How to recognise the key moment for change

‘An important role for any leader is to lead change,’ says Jamie Morley – but how do we know when the right moment for change is?

An important role for any leader is to lead change.

This can be at a very high level for the whole organisation, and it can be down to individual change of themselves and their individual team members.

Dental practices are typically not very large organisations. Therefore, it becomes very important that a principal, practice manager or nominated team leader within a practice can demonstrate the ability to change themselves and can facilitate others to change for the good of the practice.

There are multiple elements to individual change.

But for anyone who has read Atomic Habits by James Clear, he talks about the importance of recognising the key moment for when that change either will or will not occur. This really resonated with me on multiple fronts.

We have to remember that a great deal of what we do is being done unconsciously. We are often doing lots of things and making mini-decisions unconsciously and almost on auto-pilot.

This means we are often not aware of what we are doing and not fully present or conscious. Until we are conscious of it, we cannot actually change it. By recognising the key moment very specifically, that makes us aware of when we have to make that change.

Visualising the situation

When we are aware of the exact moment the change needs to occur, we will then start to visualise the situation.

We might still be visualising it in the current way, but we can now start to visualise it in the new way. Our brain is extremely capable of being able to visualise and create new pathways for doing new things – even without doing them.

As a result, this makes it much more likely that we will actually do it in the new way when it comes down to it.

Once we have recognised the situation, we can now be fully conscious in the choice we make. You can literally stop and go, ‘okay, this is the moment when I make the choice to do the new behaviour or not’.

As an example, perhaps you are a dentist and you want to speak to patients more consistently about treatments that are available to them. You might want to do this by enquiring about their wants and needs in terms of their smile.

When exactly is the moment where you will chose either to ask this question or not? When you describe exactly what typically happens? Will you go through it from when you greet the patient?

After you’ve said hello and exchanged conversation about how they are – is this the key moment? Where will you be? Can you visualise asking the patient a specific open question about their smile?

Why do you want to make the change?

If you are struggling to do this, then remind yourself why you are wanting to do it. What will it do for you, the practice and the broader world? Be very clear on this to help you overcome the discomfort of doing something new.

When you are looking to put a new process or action in place, you can ask your team members the questions to recognise the key moment:

What will the impact of doing this be both for you, the practice and our patients? When will you do this? Please can you tell me about the exact moment when you will do this new habit?

Try to describe it to me in detail. Can you visualise it?

You will have to judge the time and the place to do this with your team members.

For those you are confident will just do it, there is no need to go through this process. However, there will be situations and individuals where this is not the case.

Perhaps they have not made a change with something which you felt had already been agreed. Be genuinely curious in exploring this with them, trying to uncover the exact moment of change.

Recognising the key moment can help you change and can help you facilitate change in others.

Jamie Morley is the author of Lead Your Dental Practice available at

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