Collaborative Team Creation

December 16, 2020 Christine Shigaki

When I was 19 years old, I started to work as a dental assistant and front office person. In 2003, after 9 years of temporary hygiene work and multiple associate positions, I opened my own dental practice. To obtain bank funding, I had to write a business plan and a vision statement. In 2001, I wrote the following vision statement for the practice I wanted to create. I often look at this statement and find that it still stands true and even more so as time goes on.

My Vision, circa 2001: To create an environment full of learning and growing, that is open and honest, in order to provide individual optimal care with compassion and mutual professional respect for each other and our clients.

Over my years in practice, I have increasingly realized that that a culture of collaboration in the practice is essential for providing the comprehensive quality care that I’ve learned at The Pankey Institute—the care I believe patients deserve to receive.

The Benefits of Team Collaboration

A healthy and positive office culture is not only important for patients, but also for the team, including the leader!

  • Healthy Relationships: A culture that is inclusive, compassionate, empathetic, and safe creates healthy relationships that are supportive, understanding, and positive.
  • More Appropriate Solutions: An environment that is based on abundance versus scarcity is one that allows an organization to build on all the strengths and positive aspects of every team member. In fact, it is my belief that all team members’ perspectives are valuable. Solutions are more creative and appropriate when there is input from all perspectives of the team. Diversity in thoughts and ideas provides a pathway toward implementation and outcomes that are sustainable, because collaborative agreements are better suited for everyone involved—the leader, team, and patients!
  • Increased Trust, Individual Growth, Leadership, and Fun: The fruits of genuine collaboration are trust, appreciation, and ownership…and so much more! Genuine collaboration facilitates learning, growth, accountability, and individual leadership for all members of the practice team. Collaboration breeds shared responsibility, less isolation, and more fun!

Steps Towards the Creation of a Collaborative Team

  1. Establish your WHY. The first step is to create a shared vision of your purpose. Why do you do what you do every day? What brings you joy?
  2. Stay in Kindness. An office culture built on mutual respect and trust allows for more effective collaboration. Be humble and focus on the strengths of each team member. Stay centered in giving one another the benefit of the doubt. Others will reciprocate with kindness when you are kind and fair. I always think, Do the right thing and the rest will follow.
  3. Share. Share your expectations of how you will achieve your shared purpose and vision. Be vulnerable by sharing your needs and desires for achieving the shared purpose and vision.
  4. Formulate agreements. Come to shared agreements to help, support, and keep one another accountable in the process of collaboratively reaching your shared vision of your purpose.
  5. Celebrate. An important, solidifying step is to enjoy the process of collaboration, celebrate your successes, and have fun along the way!


Christine Shigaki, DDS is a private practicing dentist in Seattle, WA.
She can be reached at

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About Author

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Christine Shigaki

Dr. Shigaki has been in dentistry since 1989 where she started as a dental assistant while completing her undergraduate studies at the University of Washington. In 1994, she graduated with honors from University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, San Francisco, CA. Dr. Shigaki, a native of Seattle, has built her practice since 1995 and opened Belltown Dental in 2003. She is a life-long student of dentistry and believes that it is her professional responsibility to provide optimal, comprehensive care in a modern facility with state of the art equipment and techniques. She has completed and continues her studies with extensive post graduate dental education, including several dental study clubs and coursework at the distinguished Pankey Institute, where she is also currently an advisor and faculty member. Christine also facilitates teams and mentors dentists. She enjoys the work/life balance that dentistry allows her and hopes that others can find their joy in dentistry. When not at the office, teaching/studying dentistry, she enjoys spending time with her husband, two children, and extensive extended family. She enjoys being involved in her children’s activities, yoga, reading, various outdoor activities and cooking.

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