Future-proof your dental team: ask ‘who’, not ‘how’

Shifting your focus from 'how' to 'who' will build a dental practice where team members can thrive, says Lucie Simic.

Shifting your focus from ‘how’ to ‘who’ will build a dental practice where team members can thrive, says Lucie Simic.

On the journey to creating a dream dental team, one question should resonate more profoundly: ‘Who?’, not ‘How?’

Recently I was reminded of this principle by Steven Bartlett at the Birmingham Dentistry Show, but it was first introduced to me by Dan Sullivan in his book, Who Not How, where he eloquently talks about how this thinking holds the key to unlocking a team’s potential and driving unprecedented success.

Traditionally, when faced with a challenge or a goal, our immediate response tends to focus on the ‘how’—the methods and processes necessary to achieve the desired outcome. While this approach is inherently practical, it often overlooks a crucial factor, the ‘who.’

Sullivan’s book emphasises the transformative power of identifying the right people who can bring unique skills, perspectives and energies to the table. By focusing on ‘who’, which can help to achieve the goal rather than ‘how’ to do it ourselves, we open the door to collaboration, innovation and efficiency.

Learning and development

In the context of a dental practice, the ‘who’ extends beyond simply hiring new talent. It encompasses the continuous upskilling of our existing team members. Upskilling is not just a trend, it’s a necessity. As technology advances and patient expectations evolve, so too must our skills and capabilities.

Investing in ongoing education and training ensures that our teams remain at the forefront of the industry, equipped to deliver exceptional care and service.

For practice owners and managers, this means fostering a culture of learning and development. Encourage your team to pursue advanced certifications, attend workshops and training events, and participate in professional development opportunities. By doing so, you not only enhance their competencies but also demonstrate your commitment to their growth and success.


Central to the ‘who, not how’ philosophy is the art of delegation. Effective delegation is not about offloading tasks but about entrusting the right tasks to the right people. It’s about recognising the unique strengths and talents within your team and leveraging them to drive the practice forward.

When making decisions that lead to business growth, consider who within your team is best suited to take on new responsibilities or projects. This not only ensures that tasks are handled efficiently and effectively but also provides team members with opportunities to shine and grow.

Delegation fosters a sense of ownership and accountability, leading to a more motivated and engaged workforce.

Culture and environment

A successful dental practice is one where team members feel valued, challenged, and fulfilled. It’s essential to create an environment where employees are motivated. And not just by their roles but by the opportunities for growth and development that come with them. The goal should be to have team members who are not just satisfied but are enthusiastic about their work and their future within the practice.

Imagine having a team member who, over the course of five years, continually grows, contributes, and evolves with the practice. This team member, enriched by new skills and experiences, is far more valuable than someone who remains stagnant over two decades. The latter may bring longevity, but without motivation and growth, their contribution is limited.

Of course, a mix of both is often what is needed. But as the generation entering the workforce changes, we will need to get comfortable accepting that culture and environment will play an ever-increasing role in successful recruitment and retention.

Top tips

Here are my five tips for future-proofing your dental team:

  1. Identify key strengths: Regularly assess your team’s skills and strengths. Understand what each team member brings to the table and how their unique abilities can be utilised more effectively
  2. Create development plans: Work with your team to develop personalised growth plans. These plans should outline specific goals, training opportunities and timelines for achievement
  3. Encourage collaboration: Foster a collaborative environment where team members are encouraged to share knowledge and support each other’s growth. This can be achieved through team-building activities, regular meetings and a culture of open communication
  4. Recognise and reward: Acknowledge the efforts and achievements of your team. Recognition can be a powerful motivator, and rewarding progress encourages continued growth and commitment
  5. Lead by example: As a practice owner or manager, demonstrate your commitment to the ‘who, not how’ philosophy by continually seeking out new knowledge and skills yourself. Your actions will inspire your team to follow suit.

By shifting our focus from ‘how’ to ‘who,’ we can build a dental practice that is not only resilient and adaptable but also a place where team members thrive. This approach ensures that our practices remain at the cutting edge of the industry, capable of meeting the challenges of the future with confidence and creativity.

Read more from Lucie Simic:

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