Running a successful practice relies on many factors, but one of the most important of those is the relationship you have with your team.
Over the past few months, those relationships may well have changed after not seeing each other or working together for so long. Even if you have kept up communication with, and between, your team members it will be important to begin strengthening those bonds to where they were pre-COVID-19.
To find out what you can do to begin rebuilding your relationship with your team, I spoke to Dr Barry Oulton for his advice…
Tina: What impact do you think COVID-19 has had on dentist’s relationships with their team?
Barry: Initially as we go back, this very much depends on the level of trust, love and security there was before COVID-19, coupled with how the owners have treated/looked after their team during COVID-19.
Have you listened to them, kept them informed, given them reassurance and gratitude?
More effort is required to keep team members engaged – refer to the Gallup Q12 employee engagement questionnaire and remember that you cannot move to the next question unless the previous one is answered with an affirmative response.
Tina: What key things can they be doing to rebuild those relationships?
Barry: Firstly, understand that there is a mix of emotions within the team. Some will be desperate to get back into work, see their colleagues and serve their patients. Others may have enjoyed being furloughed.
For each team member, you need to understand that there will be hurdles, concerns and some struggles in returning to work for all of them. Remember that most of them need to have an income and we are their greatest supporters in earning their salary.
Some will feel vulnerable about their position so reassure them, give praise, offer support and ask great questions. Use the Gallup Q12 mentioned above as a framework.
Show you care, empathise, and don’t patronise. Have one-to-ones with each team member and ask what you and the practice can do to support them in serving their patients. For example, do they have child care issues given the school situation?
Be clear on expectations and lead by example.
Visit www.oneminutemindset.co.uk for a free team-building exercise to help everyone get their head into the game.
Tina: What key things do you think the team wants to hear from their practice leader as we begin returning to work?
Barry: Exactly that – leadership. Most (not all) employees have a high need for certainty so reassure them of what isn’t changing, don’t just focus upon the things that have to change. Read ‘Who moved my cheese?’ by Dr Spencer Johnson – a short book about change management and the six lessons of change.
You, as a Principal, may not have the answers to all the questions and concerns. That’s ok, be honest about that and most importantly convey the message that regardless of the situation, we have solutions, we are resourceful and we will, together, get through this time. We will come out stronger, with improved systems of care and delivery of great dentistry and thrive.
Tina: Thank you Barry for sharing your advice. I’m sure it will be useful as practices start rebuilding their business.
Tina Wixon is a Regional Support Manager at Practice Plan and has 17 years’ experience in the dental industry, including with a corporate orthodontic group and its practices. Practice Plan is the UK’s leading provider of practice-branded patient membership plans, partnering with over 1,500 dental practices and offering a wide range of business support services.
Dr. Barry Oulton is a practising dentist with over 25 years of experience and the Lead Clinician of the award- winning Haslemere Dental Centre. Barry is also a Master of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and hypnotherapy and runs the ‘The Confident Dentist Academy’ which was created to help dental professionals learn effective communication skills, selling with integrity so they can have more impact and make a bigger difference, both professionally and personally.