Smells like team spirit


feb-bite-staffThere’s no better time of year than now to plan the year ahead. Natasha Shaw shares how you and your team can plan a kick-off meeting for 2015.

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” These are the wise words of American industrialist Henry Ford—they hold true for every business created since the dawn of time and, at their very essence, is that important word, ‘team’. We’ve all heard managers and colleagues say that we need to ‘work as a team’. And the team-building mantra is never more prevalent than over the Christmas period with all those team thankyou speeches, and at the beginning of a New Year when it’s the ideal time to start afresh and work out any kinks in the team process.

So, here we are at the beginning of 2015. As a dentist, assistant or any other integral member of a practice, you will be looking forward to a successful year, a year when the staff all work together happily and cohesively, supporting and growing the business. Whether you work in a small practice, or a large dental centre, these goals will be the same, so here is how to ensure your team gets off on the same foot. Coming together In a dental practice, the primary dentist is usually the leader and has the important role of managing the team.

However, a managerial position can be overwhelming for many dentists at the beginning. They’ve learnt about dentistry at university and are probably confident in their field, but suddenly need to learn how to effectively guide a team within their practice so they can concentrate on their craft and develop their business. Their patients, after all, expect a well-oiled machine—a place where they can easily make appointments and be seen on time, and where they feel valued and are treated professionally during their visits. “A leader decides on the various things they want to offer patients in their practice,” says leadership and training expert, Anita Roubicek of Prime Practice (, an organisation that teaches dentists successful management skills and principles. “They set a vision and goals for these things to be achieved, they employ the right staff who can share their vision, then they support this team and train them throughout the process. It all starts at the top.”

And while a leader strives for a quality team, the ‘ideal’ team is in the best interests of everyone at the practice. “Working with multiple agendas isn’t going to work,” says Roubicek. “A strong team has a shared vision, clear goals, recognises any achievements, has the right skills and knowledge as well as the ability to communicate effectively.” In a nutshell, a dental practice cannot be successful without the harmonious collaboration of all staff members. Keeping together Prime Minister Tony Abott announced at a Business Council of Australia dinner last October: “I am inviting the Labor Party, the State Governments, to join ‘Team Australia’ and to think of our country and not just the next election.” Yes, even those right at the top know the importance of getting a team together to keep things running smoothly. “A united team typically operates with a sense of ‘we’re all in this together’,” says Nicholas Vayenas, a managing consultant at Liquid HR. “As work demands increase and stress levels can escalate, sharing the experience tends to be more manageable than by going it alone.” However, as with any group of people, it’s not always smooth sailing. Dominant personalities can often reign over more timid personalities, disagreements occur and some members will work harder than others. Roubicek says the best way to confront disagreements is to decide right at the beginning of a project or discussion that you are going to collaborate, no matter what. “Agreeing to disagree is part of an effective business,” she says. “You need to have the mindset that because you are operating together as a team, you agree to support the outcome even if you don’t always agree with it. A leader can help with this by delegating roles that can bring people’s strengths to the table; they can make the more timid staff members shine and give dominant people supporting roles so they have the opportunity to help others.”

It is vital you don’t let opposing opinions fester and instead communicate your issues, advises Vayenas. “Whether it is through a mediated process or simply the parties discussing the issue, disagreements quite often come down to a lack of insight into where the other person is coming from. A leader will manage the team’s expectations well so that all members have a clear understanding of the acceptable behaviours required. The rules must always be universal.” Working together “If you are not a good leader, your team won’t work well together,” explains Roubicek. “A leader needs to have vision, trust their staff, have good communication skills, be able to delegate effectively and inspire their team. All of these things start with the leader.” A true leader, she says, will always keep their team informed of day-to-day activities, have regular team meetings, ensure there are team goals, not just individual goals, and help the team work towards the overall success of the business, not just each member’s individual success. In this way, team members will keep each other more accountable as their goals will have become your business’s goals in order to achieve the final result. The team can then manage the day-to-day running of the practice while the dentist is left to practise their dentistry. The beginning of each new year is the perfect time to reflect on past experiences and set small and large goals for the months ahead.

As a team you can look to past projects and determine what contributed to their success, or work out ways to improve. “Reflection is critical,” says Vayenas. “Individuals and teams need to constantly evaluate what went well and what didn’t at the end of any project. As the old saying goes, ‘There is no such thing as failure—just learning experiences’.” So, why not gather your team, make the best of all those learning experiences of the past and embrace each member’s strengths, so that 2015 is a wonderful year filled with much success? 

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