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Overcoming the “Buts” in Your Dental Practice

Description: Overcoming the “buts” in your dental practice –- is that really the best reason to reject change?

When trying to grow your dental office or your dental team, the only thing standing in your way is the perception of what’s possible.

In order to move your office forward, you need to not only move yourself forward but also your team. If there is not a communal desire to change or need to grow among the entire team, nothing will happen. The first step to change is recognizing the need.

As with most changes in life, there are three perceptions that need to be recognized and addressed in order to fully acquire the change wanted. Perception is the way you think about something, but it is more than just observing. It involves seeing, processing and comprehending. Two people can see the same thing in front of them and have two totally different perceptions of what they saw. It is because the key part of perception is the processing, which comes from within and cannot be forced upon someone. It can, however, be influenced by outside factors and hopefully (if used positively) can help to move spur change, improvement, or growth.

The first perception is the one of the current state.

  • How are things currently in your dental office?
  • Is every aspect of your business where you want it to be?

If I were to ask everyone on your team how things are going on a certain topic—let’s say, the customer experience you give all your patients—it’s likely that I would receive a variety of different answers. One employee says that the experience is amazing, and another employee says that it’s average at best. How could it be that people who work in the same office with the same patients and following the same regulations and principles would come up with different answers? Well, the reason is that their response is coming from their own filters, experience, and how they tend to perceive things overall in life. One employee might have feelings or experiences in their past that leads them to believe the service you offer is average, where another employee might have never worked in any other offices that did better, therefore perceiving that what you offer is comparatively amazing.

The next perception that influences growth is the need or desire for change.

In order to achieve change, you have to be able to perceive what that change will look like and the reason behind it. You have to know where you are going and be able to see, in your mind’s eye, at least a rough idea of what that new change will look like for you and your office. For example, if you are looking to improve customer service in your practice and you want the employees to make the changes required to achieve this goal, they need to know specifically what that looks like. They need to understand precisely what customer service means from your perspective and what steps they will need to take in order to create the level of change you are wanting.

The last perception, then, is the one of how to get to the desired change.

This is the analysis of the work that needs to be done, the skills that need to be learned, the attitude that needs to be adjusted, etc., in order to get there. This third perception is the hardest one to work with, because often it calls for discomfort or extra work. Many times, even when people can recognize the need for change and can visualize the positive outcome of implementing the change might be, in the end, they still will not actually make the change because the level of discomfort is just too high for them. They may say they support the change but then be unwilling or unable to actually carry through with implementation of the very thing they seemed to be agreeing with.

Typically, it is because of their “buts.” (And yes, of course I mean “but” not “butt.” Anytime someone starts a sentence with “but,” you can be sure that it will be followed by some kind of excuse or reason why something can’t happen. This is usually designed to seem like they are on your side and agreeing with what has been stated, followed by an explanation of why they can’t or won’t do something. Great examples of this in the dental office are things like:

“But my patients don’t have money.” (Are you sure about that?)
“But we’re too busy for lunch.” (Are you certain that your schedule cannot be improved?)
“But we’ve always done it this way.” (What if there is a better way?)

I think we should eliminate the word “but” when we are talking about change.

It is a word that is designed as a roadblock to innovation and new ideas, and it is never a helpful part of the discussion. As part of helping your team get on board with new changes, you may have to guide them to understand how “but” can hinder progress. Understand why are they saying “but.” Ask them: is that really the best reason to reject change? They may need to more clearly understand the benefits of the change and the importance of pulling together as a team to create what is needed for your office to thrive.