No matter what your particular area of specialization, as a healthcare professional you wear a lot of different hats. If you run a dental clinic, a lot is required of you – in addition to knowing everything there is to know about dental health, you are also tasked with making your patients feel welcome and cared for, being a supportive boss to your staff, and navigating the healthcare economy as a small business owner.
I know first hand how difficult it can be to keep all of these different balls in the air. I can’t count the number of conversations I’ve had with dentists who feel they weren’t nearly as well prepared as they should have been for the business side of the job. Most of the concerns I hear come down to one particular thing: leadership.
As a dentist, you are the owner of your practice and a main service provider to your patients. But you are also a business leader who needs to have a vision and plan that addresses the challenges of today’s competitive landscape and ensures that your dental practice sees long-term growth.
This can be a scary responsibility, especially for those who are just getting started or have had little business training. The good news is that leadership is a skill that can be cultivated over time. In fact, as a business owner I feel it’s a skill I’m still developing and continually working on improving!
If you want to become a better leader for your dental team, here are four skills you can start sharpening today that will help you thrive in your leadership role:
1. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is an important skill for any healthcare professional to develop, but for dentists it is indispensable. As many as one fifth of North Americans avoid going to the dentist due to dental anxiety, so if you want your practice to succeed, you need to be able to empathize with your patients’ anxieties and concerns – even if they seem irrational to you!
It isn’t just your patients you need to empathize with, though; you also need to model a sensitive and caring approach to healthcare service for your staff. Staying positive at work can be hard for any staff member when the patients are sometimes resistant to the services being offered, so it’s important to support your team and make sure they also have the resources to thrive. This will help ensure that they offer the best care to patients.
No dentist can serve patients well without strong communication skills. Everything from making the patient feel comfortable to explaining treatment options requires a strong sense for how to make complex information understandable.
But as business owners, dentists also need to develop good lines of communication with their staff. As the video below explains, communication is actually the essence of what a leader does. If you aren’t communicating effectively, you aren’t leading effectively.
3. Technological Management
In a modern-day clinic, everything from patient records to appointment schedules are kept digitally, and as the person in charge of ensuring that the whole operation runs smoothly, you’ll want to make sure that you have the right technological tools in place.
At ABELDent, we understand how challenging this can be: after all, you’re a health professional, not a technology expert! That’s why we’ve designed dental practice management software that offers a complete and secure integrated solution that covers appointment scheduling, clinical charting, treatment management, image management, records, electronic claims, and financial and insurance needs.
These tools make it easy to streamline your entire practice – which gives you more time to focus on the hands-on elements of your practice. Explaining to patients how you are using the latest validated technology for diagnostics and treatment planning enhances your credibility and also sends a message to patients that you are a leader in your field.
4. Relationship Development
Being able to inspire others is at the heart of leadership, and this means fostering good relationships with those around you. From the patient putting their health in your hands to the hygienist relying on your guidance, you need to be able to develop strong, mutually respectful relationships with the people you interact with every day.
Relationship development skills can be learned, and every dentist can develop strategies that will help them become an effective leader in their workplace. Remember, if you put a little bit of work into making people feel valued and listened to, you will get a lot back in terms of loyalty, trust and dedication.
Dentistry is a science, an art and a business and dentists need to develop the skills to succeed as business owners in addition to honing their skills as healthcare providers.
In summary, the best leaders are constant learners and cultivating emotional intelligence, strong communication skills, adaptive decision-making, and managing the technology to run a digital dental office will help you become a true leader in your field.