What is effective teamwork in dentistry?
Teamwork is defined as:
“Work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personnel prominence to the efficiency of the whole.”
The last four words are the key here – “efficiency of the whole”.
I have experienced many different ways to introduce the concept of effective teamwork in dentistry.
These include anything from “to do” lists and charts outlining employee role-specific tasks to a broad list that must be accomplished by the team as a whole.
One thing both methods require is a monitor – someone to check that all tasks are being completed, which can get tricky when the employee checking lists have lists of their own that they need to accomplish as well.
Who checks the checker to make sure everyone does their part?
What if we could look at the required tasks as an opportunity to make our business thrive, instead of mundane chores?
As an opportunity to make our workplace a well-oiled machine running full speed ahead?
What if we went even further than our designated list and completed tasks not asked of us, or maybe even designated to others, just because they needed to be done?
Sounds like a whole lot of teamwork to me!
Teamwork makes the dream work
Working as a team within your dental practice should sound like a “no brainer.”
So, why do some of us know how to make teamwork a real thing, while others struggle to share responsibilities?
Over the last decade, I have worked numerous positions, from dental assistant to practice administrator.
During those years, I’ve seen hundreds of employers and employees struggle with teamwork within their practices.
Many employers feel like “doing the bare minimum” is enough to keep their practice alive.
If patients are walking through the door, we are meeting the needs…right?
But the collaborative effort between the staff is equally as important as seeing patients.
The Bare Minimum
Employers and managers find it frustrating when employees feel that the bare minimum effort is the best they have to offer.
This attitude does not foster the teamwork mentality, and I guarantee if you use it, you won’t have your position for long.
A key point to remember when thinking about teamwork is that it’s not all about you.
You are privileged to have a job and need to treat every person, no matter their rank, with the same level of respect.
This mentality is demonstrated through your actions and open communication.
How can you possibly understand what your role is in an ever-changing dental office without communication?
Each patient has different needs and expectations. It is the dental team’s job to make sure the patient feels comfortable and confident with the flow of the office.
Maintaining this flow relies heavily on efficient communication.
Some employees have a hard time communicating in a group setting, while others find it difficult to express themselves one to one.
If either of these is holding you back from effectively communicating with your coworkers, there are always other solutions:
- Write it down: Write your suggestions or concerns in a note and give it to your superior. This is an easy way to get all your thoughts organized without having to be in a face to face discussion.
- Meet one-on-one: Ask to speak directly with your supervisor if large groups are a barrier to expressing yourself. Communicating your ideas and needs are important and will be welcomed by your superior since it demonstrates your commitment to the practice and its growth.
- Practice empathy: If you’re a practice manager, try to remember how difficult it may have been for your staff to come forward and talk about issues. Also, be sure to welcome suggestions and present them to the team for discussion, promoting effective communication and team growth.
The magic question
Effective teamwork in dentistry can be distilled down to a single question:
“What can I do to help?”
This simple but effective question can make a huge difference when working collectively.
There is a chance you may be asked to do a task outside of your training or comfort zone at times but view the request as a compliment.
They may believe your potential and capabilities far exceed your usual tasks and are trusting you enough to accept your help.
Take this as an opportunity to do your best to complete the task efficiently and effectively.
Ask for clarification or additional instructions if you don’t feel comfortable with the job at hand.
By asking how you can help, you’re showing that you’re a team player.
No matter what the task entails or the level of skill it takes to perform it, offer to help in order to meet the needs of the office.
The efficiency of the whole is, by definition, teamwork.
This idea of asking to do additional tasks is something I instill in my team.
You may not know how to do every task for each office role, and coworkers may tell you they do not need help, but you will feel better knowing you asked. And they will know they can count on you to help if needed.
As a leader, it is my role to check and double-check staff multiple times over the course of the day.
Imagine how amazing it is to have an employee come up and ask ME what they can do to help instead of me telling them.
It’s really that simple.
When it comes to effective teamwork in dentistry, the only phrase your staff needs to use is:
“What can I do to help.”
Every workplace requires teamwork
Utilize open communication and consistent expectations to make it happen.
Take time to think of others when performing your daily tasks.
Do things with joy, efficiency, and above all, remember that others deserve your best.
There is a great joy to be found in an efficient workplace and it all starts with you implementing and expecting TEAMWORK.
Meet the Author
Claudia Paye, FAADOM is a Practice Administrator in St. Johns, FL. She is also a proud mother to four and a new grandmother.
In 2016, she was awarded the Henry Schein Green Leader Award and in 2017, she was named one of the Top 25 Women in Dentistry. Claudia is also a recipient of the AADOM Office Manager of Distinction award.
She is a former president of the NYC AADOM Chapter…Opens in a new window to NYC AADOM Chapter… and is now a proud board member of the NE FL AADOM Chapter…Opens in a new window to NE FL AADOM Chapter…. For over twenty years, she has prided herself on amazing service to her patients and the surrounding communities.
In her free time, she enjoys traveling, hiking, running Disney marathons, and listening to country music.