Does your practice team have a head cheerleader?

Does your practice team have a head cheerleader?

Les Jones speaks to Lucie Simic about the importance of having a ‘head cheerleader’ in your practice – someone responsible for making sure the team is thriving.

As the problems with recruitment and retention of dental teams shows no sign of abating, it’s now more important than ever to ensure existing staff are happy and motivated.

Dental business coach Lucie Simic will join a panel to discuss this at Practice Plan’s Dental Business Theatre at this year’s Dentistry Show Birmingham on 17 and 18 May. Here she talks to the session’s host, Practice Plan’s creative director Les Jones, about the importance of giving employees meaning and of having a ‘people person’ in practice.

Les Jones (LJ): The theme of the Dental Business Theatre this year is all around the future of dentistry and the title of the session you’ll be involved in is ‘Building a practice team for the future’. What is it you’re hoping people will take away from the session? 

Lucie Simic (LS): What I would like is for dental business owners who come to the session to recognise that their staff don’t have to be cajoled and manipulated but made to feel appreciated. Because when you aren’t made to feel individually appreciated, then everything becomes meaningless. 

I think there are two big factors to this. The first one for me is the ‘why’. People want to know why they’re doing something. And the reason ‘why’ can’t just be ‘because we’ve always done it that way’. For example, my sister is a teacher, and her school always has parents’ evening on a Thursday evening. And when I questioned her about it, she said: ‘Well, it’s just always on a Thursday.’ I can often go into a dental practice and be given exactly the same response to a question: ‘but we’ve always done it like this’. 

That can be very dangerous for the practice. That attitude can cause you to sink, because as new people join your workforce, they’re not going to want to do things that way just because that’s how it’s always been. They might have new ideas and suggestions for ways to do things. However, if those new suggestions get quashed and ignored, then their motivation will just disappear because there’s no meaning. So, business owners really need to think about that ‘why’. 

‘Consider individual appreciation’

Once they’ve thought about their why they then need to consider individual appreciation. I genuinely believe that a vital role in practice is the ‘people person’, whatever title that job may have. The person who looks after the people in the practice. Historically in my practices, that job has fallen to me.

However, I can do that because I’ve had great people who would take on other parts of the role. I was able to delegate which meant that other team members were able to step up. That created a happy environment, but it also allowed me to be that people person. My time was spent making sure that patients, the dentists, team members – everybody really – could feel the way they were meant to feel in practice. 

LJ: So, when you were running a practice, it was more important for you to make sure all the people in the practice were looked after and morale was high, rather than concentrating on compliance and other admin tasks that you could delegate to someone else? Is that the advice you would give to other practice owners?

LS: Yes. When I started out, I was called a general manager because it was more akin to a hotel general manager. When you think about a general manager in hospitality, they are somebody who is on the shop floor sometimes or wandering around a restaurant making sure everything and everyone is okay. And I think that lines up much better with the role I had in practice. Some people would rather be described as a business manager. Especially if the post holder wanted more focus on business figures and operations. But for me, I think the general manager and the hospitality link is very much where it sits.

That’s what was important to me. Just because that’s what I did doesn’t mean that that’s what another practice manager, or general manager would do. They might choose to focus on a slightly different part of it. However, what they do need to recognise is that someone needs to act as head cheerleader and raise everyone’s morale. 

Sometimes in practice we are asking the impossible of people and that’s when you need your head cheerleader, whoever they are. Because it might be that person is a nurse, your receptionist, or another team member. It shouldn’t fall to someone who doesn’t enjoy that part of the job. But you do need someone to fulfil that role.

‘They’re there for whoever needs that little bit of lifting’

It’s that Disney magic, isn’t it? Someone told me they had a zipp-a dee-doo-dah policy in practice. When I asked them what it was, they said, ‘it’s just zip-a-dee-doo-dah, whatever magic we can bring to the day.’  I love the thought of having a zip-a-dee-doo-dah policy. That’s the kind of role that a leader or a practice manager/general manager should be bringing to the day. They’re there for whoever needs that little bit of lifting. That’s what we do.

Another important factor that helps with morale, team building and motivation, is communication. Far too often teams are going through weeks, months, sometimes years, without anyone ever communicating directly with them about the purpose of the business. They aren’t told where they’re going, what it looks like, or what changes may be coming their way. There’ll be occasions when they come in to work and somebody will tell them something has been changed completely. They won’t know why or how. That sort of behaviour just breeds confusion because change is scary. 

So, communicating regularly and having a plan that sets out who gets communicated with weekly, monthly and then quarterly and what information gets passed on is essential to maintain the morale of a team.

LJ: Thank you, Lucie.

Lucie will be joining Practice Plan as a panellist at the Dental Business Theatre at Dentistry Show Birmingham on May 17 and 18. If you’re considering introducing private dentistry into your NHS practice and are looking for a provider who will hold your hand through the process whilst moving at a pace that’s right for you, why not join us for a chat on stand K50 at Dentistry Show. Otherwise start the conversation with Practice Plan on 01691 684165, or book your one-to-one NHS to private call today:

For more information visit the Practice Plan website:

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