What Makes A Great Team?

11/30/2015 6:05:07 PM   |   Comments: 0   |   Views: 122

What Makes a Great Team?

By: Dr. Mike Dolby

Great people make a great team, right? That’s true, but it depends on how you

define “great.”

Unfortunately, many dental practice owners get it wrong. They assume a great

team member is someone who has a vast amount of experience with your particular

practice management software or a dental assistant who can make amazing

temporaries. These people may be great individually at those certain tasks, but the

practice may still suffer if these individuals are unable to work as a team towards a

common goal.

The film, The Wizard of Oz, in my opinion, is the best team-building parable in

movie history.

A Kansas farm girl, Dorothy, is sucked into a tornado and dropped into the magical

Land of Oz. Her “landing” in Oz accidentally kills the Wicked Witch of the East,

which creates a powerful enemy—the Wicked Witch of the West. On her quest to

return home to Kansas, Dorothy travels down the Yellow Brick Road to seek help

from the great and powerful Oz. Along the way, she meets the Scarecrow who

wants a BRAIN, the Tin Man who is in search of a HEART, and the Lion who

desires COURAGE.

They share a common goal of reaching the powerful Oz, so he may grant them

their wishes. This oddball team overcomes incredible odds and kills the Wicked

Witch of the West only to discover that the great and powerful Oz is not so great

and powerful after all. However, Dorothy and her friends discover a truth that is

more powerful than any magic: Everything they desired—brains, heart, courage,

and the ability to return home—had been right inside of them all along. They had

to look no further than within themselves.

In the end, the power of a team was greater than any individual—including the

Wicked Witch of the West.

“The Wizard of Oz” Lessons for Team Members:

• Assemble a diverse team.

• Work toward a clear goal.

• Encourage the greatness of your team’s natural talent.

• Keep moving forward, especially when things get tough.

• Be conscious of the resources that are already in front of you.

Top Ten Qualities of a GREAT TEAM MEMBER

(1) Friendly
(2) Reliable
(3) Communication Skills
(4) Customer Service
(5) Flexible
(6) Problem-Solver
(7) Respectful
(8) Proactive
(9) Strive to be an Expert
(10) Laugh, Live, and Celebrate


This is the first and most important quality to look for in any team member. You

cannot teach someone to be friendly, and this certainly should not be overlooked.

Do not make the mistake of being swayed by a person’s clinical or front office

skills and think that you will be able to teach them to be friendly and make patients

feel welcome in your practice. This will never happen, at least not consistently. I

will always take a personable, outgoing, friendly person over a technically skilled

person. I can teach you the technical stuff, but I can’t teach you to be nice.

How can you tell if someone is friendly? Watch how they interact with other

people. Observe how they address you when meeting for the first time. Did they

greet you with a handshake and a smile while making eye contact, or were they

nervous, shy, and unsure?

You need every member of your team to be outgoing and happy, so that your

patients feel relaxed when they are in your office. The practice of dentistry comes

with enough negative connotations, and we certainly don’t need anymore,

especially coming from your own team members.


Great team members are employees you can count on. They show up to work on

time and have prepared themselves for the day. They say what they mean and mean

what they say. They are RELIABLE. There is nothing more challenging than a

non-reliable team member.

How can you tell if someone is reliable? You can ask, “How many continual days

of attendance at work would you consider satisfactory? How many days of work

did you miss last year?”

They should answer, without hesitation, that all team members should make it to

work on time every day unless there is an emergency in which they would notify

the appropriate person with as much notice as possible. Great team members want

to be punctual and consider attendance an important part of their job description.


Effective communication is an important quality when running a busy dental

practice. Communication among team members and with patients is crucial to the

success of your practice. Every team member has a responsibility to master

effective communication in order to create VALUE for the services you are

offering. Communication leads to rapport with your patients, who are evaluating

every aspect of your team—especially how members communicate with each


People communicate with each other for three primary reasons:

(1) It makes us feel good.

(2) It is a cry for help.

(3) It is an attempt to see a “new result.”

Effective communication in your office should accomplish the following:
(1) make your patients feel good 
(2) make your team feel good
(3) create value for your patients

Most people think that words are the most important part of communication. We

worry so much about choosing just the right words to say to our patients, which

can sometime cause us to memorize lines that don’t end up conveying the message

we are actually trying to communicate.

Did you know that words only account for approximately 7% of the effectiveness

in our communication? While tonality accounts for an impressive 38% of our

communication effectiveness, and physiology (our body language) accounts for a

whopping 55%. This is clear evidence that it’s more important HOW you say

something, rather than the actual words you use.

Think about someone who is very excited about what they are saying to you. Their

body language and tone of voice speak volumes. Don’t you find yourself more

engaged and interested in what they have to say? Your answer is probably “yes.”

Communication is both verbal (words - tonality) and nonverbal (physiology -


Verbal communication is when our words are accompanied by our tonality, or the

speed and pitch of our voice. This is really important when we are speaking to a

patient over the phone. In the obvious absence of our nonverbal physiology, we

must master not only our words but also the tone in which we use them. Strive to

be congruent with the tone of the person you are speaking with. As I said before,

the quickest way to be in rapport with someone is to match and mirror their

behavior, which includes the tonality in their voice. When speaking to a person

who uses a soft tone of voice, the last thing you want to do is speak in a loud tone.

This will create disconnect with the person you are speaking with and make it

extremely difficult to build rapport or a sense of bond.

Nonverbal communication is the expression of words through body movements,

and, as stated before, this is the most powerful form of communication.

When we add excitement to our communication, it often raises the level of

curiosity with the other person and engages them in the conversation. When you

are presenting a treatment plan to a patient and you include excitement and

optimism, I guarantee your case acceptance ratio will improve.

People are attracted to people who are excited about their lives and their work.

However, you must base your level of excitement on the nonverbal physiology of

the other person. Even still, adding a little excitement to your conversation through

gestures and body movement can often raise the level of excitement of a passive or

soft-spoken person.

Nonverbal communication can be positive as described above or negative. If a

patient arrives at your office on time for their appointment and you unintentionally

make them wait because you are off schedule, it can only communicate a negative

message that your time is more valuable than theirs. Or when was the last time you

updated the furniture, wall colors, and other decor in your office? Does your office

look old and run-down or does it represent the quality and professional

environment you are striving to create? Better yet, what is the condition of your

smile or your team members’ smiles? If they have not been restored to the quality

that you promote to current patients in your practice, that can be viewed as a

negative message.

So how can you tell if a prospective team member is a good communicator?

Ask them, “What steps do you take to create rapport with others?”

The answer should be that they see things from another person’s perspective and

are willing to discover things they have in common. Can this person empathize

with patients? Empathy is an essential component to building rapport.

Ask the prospective team member to give you an example of the last time they had

to present a complex treatment plan in simple terms. You want to hear them

describe how they broke down complex information in order to help patients reach

a complete understanding of the treatment proposed.

A good communicator is someone who is curious and responsible enough to care

that his or her message is being heard and understood, and can work with many

different personalities. They are flexible and do not get flustered when the other

person is having a difficult time understanding what they are saying.


Customer service is more than a nice waiting room with a coffee bar and the most

current magazines. And it’s certainly more than having the most up-to-date, hightech

dental equipment to show off. Outstanding customer service is more than what

you DO for your patients, as it is defined by the CULTURE that is created within

your practice.

Have you ever walked into a business and immediately felt unsure or just not

comfortable? How about a walking into a new restaurant and before you actually

spoke to anyone, you immediately felt at home and welcome? This is the culture of

these businesses speaking to you. The fact is both of the businesses described could

have been the best in their industries. However, if the culture is not congruent with

the level of product you are providing, customers will not give you a chance.

The culture in your dental office should be the creation of an environment where

the primary focus of every team member is serving your patients at the highest

level possible. However, it is impossible for the quality of customer service to

exceed the quality of the people who provide that service. Therefore, doctors must

make the investment to properly and, more importantly, continually train team

members to adopt and support the culture of the practice.

The secret to achieving a positive culture begins with every team member being

“present.” Everyone must set a goal every day to be 100% present in mind and

body while striving to exceed your patients’ expectations. This is why morning

meetings are a must because they prepare your team to start the day focused and

clear about their intentions while supporting the culture of the practice.

Here are a few examples centered on exceeding your patients’ needs:

• Dental assistants escort the patient to the treatment room walking side-byside

side instead of five paces ahead.

• A team member remains in the treatment room while the patient is getting

numb, building rapport, instead of retreating to the break room.

• Offer your patient a warm towel after their treatment and walk them out with

a sincere and genuine “thank you.”

• Follow up with a hand-written thank you note when patients refer new

customers to your practice. Likewise, send a hand- written note welcoming

new patients to your practice.


It is essential that every team member is flexible, able to “go with the flow”

without cracking under pressure. Dentistry is one of the few professions that

operates on a strict schedule. We don’t have the luxury of leaving our patient with

a rubber dam on while we take a ten-minute coffee break because we are a little

stressed out. There is no time in our schedule to go for a walk if you feel tired or,

for that matter, even to take a phone call. Our patients depend on us to accomplish

a certain task, in a certain amount of time, expecting the highest quality possible.

The treatment schedule is a living, breathing, frustrating thing that changes

constantly.The most productive and successful practices are those that adapt to

daily changes and keep their schedules productive. Changes in the schedule are a

certainty, so all team members must accept this fact and adapt to those changes

throughout the day.

I have seen team members actually become upset when a loyal patient is worked

into the schedule with an emergency. What they are really saying is, “I am

inconvenienced.” They don’t want to adapt to the needs of a patient who provides

the practice with money and referrals—they want their needs to be first.

Who wants to keep a team member like that?

Flexibility should be a part of every team member’s job description.


Anyone can complain, but it takes a great team member to not only address a

challenge that exists in the practice, but also come up with a potential solution to

that problem. It may not be the ultimate solution, but at least they are thinking

beyond just complaining. Great team members find solutions to their challenges

and don’t expect someone else to fix those challenges for them.

I’m always amazed at what lengths people will go to avoid problems or setbacks.

The reality is that problems are part of everyday life. Tony Robbins once told me

that the day you don’t have any problems in your life, is the day you are dead! So

having problems is a really good thing.

A great team member doesn’t look at a challenge as an inconvenience. They

choose to look at it as an opportunity to come up with a new solution to make the

practice better. If you want to be an invaluable team member, become a great

problem solver.


I think we all know the old adage, “Treat people the way you want to be treated.”

Unfortunately, in too many offices the environment or culture is so stressful and

disorganized that team members don’t always follow this rule of respect.

A great team member will always respect patients and fellow teammates. I have

witnessed team members texting or reading magazines in the break room while

their patient is forced to wait past their scheduled appointment time. How can you

exhibit this kind of disrespect and then be at a loss as to why your patients don’t

accept your treatment plans or refer their family and friends to your practice? The

message you are sending out is clear: Your time is more important than theirs.

Being respectful means you value that person and you show this through your


The Golden Age of dentistry is over. You can no longer just rent an office space,

hang a dental sign, and expect patients to flock to your door and put up with

disrespecting their time. If you choose, intentionally or unintentionally, to put

patient needs second to your own personal needs, then expect your patients to find

another more appreciative practice to join.

Great team members think consciously about what their patients must have gone

through to get to your office on time. They must have rushed to get the kids

breakfast and off to school, hustled to a meeting at work, then snuck out early, and

navigated heavy traffic, just so they could be ON TIME for their appointment.

So how do you thank that patient for being on time? Don’t make them wait for

their appointment! After all they went through to get to your office, if they are kept

waiting, the only thought running through their minds will be, Why in the hell did I

rush to get here? Trust me, they will never make that kind of effort again.

I realize some of our colleagues in the medical field couldn’t care less about

making patients wait, but you have an opportunity to set your practice up for

massive success if you just respect your patients by making it part of your culture

to stay on time.


Don’t you love being around people who just get things done? They seem to

almost have extra hours in the day. You don’t have to remind them every other day

to finish what they said they would take care of last month; they just seem to get

things done. They are proactive and self-starters that need little direction and less


A great team member will handle issues that come up in the office without having

to be told. They will fix things or make corrections when they see something out of

line. Maybe it’s organizing a more effective way to set up the instruments for

treatment cases or discovering a more efficient way to ask for patient referrals or

maybe even taking the schedule home to make confirmation calls for Monday’s

appointments. Now that’s proactive.

Great team members set the example by not overlooking situations that someone

else will have to deal with if they choose to look the other way.


Great team members strive to be the very best at what they do and seek out the

necessary resources to make certain they are experts. Team members that consider

themselves as experts don’t wait until their doctor takes them to a continuing

education seminar. They seek out education programs that will take their skills to

the next level.

In many offices, the doctor is the only one considered an “expert,” or lifetime

student of continuing education. However, this can also be true for team members

in any department. Your front office manager should be a master when it comes to

dealing with patients’ dental insurance, financial arrangements, and the neverending

management of the treatment schedule. Your dental assistant should know

more about bonding restorations than most dentists, and your hygienist should

have an in-depth knowledge of periodontal health and your soft tissue management


Doctors as leaders of their practices must set the example and create a culture that

supports team members to be experts.


Life is a journey, NOT a sprint or a destination. Surround yourself with people who

appreciate their gift to be able to care for others, along with realizing the

importance of life outside of the dental office. Dentists and their teams often find

themselves in a sprint to build a practice, knock down debt, support a family, etc. ...

They forget about laughing, living, and celebrating.

Dentistry is a demanding profession that challenges the mind and body equally. It

is important that great team members celebrate both their successes and failures.

Too often we discount successes and dwell far too much on our failures. Great

team members acknowledge their failures with enthusiasm because they know they

are learning something new and will grow from the experience. Great teams also

take time to acknowledge their successes, as these are the results of having failed

in the past—and having learned from it.

www.triumph-dental.com 800-213-0252 (o) P.O. Box 6151 Boise, Idaho 83707-6151

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