A Sturdy Foundation for Relationships

May 7, 2021 Mary Osborne RDH

What would you like to build your relationships upon in your practice? With all the attention that is paid to dental insurance, it sometimes seems as though that becomes the foundation of our relationships with patients. When this is the basis of our relationship, the moment the plan changes, the patient may be looking for another dental office. Do we want to have our relationship based on such a fragile platform?

When I think about what we could have at the foundation and how we could make this happen, several things come to mind.

Compassion as the Basis

Basing a relationship on compassion can begin with the very first phone call. When a new patient calls, compassion can be expressed by something as simple as, “What prompted you to call us today? I hope you are not experiencing any discomfort.” Right out the gate, you are putting out there that you care about their comfort.

For a new or an existing patient, you might to say something like, “I’d like to make sure we schedule enough time to do this very thoroughly…very gently, and that we provide you with the best possible service so you are as comfortable as you can be.”

When you talk with patients about conditions you are seeing in their mouths, you can express concern as simply as saying, “I see a crack in this tooth, and I am concerned that, as it gets larger, you may experience some pain. Have you experienced any pain there?”

Mutual Trust as the Basis

On the very first call, you can begin to base your relationship on mutual trust and respect. You might do this by saying something like, “I’d like to schedule enough time for you to get to know us and for us to get to know you. When we learn what is important to you, we can help you make choices that are in your best interest. We’ll want to know what your previous experiences have been in dentistry because we want to provide you with the best possible experience in this practice.”

During Hygiene appointments, you might say something like this, “As I look in your mouth, it appears to me that over the years, you’ve gone to the dentist regularly and done everything you could to take care of yourself. You’ve chosen to have treatment when it was recommended. I believe that if you have the right information and you have some support in working through the process, we can help you make good choices for yourself in the future.”

If the patient is not in pain, you might say something like, “You’re in a really good position right now. We’ve got time to study the information we’ve gathered and to learn about your preferences. The doctor will want to go over all the information we’ve gathered today and spend time thinking about your oral health circumstances and options. If you decide later to have treatment, you will be fully informed about your options so you can make the decision that is right for you.”

Shared Values as the Basis

When we discover shared values in conversation, there is a powerful connection between us and the patient. If a patient mentions a filling has lasted for decades, you might say something like, “It seems to me that you like to have your dentistry last as long as possible?” And if the patient says yes, you might say, “Excellent, we’ll take that into consideration when we think about options for you.” Give them opportunities for discovering together with you what is most important to them.

The foundation you intentionally build on compassion, mutual trust, and shared values will enable you to expand conversations you have with patients about insurance and the cost of care. You will be able to assure them you will do whatever you can to make the dentistry they value affordable for them.

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Mary Osborne RDH

Mary is known internationally as a writer and speaker on patient care and communication. Her writing has been acclaimed in respected print and online publications. She is widely known at dental meetings in the U.S., Canada, and Europe as a knowledgeable and dynamic speaker. Her passion for dentistry inspires individuals and groups to bring the best of themselves to their work, and to fully embrace the difference they make in the lives of those they serve.

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The Four Universal Promises of Leadership - Part 2

June 18, 2020 Edwin "Mac" McDonald DDS

In Part 1 of this series, I introduced you to a discussion about leadership and four universal promises of leadership. My next goal is to discuss the first of four universal promises of leadership.

The First Universal Promise

You will set the right direction and create meaningful work.

Each of us needs structure to live and lead effectively. Setting the right direction requires you to be clear on what your destination is. What story do you want your life and your life’s work to tell? Is it a story worth telling? Will it inspire other people to want to go with you? What will it take to get there? How and where do you start?

Clarity Will Transform You

The structure of destination and meaning comes from your vision, mission and values. Your vision is critical to communicate a clear picture of your destination. Your mission is critical to understanding what you must overcome and connecting each person’s role to it. Values guide us from deep within.

The process of clarifying your vision, mission and values sets into motion self and organizational transformation.

Your vision transforms you into an Inspiration Maker.

Your mission transforms you into a Meaning Maker.

Your values transform you into a Behavior Maker.

Vision is the inspiration maker for the organization. It is the destination that the organization is traveling to. Jason Bourne’s vision was to get his identity back from the evil CIA unit that stole his identity. His mission was the very dangerous actions that he had to undertake in order to get rid of the bad guys and get to the truth.

Mission is the meaning maker for the organization…It is about the conflicts, barriers, and work that must be overcome to reach the destination. In a Nike commercial, the athletes are pushing their physical limits in training (Mission) to become a champion (Vision).

Values are the rules of behavior for everyone in the organization, including the leader. They are the boss. When anyone violates the values that they have agreed to, it becomes obvious to all. The leader makes himself/herself accountable to the team and asks for them to confront him/her if he/she violates them. Values are grounded in our most deeply held beliefs and often integrated to the framework of our faith.

In other words, vision-mission-values are for the benefit of the organization. And, yes, the leader must become them as well.

When your vision, mission and values saturate your organizational culture, you begin to enjoy the rewards of that effort. The shared mental model provides structure for thinking with one mind, speaking with one voice, and feeling with one heart. Your energy and effort are channeled into one powerful coherent force that is aligned at all levels and moving in the direction of your destination.

After Action Reviews

Here’s an example of how in my dental practice we routinely review whether we are on course to our destination in alignment with our values. Recently, in our morning huddle today, we did an After Action Review (ARR) of our performance as a team on the previous afternoon. It was a routinely busy day that got pushed in the last two hours with several important emergency appointments.

An AAR examines the performance of the entire team and asks key questions:

What did we intend to do?
What did we actually do?
What were the results?
What would we do next time?
Were our actions consistent with our values?

I started the discussion. Quickly, several key team members expressed their thoughts and emotions that our performance as a team did not produce the results that we want and were not consistent with “Who We Are” and “Who We Hope to Be” at our best. It was a difficult but very productive conversation…and I think essential to creating better future performance.

These kinds of conversations invite every team member to have a voice in the critical moments of how we perform as a team, which increases the meaning of their work and recognizes the value of their contributions. It also allows us to evaluate if our behavior and performance as a team is moving the practice in the direction of our vision. Clarity wins. These conversations clarify.

Until next week and Part 3

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About Author

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Edwin "Mac" McDonald DDS

Dr. Edwin A. McDonald III received his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and Economics from Midwestern State University. He earned his DDS degree from the University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston. Dr. McDonald has completed extensive training in dental implant dentistry through the University of Florida Center for Implant Dentistry. He has also completed extensive aesthetic dentistry training through various programs including the Seattle Institute, The Pankey Institute and Spear Education. Mac is a general dentist in Plano Texas. His practice is focused on esthetic and restorative dentistry. He is a visiting faculty member at the Pankey Institute. Mac also lectures at meetings around the country and has been very active with both the Dallas County Dental Association and the Texas Dental Association. Currently, he is a student in the Naveen Jindal School of Business at the University of Texas at Dallas pursuing a graduate certificate in Executive and Professional Coaching. With Dr. Joel Small, he is co-founder of Line of Sight Coaching, dedicated to helping healthcare professionals develop leadership and coaching skills that improve the effectiveness, morale and productivity of their teams.

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Back on Track with “The Three Vs”

June 20, 2019 Robert Maguire, DDS, MASCL

Dentists in private practice face a myriad of uncomfortable problems that force us to find solutions or… S L O W L Y burn out. Do any of these resonate with you?

  • Ineffective marketing for attracting the type of new patients you need and want
  • Interpersonal problems among some team members
  • Difficulty budgeting for and incorporating new technology you want to embrace
  • Lack of energy to monitor your practice systems and staff
  • Insufficient time for yourself and your family
  • Overall fatigue

Hark, the Mind!

Often times, the problems we face in our practices are the result of our own “stinking thinking.”

I recently retired at age 60 after practicing for 28 years as a solo practitioner in Wolfeboro, NH. Over the years, I went through my fair share of issues but found a way to thrive with the influence of programs like The Pankey Institute and Dawson Academy. I focused on developing deep relationships with my patients and team. So, when I say your life and your practice will be more productive and fun when you live your life in alignment with your Values, your Vision, and your Voice, I speak from experience.

To makeover your “thinking,” you’ll need to engage you mind and consider these three Vs.

Values – Exercises 1-3

Values are the non-negotiables in our lives. These are the things that are most meaningful to us, things we would “go to the mat for.” They are personal and unique for each of us, for example, honesty, integrity, transparency, spending time with family, etc. Some practice values might include technical excellence, timeliness, cleanliness, appreciation, efficiency, scheduling sufficient time for conversations with patients, and fiscal responsibility.

So why are values so important? When violated, our personal and practice lives will be “out of whack.” Frustration, anger, helplessness, and despair are some emotions we might feel. So, start with Exercise 1.

  • Exercise 1. Take an inventory of your values. Make a list of what’s most important to you, as many as come to mind. Then choose your top ten and prioritize them. Once you know what’s most important to you, figure out the steps you need to take to make them a reality.
  • Exercise 2. Do Exercise 1 with your team. Have them each identify and prioritize their own personal values.
  • Exercise 3. Combine your findings and do the same exercise with your team to identify your shared practice values. This exercise alone will propel you and your team forward towards a more fun and productive workplace.

Vision – Exercise 4

Once you and your team know what you value the most, write out the vision for your dental practice. As you write out your practice vision statement, think about how you want to practice and what the ideal team member looks like. Think about your practice setting and how you want to relate to your patients. Get a clear picture in your mind, write it down, and then communicate it. You should be able to articulate it clearly and succinctly if someone asks you, “What is the vision for your practice?” Stating your practice vision should be as automatic as breathing.

Voice – Exercise 5

When you know who you are (your values) and how you want to live (your vision), your thinking changes­­–and with it your voice. Your words and actions will become authentic, intentional, and magnetic. Patients will be attracted to you and your staff because you are “the real deal.”

A “Magic” Process

The five steps to establishing your three Vs compose a highly effective process that bonds team members and clarifies a common direction for your team, as well as your office systems. Many times, we are tempted to evaluate and make changes in office systems when we are faced with problems. What I learned is that, as you strive for more happiness, more joy, and more financial success, looking at “The Three Vs” first, before looking at the office systems, is optimal. In my practice life, we took a fresh look at our three Vs frequently.

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About Author

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Robert Maguire, DDS, MASCL

Dr. Maguire is a Navy Veteran who got his D.D.S. degree from Georgetown University School of Dentistry in 1984. He completed Bachelor of Arts at the University of New Hampshire in 1980 and Master of Arts Degree in Strategic Communication and Leadership at Seton Hall University in 2009. He was a former president of the New Hampshire Dental Society from 2014 to 2015. Dr. Maguire is a fellow in the International College of Dentists and the American College of Dentists. He is also a member of the American Dental Association and the New Hampshire Dental Society. Early in his career, Dr. Maguire became an avid student of both the Dawson Center and the Pankey Institute, completing all of their week-long continuums. It was the "Pankey Philosophy" that inspired him to continually develop his technical and communication skills. In addition to these credentials, he is also a certified trainer for the DISC Personality Assessment Tool. Dr. Maguire specializes in teaching others to be effective communicators (www.dynamicdentalcomm.com). Dr. Maguire recently retired at age 60 after practicing for 28 years as a solo practitioner in Wolfeboro, NH. He attributes his success to the deep relationships he made with his patients and team. His practice thrived without the influence of PPOs or Premiere programs with set fees.

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4 Cornerstones of Successful Dentistry: Clinical Services & Patient Care

January 19, 2018 Mary Osborne RDH

Success in dentistry centers on four cornerstones that focus both externally and internally. Though they provide a clear foundation, of course every dentist and dental team will have a different sense of how to measure their success.

Part of what makes your practice unique are the standards you set in each of the four cornerstones: Clinical Services, Patient Care, Team Participation, and Practice Growth and Development.

In this blog, I’ll discuss the first two cornerstones and in Part 2 I’ll discuss the final two essential pieces of the practice puzzle. Together, they create a critical balance, especially in how they interact dynamically.

Cornerstones of Dentistry: Clinical Services and Patient Care

Clinical Services

Each dentist will have their own individual sense of what services they wish to provide and how they want to structure their practice system. With this kind of freedom, the clinician decides what standards of care are enforced and how they are applied to practice services.

Part of why dentistry is such an exciting and opportunity-filled profession is that this kind of flexibility exists. You can say what matters to you and design a practice that embraces your values. You are the only one who can determine your level of commitment.

Patient Care

It’s up to you how you will care for your patients. You are able to pursue aspirational paths of continuing to seek education, empowering yourself and others, and partnering with your patients and team.

You can also guide your patients and support them in reaching the highest levels of health they can. Along with your freedom to set standards for yourself, you can also decide how much trust you will share with your patients. Then, you can create relationships built on that degree of trust.

To be continued…

How do you define your values and vision in your dental practice? 

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About Author

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Mary Osborne RDH

Mary is known internationally as a writer and speaker on patient care and communication. Her writing has been acclaimed in respected print and online publications. She is widely known at dental meetings in the U.S., Canada, and Europe as a knowledgeable and dynamic speaker. Her passion for dentistry inspires individuals and groups to bring the best of themselves to their work, and to fully embrace the difference they make in the lives of those they serve.

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