If you have a problem with your team, then the problem is you – part two

CSRMark Topley explains how corporate social responsibility (CSR) helps with leading your dental practice team.

In my last blog, I wrote about the critical need for leadership in order for a business to succeed.

In fact, when problems persist in teams they are absolutely the leader’s responsibility.

I took part in an excellent day-long study club organised by Dentinal Tubules entitled ‘Leadership in Practice’ last month.

It was a huge encouragement and a lot of fun to spend the day with clinicians and managers who are taking steps to improve their level of leadership – to develop their skills and thereby lift the ‘lid’ on their potential success, as author John C Maxwell would put it.

In this blog, I’m going to outline the key takeaways from that day. The lessons I learned from the other presenters Dhru Shah, Justin Leigh and Simon Gambold. I’ll also explain the thrust of my session – CSR as a leadership tool.


Dhru Shah, founder or Dentinal Tubules inspires those around him with his enthusiasm and passion. Not just for dentistry and education, but also for doing things right, and doing the right things.

My first takeaway from the day and the leadership quality that Dhru demonstrated was energy. Not energy in the sense of being loud or gregarious necessarily. But the smouldering belief and power that a leader has to bring to the organisation. It’s that energy that the team needs to feed off when things are tough.

Emotional intelligence

Takeaway number two is emotional intelligence. Justin Leigh of Focus4growth took us through a really useful session on the fundamentals of EI and how to apply it in practice.

Justin has loads of great videos on his website and they are well worth a look.

The key thing I took from the talk was that emotional intelligence is not about being ’soft’. Instead it’s much more about choosing to take time for your team. Time to learn about what makes people behave in the way they do. And time to spend with people to work through their issues when they inevitably come up.

I was recently really encouraged by a chat with a friend facing a tough time at work.

Things were busy and had been for some time, and they were struggling to keep going. When they contacted their boss (a busy person with huge responsibilities themselves), they immediately cleared their diary and made time to sit with my friend and work things through.

This isn’t just the human thing to do, it’s smart business.

Burnout, mental health and stress cost business multiple millions each year in lost productivity. Stopping people from slipping will save us time and money.

Whether it’s someone who needs a minute to offload, or a team member who needs extra support through a bigger life issue, EI is about understanding and time.

Engagement and communication

Takeaway number three was from Simon Gambold – former VP of Henry Schein Europe, and now a business coach.

Simon’s talk focused on the need to engage and communicate.

Getting your team engaged is critical for many reasons, engaged teams are more productive, more profitable, advocate for the business and are far less likely to leave.

Again – it’s not soft – it’s smart business.

Simon also highlighted regular and systematic communications as a foundation. Daily, weekly and monthly rhythms of communication are the oil that lubricates the relationships and understanding a team needs if everything is to keep moving forward. 

And finally my session on CSR. CSR relates to the decisions you take about how you will act towards your people (team and patients), the environment, and your community.

What does that have to do with a day on leadership? Plenty!

Here are four reasons why a CSR approach is an essential leadership tool

CSR clarifies and communicates your purpose

As Simon Sinek says, profit is not your purpose – profit is a result.

If you want to engage and attract patients and staff, you have to be about much more than profit. To illustrate the point, we should look to the non-profit world.

My work career included 15 years leading a charity – Bridge2aid. We experienced 10-fold growth in 10 years.

Why were we able to consistently attract volunteers to give up weeks of their time and thousands of pounds in potential revenue? How could we employ and retain gifted and committed team members to work for far less that they could command in the marketplace?

Simple – they were giving themselves to the purpose of the charity, and in doing so, fulfilling their own purpose.

I do get that there’s a difference between business and charity, but you absolutely have to know what your purpose is as a practice, and invite your team to be a part of delivering that purpose day-to-day.

Setting expectation

Addressing your purpose and the values that flow from it will create an expectation of how you expect people to go about their work.

Purpose gives you the why. Values give your team the how. Defining your values, and critically, the desired behaviours that go alongside them should be an essential part of your annual, quarterly, monthly and weekly leadership rhythm.

Challenging and stretching

I once read that a great leader is someone who can get people to achieve more than they thought they were capable of.

We all need people who will coach, encourage and support us to go beyond our comfort zones and take on challenges that will stretch us.

Through CSR activities like fundraising challenges, I’ve seen for myself, and witnessed countless others break through into new levels of confidence and self esteem through challenges.

Whether it’s an international one like climbing a mountain or trekking, a domestic one like abseiling or skydiving, or even a simple sponsored walk or run locally, challenges change people for the better, and you want those kinds of people in your team.

Development of people

At its heart, CSR has a key element of caring for the team and that means developing them. An investment in training is smart.

‘But what if we train them and they leave? What if you don’t train them and they stay?’

Of course people will move on, and that’s hard. You can’t predict nor control what people choose to do in the wider context of their lives.

But you can drastically increase the chances of them staying, and their effectiveness while they do, by making the necessary investment in training and development.

My approach has always been to recruit for values, and train the necessary skills. A high flyer with the wrong attitude can be a costly mistake.

Look for the people whose heart is right but need the development. It’s an investment that in my experience almost always pays off.

There are many more reasons and ways that CSR helps as a vehicle for your leadership, but these are a snapshot.

If CSR is something you’d like to investigate further, then my website has free resources to get you started.

It’s encouraging to see that there are more events like the Tubules Business Club fostering a positive approach to leadership.

We need strong and positive leaders in the profession and the industry.

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