At Million Dollar PPO Coaching and Consulting, we focus on five factors that affect efficiency: clinical skills, systems, technology, marketing – and teamwork. While all five are important in creating a productive and profitable practice, teamwork is always an area that we dedicate much time and effort in improving.

That’s because, in order for optimal flow, a team must be well-trained, motivated, engaged, and energetic. And, while there are several factors that allow for optimal teamwork, one of the most critical is respect — respect between manager and team and between team and manager; respect for the policies, systems, and procedures in the practice; and, most importantly, respect among individual team members which fosters trust. This trust allows for a more supportive and productive environment.

We find that team members often choose to hoard responsibility as opposed to sharing it because they are afraid that, if they hand off a task, it won’t be done, or it will be done poorly or incompletely. In their effort to better serve the office, they choose to function more independently — and a vicious cycle is created. “I just do it myself so that it gets done properly,” they may say. Unfortunately, this same individual will often follow this comment with “I don’t have time to train/teach anyone how to do anything because I’m so busy doing everything!” These team members clearly lack trust. Trust in the system and trust in the training and ability of the people around them. This trust rarely has to do with an actual deficiency in ability, but rather comes from a few select past experiences in which their delegation led to disappointment for which they took or were held responsible. Through communication and coaching, trust can be rebuilt. Creating clear and effective systems and policies that each team member can learn is a great first step.

We also find that the “No ‘I’ In Team” philosophy is often misunderstood — and misinterpreted. As Eric Nuss says in his earlier article, there is an “I” in team. The entire team is made up of individuals. They all share qualities. They are all different. They are all talented, but in very diverse ways. We often find that it is their dissimilarities that make a team strongest. Too frequently coaches and managers try to change individuals’ behaviors within a team instead of focusing on the strengths of each team member and creating ways to exploit talents and work around weakness. Stop wasting time trying to change team members and, instead, harness the things about them that fit well within a team and use those strengths to achieve your goals!

Focus on “cross-doing” as opposed to cross training. Learning a skill is important, but using that skill regularly to benefit the team is what separates efficiency from mediocrity. We are regularly confronted with team members telling us about the skill sets that they possess and how rarely they are given the opportunity to use them. If acquired skills are not used, they atrophy. This disuse leads to hesitation. Hesitation creates barriers to teamwork and reduces efficiency. Support each other as you learn and practice. Mistakes happen — deal with it!! If errors occur, use them as opportunities to learn and grow as a team and as individuals.

Clear guidelines as well as effective systems allow teammates to empower each other and strengthen the level of trust within an office. In order for a team to function well together, each member must have faith that tasks will be completed accurately in a reasonable amount of time. If expectations or systems are unclear, communication can be challenging and mistakes are more likely to occur. Allowing for exceptions to your policies or procedures adds another level of uncertainty to a team’s dynamic and can increase the likelihood of misunderstandings and disappointments. We regularly try to reinforce the importance of avoiding exceptions. Doctors commonly make concessions with patients or team members out of fear or scarcity. While they are trying to do what they perceive is best for the practice, they are inadvertently destroying their team’s ability to work together and undermining trust.

Set up regular meetings and always keep an open dialogue. Make sure that your team communicates frequently so that any issues that arise can be dealt with swiftly and to prevent resentment and frustration. Create safety for your team and allow them to openly but constructively comment on the performance of the team or a specific individual. Be sure to allow your team to come to you, and foster an open door policy in your practice. Never punish communication; reward it and learn from it. Always make your discussions about the practice, and try to avoid making your issues personal.

You are part of a team. You and the team share a common goal. Your goal is to be productive and respectful. In order for you to achieve your goal, you must be able to recognize mistakes and help to correct them!

Finally, be sure to take the time every day to recognize success. All too often we focus on what went wrong and fail to appreciate a team member when they do something right. Take a minute to thank team members for jobs well done. Recognize them individually and as a group. You all work very hard with and for each other. Be sure that everyone around you knows how much you appreciate their hard work, and most importantly, say “THANK YOU!”

Dr. Matthew Krieger is CEO and founder of Million Dollar PPO, a dental practice consulting and coaching company serving dentists across the United States. Its core philosophy is increasing profitability through increasing efficiency. It works with its clients through various programs to ensure that they have the understanding and the tools to create the practice that they’ve always dreamed of.