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 Adaptic? Today 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.
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.