Hard Skills/Soft Skills Part 1

February 6, 2020 North Shetter DDS

There have been numerous articles lately about the growing importance of “soft skills” (behaviorally adept process) in the development of a successful dental practice. Where have these writers been living for the past forty years?  

In the early 1980’s one of the key points of The Pankey Institute Continuum courses was the proper balance of skills at work and in life. L.D. Pankey learned that from studying the Greek philosophers. L.D. often said, “You can’t deliver what you don’t have on the shelf.” He was talking about more than occlusion and crown margins. He was talking about the ability to understand and work with our family, clients and our staff. So, what is more important – Hard Skills or Soft Skills? 

Hard Skills/Soft Skills Combination 

Over the course of my career, we have been blessed with a myriad of technical breakthroughs. Does anyone remember the joys and frustrations of early composites like AdapticToday the strength, color, and marginal integrity of resin restoratives gives us the ability to do dentistry we never imagined in 1976. Our diagnostic and imaging tools have made life better by being both user-friendly and patient-friendly. We have implants that really work, bone regeneration, and much more.   

This generates some hard questions. Are we as a professional staying current and taking advantage of these breakthroughs? Are we doing a thorough diagnosis and comprehensive treatment plan on all our clients? Are we taking the time to understand the outcomes desired by our patients and then educating them on the options that exist today? These are Hard Skills/Soft Skills combinations. Well managed, they will make any practice “special” in the eyes of clients new and old. 

We do not have to be able to provide all the technical aspects of our profession.  We should, however, know about them and be able to understand where they might be used to our client’s advantage. We must then be able to educate our clients about the potential value of a service and know where to send them to have it delivered with care and quality should they choose to do so.   

If you own a CEREC unit does that mean you will never again do a cast gold onlay? Truly mastering the capacity of your CEREC is a daunting task. It is a hard skill you can be proud of. However, if your practice begins to revolve around only Emax restorations you have missed the point. Your clients deserve a comprehensive exam and diagnosis. Their treatment plan should be based on the whole field of dentistry and the outcomes that they desire at this point in time. This is a hard skill and soft skill combination. 

A Balance 

If you and your staff develop the soft skills necessary to establish rapport, work with emotional intelligence, listen actively, and do outcomes based on thinking, then delivering the hard skills with excellence will be easier and more fun.  

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About Author

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North Shetter DDS

Dr Shetter attended the University of Detroit Mercy where he received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree in 1972. He then entered the U. S. Army and provided dental care at Ft Bragg, NC for the 82nd Airborne and Special Forces. In late 1975 he and his wife Jan moved to Menominee, MI and began private practice. He now is the senior doctor in a three doctor small group practice. Dr. Shetter has studied extensively at the Pankey Institute, been co-director of a Seattle Study Club branch in Green Bay WI where he has been a mentor to several dental offices. He has been a speaker for the Seattle Study Club. He has postgraduate training in orthodontics, implant restorative procedures, sedation and sleep disordered breathing. His practice is focused on fee for service, outcomes based dentistry. Marina Cove Consulting LLC is his effort to help other dentists discover emotional and economic success and deliver the highest standard of care they are capable of.

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