July 16, 2020
Our world is in a crazy place right now. Between the pandemic, politics, social injustice, the economy, the environment and [insert your current world concern here], it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning, let alone attempt to tackle getting back to work, opening an office, seeing patients, balancing the checkbook, and [insert current personal concern here]. We are all in a state of change. With change comes uncertainty and with uncertainty comes fear, and fear… well, fear makes us act in a way we sometimes don’t even recognize – and that can make walking out the door hard, to say nothing of rejoining your dental team at the office.
Tensions are high in our dental community right now. Log into any social media platform and you are bound to read a story about a staff member who spontaneously resigned or an employer refusing to supply the proper PPE. While social media has its benefits, it is not always a tool for productive communication. There is so much that we miss in a post or a comment. There ought to be fonts that represent tone, specific colors that delineate intent, and perhaps a waiting period before a comment posts. Until that time comes, it’s time we all evaluate how we are communicating with one another before we blast our boss with that eloquent 280-character tweet and burn a bridge we need to cross.
Thankfully for as many horror stories that there are out there about what some practice owner did or what some hygienist said, there are offices that are successfully coming back together and adjusting their protocols and procedures to get back to the business of caring for patients. Remember them? The patients? They are getting lost in the shuffle.
It’s time to launch the Comeback! Here are the 5 Cs to getting the team back together, on the same page, and ready to slay some decay!
The offices that have opened back up without turmoil are the ones that never stopped communicating. That’s not to say that it was a smooth road, but these teams kept listening to each other and team members felt safe to voice opinions and concerns. Remember each of us has different personality types and tendencies. Great teams take the time to know how to best talk to each other and dig into their emotional intelligence, realizing it’s not about one person. If you’ve never done this, consider downloading a free personality test like DiSC or Enneagram and have a staff meeting to discuss your different styles. You are sure to understand each other better.
When talking with your team, get curious. Think about when you are talking to a toddler. They have boundless curiosity. They ask a million questions. And never at any point does that toddler have an ulterior motive. They just wonder. What happened to that freedom? Somewhere along the way, we decided that asking lots of questions was rude or combative. But remaining in a state of curiosity keeps you from entering a state of judgment. When you are curious, you don’t assume–and all our mamas told us what happens when we assume…. Try phrases like “tell me more…” or “I’m curious about…”
With all this change comes a sense of being out of control. Where it’s possible, seek input from others. Ask your team for their opinion and listen to what they say. While every request can’t be honored, being heard is huge. When we collaborate effectively, we each get to use our unique gifts and knowledge to contribute to the team. Everyone feels valued like their actions contribute to the success of the practice. Is your office having a hard time finding PPE? Dig in and do some googling. Many hands make light work and wow does it feel good to be part of the solution.
Has your practice established its core values? Do you have a mission statement or a purpose? While it might seem a little hokey having an established “why” helps center the entire team in any storm. When there is a laundry list of decisions to make, products to evaluate, and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to modify, having a clear set of values can help you wade through some tough choices. Be sure to post your values so that everyone knows them, look at them often, and reevaluate as needed. Does your entire team agree with these values? Strong teams have a unifying purpose.
While this is listed last it is by no means the least important. In this time of uncertainty, it’s easy to fall for the hype. Resist the temptation to buy that new product that is going to save us all, only to shove it in a closet in a few months’ time to gather dust! It’s key for us to remember that we are healthcare professionals in a career that’s based on science. While the science is still being studied with this novel virus, we can use our education and critical thinking skills to discern what best practices to establish in our office. Social media “experts” are not your friend here. In a time like this, it is important to look to trusted sources that have nothing financial to gain, for guidance. Remember you are smart. You’ve gotten this far, don’t let fear make you second guess yourself.
No one said any of this would be easy. This is hard. These past few months have been challenging for all of us. Business owners are stressed about rent, overhead, and staying afloat. Employees are worried about childcare, paying their bills, and the health risks that come with the job. But it’s key that we take time to consider the 5 Cs, especially when you feel your pulse racing and fear taking over. Take a deep breath, re-center yourself, and start truly listening to each other. You are sure to be on the path to a strong comeback when your plan is rooted in understanding.
Amanda Hill, RDH, BS has been in the dental industry for over 30 years, she earned her B.S. in Dental Hygiene at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia and has had the opportunity to experience dentistry around the world. Amanda has a love for learning and is obsessed with continuing education in all its many forms. Amanda practices part time clinically and is an industry educator for the nation’s largest dental job board, DentalPost.net. Amanda is a proud Navy spouse and mom of 3.