matter how exhausted or burned out, no matter how drowning in work, in issues, whatever, it’s our responsibility to be that beacon of light every day for the people around us who are less resilient than we are.

However, I believe it’s time to change the narrative. It’s time to say, ‘okay, let’s not ignore the fact that we’ve got a lot of problems to face, but let’s start living as if we’re NOT firefighting and start living the way we used to do before COVID. Let’s start living as if we are planning a future and let’s lead our teams on that basis.

How do we go about this? Well, I think some practices have already made a start. We’re seeing more and more work in dentistry on building confident teams. One of the things that has come out of the pandemic is an understanding of the fact that if you want a team of people to work together and if you want a team of people to grow together, you’ve got to create an environment in which that team can feel confident about itself.

And so, everything I’ve ever said over the years about leadership and management has suddenly become highly focused in terms of making sure that, as the beacon of light for your team, you create an environment where people want to work for you.

You see nowadays, you’ve got a choice between two WhatsApp messages at eight o’clock on a Sunday night. The first WhatsApp message is ‘Just to let you know, I won’t be in tomorrow because I’ve accepted a job down the road for an extra pound an hour, or an extra 10%, or a sign on fee and I just wanted to say goodbye, I’m not coming in’. That’s WhatsApp message number one. However, WhatsApp message number two goes like this: ‘Dear boss, just to let you know, I’ve turned down an offer to go and work at another business even though they offered me all sorts of money to do it. And the reason I’ve turned it down is because you’re a great boss, I’ll see you tomorrow’.

One way you can help yourself become the great boss of Whatsapp message number two is to enrol with the Great Boss Academy, which is a programme that’s been set up by Mark Topley to teach people in dentistry how to be better bosses. Taking steps to improve leadership and management skills is something we’re noticing that’s coming out of the pandemic. We’re seeing more people investing in themselves in order to become great bosses so they can create environments in which they’ve got great teams of people around them.

If you want some reading around the subject of how to train your team members and then keep them, then I recommend two books. The first is called The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni and the second is The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by the same guy, Patrick Lencioni. Everything you need is in the Lencioni material, the man’s a genius.

About Chris 

Chris has been a has been a trainer, consultant, coach and mentor to the UK dental profession for 26 years.



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