At a time like this, it’s natural to think that we don’t have the answers to deal with the unprecedented challenges that are impacting the dental industry as the world succumbs to the COVID-19 pandemic. With no end in sight, principals have been faced with balancing the dilemma of how to protect the health and wellbeing of their staff and patients versus the financial impact this will have on their business.
Some practice owners will have had business continuity plans in place, but many others are having to adapt to events as they unfold. This has led to dental practices temporarily closing due to social distancing measures and staff at dental surgeries that do both private and NHS work being furloughed.
Uncertainty and anxiety can understandably drive dentists to become very self-focused. However, given that your team are having to process the same fears as everyone else, now more than ever they need good leadership where they feel included and valued. The following tips outline how principals and practice owners can lead through uncertainty and help maintain the trust and wellbeing of their staff, even when future plans are currently up in the air.
Put people first – When things are running smoothly, principals can be forgiven for thinking that any people issues can be handled by their practice manager. But the unique situation posed by COVID-19 has naturally created uncertainty amongst staff, patients and suppliers.
Now is not the time to bury your head in the sand and take a step back as silence can create unnecessary panic and negativity. It’s essential to maintain regular communication channels to explain what is happening and how this affects the business and the individual.
Even if the update is no update, the fact you have taken time to check in and speak to someone really shows that you care. It’s impossible for you to have all of the answers, but your team will be seeking strong leadership and clear messages to gain short-term reassurance that things can eventually return to normal.
It’s good to talk, but better to listen – While it’s necessary to keep staff fully in the picture based on the latest developments, communication is a two-way street and it’s arguably more important that they know they can approach you with their thoughts and concerns.
Even under intense pressure, great leaders are able to engage with their entire staff and create a sense of togetherness. This requires having the humility to listen to a wide range of opinions and focusing on asking questions about how they are feeling in return.
Prioritising your staff’s wellbeing will help them to remain valued, motivated and optimistic even in turbulent periods.
Balance optimism with reality – As a leader it’s vital to accept the gravity of the present situation but also maintain a positive vision of the future, that there will be light at the end of the tunnel. But don’t attempt to sugar-coat things or appear ambiguous or patronising about the challenges that lie ahead.