Editor’s Note: Dr. Howard Ong presents part two in a three-part series on leadership.
Engagement for Alignment
by Howard Ong, DDS, MAGD
The first article in this series on “A Culture of Leadership” covered basic principles of culture that defines a leadership style for your practice. This second article builds on that. Now that you have discovered your culture and defined your leadership style, it’s time to get your team engaged in the practice and aligned in the message.
The topics we are covering are not new , but the hard part is starting a conversation with your team about engaging in your vision, the goals of the practice, and your direction to get there. I begin with engagement because it is important to identify those that are focused on your practice and those that are “playing through”, so to speak. Starting this necessary conversation can be challenging with some team members because you, as the owner, have to ask whether they are in with your vision, or if they are out.
The Start of an Upward Spiral in Your Practice – Engagement
Engagement can be the start of an upward spiral for your practice. When the practice owner and team are engaged there is focus and a spirit of willingness to be part of something beyond yourself. No longer are we compliant, but instead, are committed. This is not easy because engagement starts with the practice owner. Trust me when I say the team is watching you every day, if not hourly. If you are not present or engaged, why would they be?
Why is engagement so important? Your team is your most important resource, and an engaged team results in patients whom are engaged, leading to better treatment outcomes. There is a strong connection finding that engaged patients leads to increased business success; engaged patients are customers longer, tend to spend more by saying “yes” to care again and again, and refer like-minded patients.
How do we become engaged? First and foremost, you and your team have to love what you do. Team members should have the ability to work smart and solve problems on their own, giving them a sense of empowerment. Stay positive and maintain a professional attitude while at work and encourage time off so their minds can be away from all this as well. Most importantly, reward the team when you see them treating your practice as if it were their own.
Alignment and Placement of Energy
When team engagement is achieved, alignment is merely a nudge in the right direction. Engagement takes effort and needs consistency. And now, you need somewhere to place that energy. Alignment is all about focusing that energy.
Whether this is messaging your vision or mission statement, or trying to reach a written goal, alignment begins when a team is given a purpose or a focus. Can it be that easy? Yes, but your team needs the “why”. Why do we need to reach that goal? Why is our mission statement so important? Why is the device we are fitting the best, and why do we offer it over other products? Why is hearing health so important?
Unlike engagement, that can occur quickly, alignment takes time. It’s all about communication, of course. Alignment is triggered by clear instruction of what you want accomplished. Your team has to hear your message or direction. For example, your team may understand what to do with a patient, and each may feel their way is the best, but did you spend time training them “how” to treat your patient? Not only should each patient get the same messaging from every team member, but also optimal alignment is when each team member trusts that their teammates are connecting the same way. It initiates a sense of pride in what they are doing. After a few successes, the team starts believing in the messaging you have shared and believing what they are doing, and what they are doing is in the best interest of the patient, and the correct direction for the business.
Lastly, the true proof of alignment is when you and your team transitions from a “what we do” business to a “who we are” practice. The phenomena of messaging who we are is powerful for a team because they no longer need direction and know how to function on their own. They become leaders themselves.
Howard Ong, DDS, MAGD is a practicing dentist in the city of Seal Beach, CA. His office provides comprehensive dental care with an emphasis on the oral systemic connection. Over his career he and his team have develop and practice key leadership skills resulting in effective patient centered management systems. With thousands of continuing education hours he is a Master in the Academy of General Dentistry. Staying current and relevant to his patients and team is his “why”. Check him out at www.sealbeachdds.com, or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.