In the days leading up to Super Bowl XLIX, earlier this month, there was a tremendous amount of speculation that the New England Patriots had won their 7th AFC Championship by cheating and playing with underinflated game balls. Regardless of the results of the Super Bowl, which was won by the Patriots, and my personal preference as the former Team Dentist for the Patriots’ rival New York Jets, the Patriots success has nothing to do with the pressurization of their game balls. Quite simply, the Patriots have a superior system to any other team in the NFL and this is punctuated by the fact that they have been the most successful team in the NFL for the past 15 years. Their player selection is based on superior criteria, that is the product of their system and they practice differently than every team that they face. They also have a brilliant coach and a great, experienced team leader in Tom Brady.
When Bill Bellichik, the stone-faced coach of the Patriots, conducts practices, he does so under adverse conditions that exceed what the team will face in their games. The Patriots practice in some of the worst weather conditions in the country. This gives them an advantage on their home turf and also an advantage when they compete in other teams’ stadiums under less adverse conditions. Patriots practices are conducted on slippery, flooded, muddy fields with wind machines and rain machines brought in to simulate monsoon conditions. Balls are coated with mud, Vaseline and who knows what else to help the players learn improved ball control and security. It helps the players develop superior coping skills to avoid disastrous turnovers.
What does all of this have to do with dentistry? As Kelly and I have visited hundreds of dental practices in the past few years, we have often heard all of the excuses for disappointing levels of success, “the economy”, “insurance companies”, “unmotivated staff”, “drama and gossip”, “location”, “lack of cash” and “unappreciative patients”. I’m surprised that no one has blamed, “Underinflated game balls”.
Not a single one of these factors should have the capability to bring a practice down. The lack of success in a dental practice is due to deflated motivation, deflated initiative, deflated morale, deflated culture, under-inflated systems, underinflated communication skills and inadequate preparation.
In order to have a successful “season” in your practice, you must first establish a vision of what you want to accomplish. The Patriots vision was that they “win the Super Bowl”. Your vision should include concepts such as providing the highest quality care, providing outstanding service, showing how much you care about every patient, differentiating yourself from other practices, improving communication skills with patients, inspiring patients to accept more comprehensive and cosmetic care and practicing in a way that is profitable for you and your team, both emotionally and financially.
The next step is surrounding yourself with a team totally in tune with your vision. They must leave their personal “baggage” outside the office, be eager to learn and grow, avoid gossip and drama, and be cognizant of expectations, both of themselves and the other members of their team. The Patriots expectations of one another is that they will all give more than 100%. When the brunt of the speculation for “Inflategate” fell on Tom Brady, no one threw him under the bus. They all declared incredible confidence in their field leader.
Everything that is done in your office must be systematized. Just as the system is the key to the success of the Patriots, it is also the key to the success of your dental practices. Each team members’ responsibilities must be listed and described in detail…in writing. This creates independence from individuals and personalities and insures predictability in everything that is done.
Each doctor, or a member of each team, must step up to become a leader. The responsibility of the leader is to believe in the vision and to exhibit confidence to the rest of the team. This individual must lead by example and look for every opportunity to give recognition and praise to the other members of the team. Equally important is to distribute credit for success, accept responsibility for shortcomings and to offer constant encouragement to the others to create a feeling of motivation.
Lastly, the Patriots have great players such as Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. As professionals, they do not need someone to tell them how to throw a pass, how to run with the ball, how to catch the ball or how to block. They do need someone to help coordinate their efforts, to help them develop a strategy and to guide any necessary adjustments. They need someone to help them take advantage of opportunities that come up during the course of a game which are not seen during the heat of battle and advice on mid-course corrections as they are needed. This is the role of a coach. Every great team has a coach. This is a role that Kelly and I have embraced with much success in recent years with a multitude of practices in our area. It is a role we would welcome the opportunity to assume in any of your practices, where you might need help in patient motivation, organization, strategy, verbal skills, scripting, scheduling, case acceptance or team development. If necessary, we will also be glad to bring along a pump to alleviate any under-inflation issues, should they exist.
For more information about how coaching can help your practice, please call 516-599-0214 or send an email to smile firstname.lastname@example.org.