Teach the team to fish!

Practice coach Dr. Joel Small notes that beside dentistry, a clinician must also learn to be a “people developer.” This concept is based around the time-tested proverb, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” So that dentists can do what we do best, dentistry, we must teach our staff members that they have valuable input into the business side of the practice. We must first believe that our staff is able to solve problems on their own without coming to us for every little issue. Believing that something can be done will eventually become an expectation that it will be done, and expectations have been shown to be powerful self-fulfilling prophesies.

Here’s how to empower your team to positive decision making!

  1. Let the team know that you will be seeking their input to problem solving, then immediately quit answering questions.
  2. When someone comes to you seeking a solution to a problem, tell them that you have a solution, but you would like to hear his/her solution first. In many cases, that staff member’s solution will work quite well or will require minimal adjustments.
  3. Always make a clear correlation between the solution and the guiding practice values and purpose. Over time, staff members will realize that you will not be answering questions without their input. More importantly they will realize that their solutions are good solutions and, with your support and encouragement, they will begin to solve problems independently within the confines of the practice’s purpose and values.

It is important at this juncture to be clear regarding decisions that you feel require your input. Surprisingly, as the people development process progresses, you will find that your input is required less and less. Fundamental to the people development process is a willingness by the leader to encourage input, acknowledge it when received, and affirm its value. People developers will tell you that they have grown to rely on their staff’s problem-solving capabilities. I can tell you that I have personally observed very positive changes in practices that have developed a people-development mentality.

Check out Dr. Small’s Small Talk column in Endodontic Practice US and our other practice development and management articles in all of our MedMark Media publications!