Knowledge Is Not Power

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Knowledge is not power

We are all familiar with the term “Knowledge is power”.  Our teachers told it to us when we were growing up to inspire us to want to learn.  Business leaders and authors depend on this premise in the hope that we will buy their products or read their books.  Quite a few of us probably even heard our parents say this from time to time in the hope that we would take school more seriously.  If only knowledge were so powerful.

For many years I have attended a seminar series sponsored by the Peninsula Hospital Dental Society.  While the hospital is no longer in operation, that seminar series has continued.  I have always been thoroughly impressed with the caliber of the speakers who have presented in this lecture series.  Last year, for example, I had the privilege to see in consecutive months, Dr. Dennis Tarnow and Dr. Maurice Salama, arguably two of the most recognized dental implantologists in the country.  There were roughly 200 dentists in the room for each of those lectures.  Both gentlemen gave very impressive presentations and showed slides of incredibly beautiful, complex and difficult cases.  I am very fortunate to have a practice that enables me to do several cases each year that resemble the cases that were presented by the lecturers.  From meeting many of the dentists who attend those lectures, I have learned that most of them do not get to do cases like the ones presented.  It is not that they lack an understanding of the clinical or technical aspects of the treatment.  Instead, it is that they have not been able to master the skills necessary to inspire patients to want that level of care and then follow up with the systems and skills necessary to enable the treatment to be done.

If the smartest person in the world were able to instantly memorize every bit of information that he could from books, lectures and videos and then kept to himself, not doing anything with the knowledge, would he have power?  The answer to this is that he clearly would not.  What if a different person, a slow learner, worked at a grocery store stocking groceries on the shelves?  What if he mentioned to his manager that he had noticed that customers who purchase tortilla chips often go to the canned food aisle to then purchase dip and salsa and suggested that they move these items to the snack food aisle.  My guess is that salsa sales would increase and the store would benefit greatly from the increased sales.

We routinely have our coaching clients track various metrics in their practices.  Merely monitoring these numbers and trends, however, does little to affect change.  When you use calculations of hourly production to understand the impact of treating multiple teeth whenever possible, or of incorporating associated services, such as fluoride and sealants into hygiene appointments, you begin to feel the benefit of applying knowledge.   When we do an end-of year SWOT analysis of the performance of a practice, merely identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats does not bring about change.  It is when we use this information to develop strategies to enhance strengths, minimize weaknesses, increase opportunities and eliminate threats, that we facilitate meaningful improvement and growth in our practices.

Knowledge does have a lot to do with the amount of success we achieve, but it is pretty much useless unless you learn how to apply it.  Once we have gained our clinical knowledge it is even more important to master communication skills and to master an understanding of the forces that convert patients needs to wants.  It is the emotional factors more than the knowledge of facts that will inspire our patients to follow through with treatment.  They Didn’t Teach Us THAT In Dental School (What a great name for a book!!!)  They taught us clinical skills to complete minimally acceptable graduation requirements but they didn’t teach us how to succeed in dentistry.  They didn’t teach us how to enjoy practicing dentistry.  And they certainly didn’t teach us that the ultimate purpose of practicing dentistry was far beyond fixing teeth, but rather that we truly possess the ability to make a difference in people’s lives.

In order to accomplish this, we need to not only learn how to apply our dental knowledge, but how to apply life skills and experience in relationships and communication to our clinical knowledge base.   When we can do this creatively, and enthusiastically our patients become inspired and we are able to help them receive the type of care we admire from some of the wonderful clinical presentations we regularly attend.

For more information about applying knowledge to increase the rate of growth of your practice, please call 516-599-0214 or send an email to

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Write Your Own “50 Shades of Grey”

By admin,

Fifty shades of grey

One of the most popular books of recent years was “50 Shades of Grey” by E.L. James. It described a perverse relationship, deeply rooted in abuse and domination. It was such a steamy book that few people would read it with the cover in view of others. Its sales exploded in the e-book market where confidentiality in reading choices could be maintained, had it not been for the gaping looks and sweaty brows caused by the content of the story. No book read mostly by women, craving the lust of a romance novel, had ever been borrowed by spouses and significant others as much as “50 Shades of Grey”. It ignited a new sexual revolution of sorts.

Our practices are also in need of something revolutionary. What is going on in many practices is also perverse and a threat to healthy relationships.  It threatens the emotional health of practices and it leaves team members exasperated with frustration. But before you get all hot and bothered, I want to affirm that it has nothing to do with sex, though it may touch on abuse and domination, of a different sort and it can be emotionally scarring. It has to do with all of the “stuff” that clouds our sense of purpose in the daily delivery of care and caring.

The root of the problem is undefined expectations of others.  Most of the expectations of doctors for their team members can be described as black, or white.  “I expect her to be on time.”   “I expect them to clean up the staff room after lunch.”  I expect her to be prepared for the team meeting.”  “I expect the reception room to be vacuumed before we leave for the evening.”  “I can’t believe why she doesn’t get it!”

The problem with these expectations is not that they exist, but that they have not been clearly defined for the team members involved. The team members may be thinking, “It doesn’t matter if I get there a few minutes late.  The doctor doesn’t stroll in until a quarter past.”  “I’ll leave it for Mary to clean up because I cleaned up after lunch last Tuesday.”  “What can I contribute to the meeting? I’m just an assistant.”  “What different does it make if I vacuum tonight or if I come in 15 minutes early in the morning?”  “I don’t know what the doctor expects of me!”

All of these are “Gray” areas.  In the absence of some clearly defined determination of what is expected, it can be up for interpretation. This is why we recommend that each practice generate its own “50 Shades of Grey” or a “Culture Guide”, of sorts, to clearly define the expectations, in writing, for every member of the team. These expectations should be written and placed in a “Culture Guide” binder to be kept in full access to all of the team.

Some of the areas that can be addressed in this guide would be punctuality, expected levels of preparation for meetings and huddles, defining housekeeping responsibilities, determining the expected tone for interactions with patients and fellow team members, orchestrating teamwork for rotated responsibilities, expressing the importance of coordination for emergency or extended scheduling challenges, or anything similar.  When these responsibilities are clearly defined and each team member receives a copy, then there is no longer confusion over the “grayness” of expectations.  When expectations are clearly defined, then performance can be accurately evaluated and when appropriate, rewarded or questioned.  When these “gray zones” are eliminated, so are the arguments, hard feelings and disappointments that go along with them and there is much greater harmony in the practice.

We encourage you to schedule a team meeting to identify some of the “Grey” areas in your practices. Engage in respectful discussion. Come to definitive decisions. Try to have fun with it and be creative. But please leave the feathers, whips, handcuffs and blindfolds home…that day.


If you would like to find out more about growing your practice, please contact us.
Send us an email at
or call us at 516-599-0214.

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