Dental Practice Coaching - joined hands

Head, Heart And Hands

“People often tell me that motivation doesn’t last, and I tell them that bathing doesn’t either.  That’s why I recommend it daily.” – Zig Ziglar

This month begins the last quarter of the year, when we can “drive it home” to finish off a great year in our practices.  The essential ingredient of achieving this is the teamwork of a cooperative and motivated team.  At virtually every program we present, doctors ask us, “How do I motivate my team?” or “What can I do to get them to do what I need them to?…I don’t understand why they just don’t get it!

The problem is that it is the doctors who do not “get it”.  The question that they should be asking is, “What can I do to help my team become motivated?”.  The difference may sound semantic, but it is significant.  Motivation cannot be instilled in others.  For someone to be motivated, it must come from them…it’s an internal phenomenon.  It is an internal process that makes a person move towards a goal.  It is an inner power that pushes them toward taking action and toward achievement.

If we want a dog to do a trick or behave in a certain way we can either seduce the dog with a treat, “throw the dog a bone”, or we can abuse the dog with a kick in the butt or a shouted command.  Whichever end of the dog we are working from, the fact remains that if we remove our “stimulus”, the dog will stop doing what we wanted it to do.

With our dental teams the way that we help them become motivated is to increase the aspects of their position that they find satisfying and decrease the aspects that they find dissatisfying.  Remembering that it is our team who are truly the most important people in our practices, more so than the patients, we must create systems that utilize their talents, create policies that show them we care about them and be generous with praise and appreciation.  If we have policies that are unfair (ie. not caring about their family obligations), conditions that are unsafe (ie. poorly lighted parking lot at night), and little or no expressions of gratitude, then it is unrealistic that these team members will be motivated to want to help our practices succeed.  The leadership challenge is to formulate a vision for the practice, engage the team in the vision and then create motivation for execution of the vision with generous displays of appreciation and gratitude.

Engagement seems to be a great challenge at this time in many areas of the business world.  I recently attended a Leadership Development Workshop where engagement was reinforced with a concept called “Head, Heart and Hands”.  Let’s take a look at how this relates to our practices.

When we engage the “Head” of our team members it is usually done through some sort of training or continuing education.  If we can reinforce the understanding of new or updated knowledge with follow-up conversations and processing there is a far greater intellectual engagement.  Don’t just tell your clinical assistant the sequence that you want restorative instruments handed to you, make sure that they understand your criteria for wanting it done that way.  Don’t just tell your hygienist to do root planing on one to three teeth when limited pocketing is detected, but rather tell them how, when you “go subgingival” during a prophy, you are really doing your patient a disservice by failing to have them take ownership of a disease process.

When our team members have this level of understanding in their head, then they are able to become committed to the process of change and improvement and this, further, allows them to put their “Heart” into their work on behalf of the practice.  When our team members have this increased sense of purpose it also gives them a much higher level of fulfillment.  You may begin to hear your team members speaking about how they are proud to be a part of this process and of what is being accomplished each and every day.

The enthusiasm that ensues is what enables them to engage their “Hands” in doing what is necessary to see that their tasks are done in the most efficient and productive way possible.  When the “hands” are symbolicly engaged in this way you see higher levels of initiative and resourcefulness.  Team members who are engaged in this way do not just bring you problems.  They are constantly focused on team improvement and when they detect something not working as well as it could be done, they are more likely to go out on a limb and present a possible solution, as well.

In my own practice recently we were discussing how we engage our patients in referrals of “new patients” to the practice.  Of course we recognize our patients for referring others with a “Care-to-share”-type of program, and multiple referrers receive additional recognition.  What our Patient Coordinator, Debbie, suggested was that we engage our patients who have previously exhibited the confidence in our office to refer others with a more focused and targeted appeal because they have already shown this confidence and trust.  Debbie showed that she was fully engaged by using her “Head” to think “outside the box” for a new way of doing something, by using her “Heart” to genuinely want to create change and by using her “Hands” to not only come up with the idea, but to have also created the list of patients who would receive this appeal and to have already written a draft of what would be sent out.  I do not ever need to “motivate” Debbie.  Her level of motivation is completely internal and for this I greatly appreciate everything that she contributes to our practice.

Let’s begin to create motivation in our teams and engage their “Heads”, “Hearts” and “Hands” in the development of all of our practices.

For more information about the engagement of your teams,
please call 516-599-0214 or send an email to