Gardening Your Dental Team

Growing and caring for a vegetable garden is a team effort. A successful garden incorporates the care and maintenance by the gardener. Mother Nature has to do her part by providing rain, sunshine, soil chemistry, and pollinators. The perfect combination leads to a bountiful harvest. What happens if Mother Nature does not do her part? Sometimes you get a harvest (usually not a bountiful one); and sometimes there are no fruits to show for your efforts.

Each year my family plants and cares for a backyard vegetable garden. This year we had a larger harvest than in the past. I have to thank our new dog for joining my team and keeping the critters out of the garden. We planted tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, broccoli, and cucumbers. I find that our produce tastes so much better than what is purchased at the market. Before I get side tracked about the benefits of home gardening, I want to share my thoughts about how this relates to the dental team.

Cucumbers grow on a vine. The vines have tentacles that grow upward attaching the vine to whatever is in its path. For the last few years I have noticed that toward the end of the season, the cucumber vines begin to whither at the roots while the top of the vine still moves forward producing fruit. The fruit does not have the same quality as a healthy vine. Eventually the withering of the vine catches up to the top part of the vine and the plant dies.

I sometimes find that some dentists continue to move forward with their practices while leaving the team behind, just like the cucumber vine. The dentist continues, like the cucumber vine, to reach for the sky (e.g., learning new skills and improving patient care) forgetting the need for a strong, healthy, supporting base to back them up. Over time the practice loses some stability. There will still be fruit to bear at the top of the vine, but will it be the fruit that the dentist desires? As the base withers from lack of direction, appreciation, and leadership, the overall performance of the practice may suffer. It’s as if the team was not watered and provided sunshine. A weak team can eventually cause the practice to whither and even die.

A team that is not appreciated will struggle to support the dentist on his mission. I have heard from too many dentists that they believe their team does not deserve compliments. From the dentist’s viewpoint, that is because they are not living up to the dentists’ expectations or lack a sense of urgency. I believe the reason for the disconnect is that the team is not clear on the dentist’s expectations. It is up to the practice leader to share the mission of the practice, getting complete team understanding, and acknowledged team agreement. It does not end here. Reinforcing mission-based behaviors can lead to stronger practice roots and help dentists to achieve the income and quality of life they desire.

Spread some sunshine on your team and watch how your practice grow.


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