Encourage dialogue and open discussion with your team to avoid groupthink.
You have heard me say that we attract staff by reflecting an authentic image of ourselves that resonates with those who share our values and purpose. This is how we build an organization that reflects what we individually and collectively represent. This group of like-minded people becomes the foundation of a strong organizational culture that drives profitability.
This being said, there is an important distinction to be made between like-mindedness and mindlessness, and we disregard this distinction at our own peril. Like-mindedness, as applied to a healthy organization, is specific to shared values and purpose. There is no implication or desire in a healthy organization that a team be single-minded with regard to important organizational issues and decisions. In fact, the opposite is true. Healthy, productive organizations encourage dialogue and collaboration. Volumes of research have validated the benefits of group discussion and cooperation in defining alternative solutions and viewpoints.
Unfortunately, small clinical healthcare practices seldom tap into the power of healthy conversation and collaboration. Perhaps this is because the doctor has always been the diagnostician and decision-maker for his or her patients. This authoritarian mindset is so engrained that it goes beyond the clinical setting to govern our view of practice management. By dominating the decision-making process, the doctor unknowingly creates a culture based on learned helplessness in which the organization’s team feels powerless in altering their environment by making suggestions that go unappreciated or dismissed. Ultimately any attempt at collaboration ceases and the entire organization suffers as a consequence.
“Groupthink” is a well-researched phenomenon and is defined by dictionary.com as:
the lack of individual creativity, or of a sense of personal responsibility, that is sometimes characteristic of group interaction.”
There are many means by which groupthink can develop in an organization, but the most destructive means is through repression of individual creativity and self-confidence.
As leaders we owe it to our organizations to encourage dialogue and value individual viewpoints as well as alternative solutions from our team.
Whether or not we see ourselves as overbearing or authoritarian leaders, I would like to make a suggestion. When it’s time for the next decision to be made, turn to your team and ask, “What do you think?” Try it! I believe you will be surprised by the group’s reaction.
I would love to hear how your team reacts when you ask for their opinion. Please share your experiences on my Facebook page.
Dr. Joel Small and Dr. Edwin McDonald, the founders of Line of Sight Coaching, are dental practitioners, authors, speakers and Business Leadership Coaches who work with healthcare professionals to help them build more successful practices so they can live the balanced life they seek.
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