Four Steps in Developing a Dental Team

By James V. Anderson, DMD

This article represents the tenth in a series of articles discussing the 14 Management Principles from The Toyota Way  a book authored by *Jeffrey Liker. The principles illustrated in Toyota’s management systems can be applied to improving the efficiency in dental practice operations.

Team development for many dentists may translate into something they don’t have the skills to do. There is an age-old question as to whether good leaders are born or made. If you must be a “born leader” to lead, then the rest of us are doomed to follow. Yet, if that were the case, the multibillion-dollar a year leadership development industry is wasting time and money. Fact is: to have a great team; you must be a great leader.

Step 1: Become a leader
Leaders can be made whether they have inherited certain personality traits or not. Having an outgoing and extroverted personality is said to make a better leader. That is a myth worth busting. My personality is introverted, yet I can effectively lead my dental practices and my business, eAssist. Having a purpose more significant than yourself creates a need to develop the leadership traits to achieve the goal.

To be a successful dentist and a good leader, find purpose in what you do. Create a vision of what you want to develop and then get started. Good leaders are self-made and driven by their mission and values. Developing a harmonious, dedicated team of people requires that you define your purpose and turn on your leadership energy to motivate and inspire your team.

At Toyota, the gradual processing of developing working teams came partly from the works of Ken Blanchard, the famed author of The One-Minute Manager. Ken Blanchard believes that organizations must be developed over time in a gradual process. You cannot jump from a bunch of performing individuals to a performing team without vision, structure, and direction.

Step 2: Find the right team members who will follow your lead.
Many dentists tell me that finding good people is difficult. Don’t create resistance. Look at the system that you use to hire and ask yourself whether you are putting out a big enough net to attract the best. Are you creating an ad that attracts the best of what you are searching for? Are you networking and seeking talent from trusted sources?

Studying Toyota’s methods of hiring shows us that Toyota selects one person out of hundreds of job applicants after searching for months. Clearly, the right capabilities and characteristics of people matter to them. Finding the best individual performers and merging them into a performing team takes time and many directions from the leaders in the business.

Step 3: Leaders must provide strong direction. Proper orientation and introduction to the practice mission, culture, values, and goals must be communicated by the leader(s). The leaders, including the dentist(s), practice management, and others must be on the same page so that the new team member can be integrated into the team smoothly.

Written policies and procedural manuals support the application of teamwork because there are standards in place that all can understand and follow.

People enjoy the security of belonging to a team, but they also want a certain amount of autonomy and feeling of control over how they perform their work — getting recognition separately and as a team is essential to feel valued.

Step 4: Integration into the work required in the practice, standards, and expectations, and performance rewards. The group begins to understand the roles of various team members, and new members learn how they fit into the structure and support of the existing team. It is the goal of a great team for everyone to perform their job functions at their top level. Train your team to look for continuous improvement opportunities. Ways to save money, time, and to be more efficient rewards the teams for improving not only production but morale, attendance, and cooperation.

Building exceptional teams start with the motivational purpose of their leaders. Providing meaningful work, feedback on progress and occasional rewards help people feel their use is necessary and recognized.

Originally published in The Dentist’s Network


James Anderson, DMD was an entrepreneur before becoming a dentist. His leadership and business presentations offer dentists the essentials needed to achieve the practice and life of their dreams. His speaking programs help dentists realize their full practice potential by combining dental clinical skills with excellent business skills to create a profitable and enjoyable dental practice career.

View James’ full bio