Team Unity in the Face of Challenges

In dental school, students find plenty to worry about as they prepare for the career ahead of them: anticipating complex procedures, preparing for the juggling act of caring for many patients each day and wondering how they will handle emergencies in the midst of it all. But many tenured dentists admit that the hardest aspect of the profession isn't anything they were afraid of back in dental school. The most difficult—and possibly one of the most rewarding parts of dentistry—is leading a team well.

Team Unity

Unity is a key ingredient to the long-term success of an office. It sounds so simple. The word 'unity' itself paints a picture of oneness, of many parts working interdependently as a single body. When a team acts as one, moving toward shared goals, great things happen. Conversely, many agree that poor leadership or a disjointed team was implicit in their failures. When individuals are working toward separate goals, communication begins to fail, frustration builds and important details fall through the cracks. Without a unified team, eventually chaos ensues. The sense of calm and competence teams envision in their offices crumbles.

Fostering unity comes down to a few details. Heartland Dental has supported hundreds of successful dentists, and the most compelling stories have three qualities in common: doctors who lead, quality communication and an emphasis on growth and education.

Teams that are happy and growing—really thriving— have a doctor-leader model. At the most basic level, staffs and doctors are working together, with the doctor at the helm setting the vision. For some this comes naturally, but for most, leadership is something that must be developed and refined over a lifetime.

Leadership sets the pace, and communication is the grease that allows the parts to move smoothly. Whether a marriage, classroom, committee or office, this element can make or break a relationship. In the dental setting, it is imperative that doctors create opportunities to communicate with their teams formally and informally on a regular basis.

Leadership plays out practically through communication: sharing objectives clearly with the group and helping individuals see their roles in implementing them. At the least, this means frequent but brief team huddles. During these meetings, roles can be communicated and affirmed, allowing people to do their jobs with greater confidence and ease. As issues arise, they are addressed aloud and professionally, instead of ignored, and the team can move from playing the blame-game to fixing the issues at stake. When progress is made—however small—verbally recognizing everyone's part in the group setting can give team members a sense of ownership and pride.

In addition to formal communication, casual interactions are ripe opportunities for uniting a team. Speaking a few positive words to individuals regularly can increase team morale, prevent conflict and improve individual attitudes.Along with strong leadership and communication, education promotes unity. At Heartland Dental, supported dentists stay active and excited with world-class continuing education. As they learn about new materials, test out equipment and techniques, brush up on specialties and network with other doctors, they refresh their professional and personal skills. In addition to trade-related education, supported dentists can boost their aptitude in areas such as leadership, communication and case acceptance.

Education keeps minds fresh and attitudes open, which is just as important for team members as it is for dentists. Heartland Dental offers education for not only supported dentists, but their teams as well. There are options for people in every role to learn and develop their skills.

When team members are constantly learning, they approach their jobs with excitement and new ideas. Instead of feeling of uncertain or inadequate, they can work to the best of their abilities. They develop a renewed sense of value as an individual, and as a part of something greater than themselves.

Some may wonder if it is possible to maintain a unified team in seasons of conflict. As it turns out, these principles are even more important during difficult times. In the face of challenges, goal-setting and communication cannot be overdone. But, keep it positive. Rather than finding fault or placing blame, work together to pinpoint the real root of problems. Instead, involve team members in identifying specific steps to resolve challenging issues.

Leading a team through conflict may seem like a big job, but coming out on the other side together boils down to small, intentional actions that don't necessarily take a lot of time or effort—little things that must be done over and over again. A unified team, in calm waters or stormy seas, results from good leadership, positive communication and a culture that values personal growth.