"Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it" --Dwight Eisenhower
According to Webster’s Dictionary, communication is "A process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior." Also in the definition is "interpersonal rapport," defined as "The art and technique of using words effectively to impart information or ideas (as in speech)."
Sounds simple enough, and in theory it should be. Unfortunately, when we add individual attitudes, personality types, cultural diversity, emotions, perspectives, upbringing, and intentions to the mix, effective communication becomes far more complex.
In addition, an employee's past experience with management, whether at your practice or somewhere else, will have a major impact on your results. Employees are often victims of half-truths and motivational talks/presentations intended to boost morale and productivity. Unfortunately, the results are usually just the opposite.
Many dental practices communicate with employees through rule books and manuals, memos and e-mails, instead of honest face-to-face and voice-to-voice interactions. Dentists talk about "open door" policies and "being available," but then have office managers that run interference.
Practices hold town-hall meetings and state of the union addresses and then open the floor to questions. But because of an established intimidation factor, many team members simply nod in agreement and then later communicate their real feelings and concerns to their peers in the lunch room or around the water-cooler.
Communication is a developed culture, not an event. All members of the team must be willing to tell and hear the truth. Leaders will say they want straightforward communication — no "yes-men" — but then punish or belittle team members for their honesty if they feel attacked or embarrassed.
If you want to be a CEODentist, you must develop the culture by stating the ground rules and then living them. Be willing to be vulnerable and patient with your team, and above all, treat everyone with respect and integrity. It will set the tone for the entire organization.
Challenges in communication and how to overcome them
Oddly enough, the number one obstacle to quality communication is poor listening skills. It’s believed that communication is about talking, but understanding a person’s point of view or perspective is vital to the process whether resolving conflict, strengthening a relationship, or discussing a new business idea.
One method to improve your listening skills is to repeat back to the speaker what you heard for confirmation and clarification. You’ll be amazed at how much "interpretation" is actually going on in most interactions. Continue the process by switching roles; back and forth until both sides are satisfied that they have been heard and a resolution has been reached. (This is also a great skill for improving relationships with your spouse and children.) Resistance is another challenge to open communication. We are human beings and have a basic instinct to avoid pain and seek pleasure. If people perceive the interaction will be confrontational or painful, they will avoid it. We also have a need to be "right." We become positional and defensive if our point of view, intentions, or motives are questioned or threatened.
Reduce resistance by simply stating your commitment to finding a resolution or common ground. If all parties truly believe that the purpose of the communication is to peacefully resolve the conflict, come to a mutually beneficial agreement and build the relationship, they will naturally lower their normal defenses. Finally, approach the communication with a desired outcome. If you don’t know what you want or don’t ask for it, you are asking the other person to be a mind-reader. Very frustrating for all involved.
"That’s way too much work!"
That’s the mentality of a leader by position. Yet this type of leader is still working by himself or herself. A true leader builds people and inspires them to get better, not to just follow orders. Influence is a matter of permission and people follow because they "want to" not because they "have to."
Three types of leaders
The Micro leader, who gets someone to do a specific job or routine by providing the information necessary to accomplish the task. Not much thinking or input is required on the part of the individual staff member.
The Macro leader, who understands the big picture of the organization and works to coordinate with others to create a collaborative team effort. But the Macro leader still deals with people as employees.
The Meta leader, which is the ultimate goal. This leader develops an empowered group of people who act as partners, not employees. The Meta leader upholds the vision of the company, steers the organization and supports all others on the team.
A CEODentist is a Meta Leader. Elevate your status to CEODentist.
How do you keep the drama out of your office and foster communication between team members? Share your thoughts and comments below.
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Wes Jankowski Is the Founder/President of CEODentist (a subsidiary of StraightLine Companies, Colorado). As a Business Strategist and Executive Coach, Wes provides Dentists and their teams with the Leadership, Marketing, Business and Financial Management training needed to take their practice from good to great!
Wes is a speaker / lecturer on the topics of Dental Practice Marketing and demystifying the Business of Dentistry. He writes a successful weekly blog and is the author of numerous articles on Dental Practice Management.
Wes Jankowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.ceodentist.com