Nurturing Your Dental Teams: How Does Your “Garden” Bloom?

Blog about annual planning

This summer while working in my garden, I started thinking about how taking care of my flowers is a lot like taking care of my dental team. I enjoy being outdoors working when spring starts and as things come to life. Living in Wisconsin, we love to see things come to life after a long cold winter. I love it when summer comes, and the colors are in full bloom in the flower beds and the sun is bright and hot. Just as a gardener tends to their garden to ensure it flourishes with vibrant blooms, nurturing your dental team is essential for cultivating a thriving practice environment and fostering professional growth.

So how does my garden resemble my team?


We will start with the dirt. To grow beautiful flowers, you must have good soil, it needs to be full of nutrients and be rich for growing. The soil needs to be rich and soft, not hard-packed and full of rocks. Good soil provides the anchorage for growing plants. Think of your office as the soil, is it ready to anchor your team and help them grow? Is the office a negative environment? You need the right mix of nutrients, or your soil will be prone to pests and disease. The office environment needs to promote growth, energy, and a positive place to work. Your dirt must be easy to work with, is your office an easy place to work? Some offices get stuck in old ways and are not a welcoming place to work.



Next come the plants or seeds, you need good healthy ones. The plants and seeds are your team, to have a great team you must start with great people.  I remember working in offices where the doctor would hire the first live, breathing person who walked through the door, then wonder why they caused so many disruptions in the office. It takes some work to find the right people for your team, but it is so worth the time you invest in finding them. Make a list of what qualities are important to your office and look for those when hiring. I have interviewed great hygienists and assistants, but they were not a good fit for our team. Are the “seeds healthy” to start with and ready to grow in the rich soil they are planted in? Is your team a growing team or a dying team? Are some team members like weeds, which choke out the healthy beautiful flowers? If you have weeds that have deep roots, they are tough to pull out and get rid of, but necessary to keep your garden healthy. If you leave weeds unattended, they will take over your garden. Make sure you are weeding your garden regularly if it is not growing and producing great flowers. Make sure to plan out where you plant your seeds, and take care not to put big overpowering plants next to small delicate plants. The small plants won’t grow and be productive. When you have a new team member, pair them with an experienced staff member to learn the ropes. You must know your team members and their personality types to bring their best.


Once you have good soil and have chosen the right plants and seeds, now you need to fertilize and care for them. Our teams need to be fertilized also with continuing education and learning about all the new technology and materials in dentistry.  It is not once and done, you must continually feed those seeds. Do you take time out of your schedule to feed your team? Make sure you build training days into your schedule at least 6 months ahead of time so that everyone can attend, and you can block off the time in the appointment book. Let’s not forget about watering our seeds, this too is a constant job.  I think of watering as the verbal praise we give our team when we see them doing great things and taking care of our patients.  Do you know that most employees want verbal recognition over money? This is something that everyone on the team can do in letting their coworkers know how they appreciate the things they do. The doctor and team should do this daily and after 30 days it becomes a habit. Great leadership is like the sunshine our garden needs to grow, it needs to show up daily and shed warmth on the seeds and dirt. Think about how your garden would look if never saw the sun, we all need a good dose of vitamin D.


Beautiful gardens take work daily, and so do our teams and office. Do you have the best gardener to take care of the garden? The office manager must be someone who can manage the team, multitask, and be able to pull weeds and water the garden daily. Don’t be afraid to ask the team what they need to grow and bloom on a regular basis. Don’t just listen to what they say, take action if it will make the office a better place.  Currently, offices are having a lot of turnover and issues with staff shortages, take a hard look at the reason for turnover. Maybe asking an outsider for a look at your office and give feedback on what they see with an outside set of eyes and ears. I walked into the offices and could right away see why team members had left. Do an anonymous survey with your team to get their feedback on the working environment.  Make sure you act on the feedback; this tells your team how much you value their feedback.  I tell my team when I hire them, we will spend a lot of time together and I want them to come to work and take care of our patients. We will take care of them.  If your team dreads walking through the door each day, that negative energy will take a toll on other team members and patients.

Take a good look at your garden, how does it look?  Is it full of growing and blooming flowers or full of weeds and dying?

My wish is that your gardens are full and lush and may your vases be full of beautiful bouquets. Happy gardening!


A banner with AADOM members and a call-to-action to subscribe

About the Author

Marsha Pilgrim

Marsha Pilgrim, MAADOM

Marsha has over 35 years of experience in the dental office, both as a dental assistant and an office manager. Originally, she trained as a dental assistant while serving in the US Navy.

During her 35 years in dentistry, Marsha has managed her husband’s practice, worked as a dental consultant (15 years), and worked as a certified trainer for Dentrix (15 years). She is a lifetime member of AADOM, a Certified Consultant with Bent Ericksen & Assoc., and a member of the Academy of Dental Management Consultants. Marsha will be inducted into the 2023 class of AADOM Masters (MAADOM) in September.





Become an AADOM Author

Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *