Why it’s important to create a Practice Environment that is led, not managed.
There is no question that management plays a critical role in our practices, but when we try to substitute management in place of leadership, especially with regard to organizational culture, we are doomed to fail. Organizational cultures are not managed; they are led.
Although some of our colleagues are natural leaders, most of us struggle with leadership. Regrettably, it isn’t until we face a practice crisis that we come to realize that we need help in creating a better, more accountable, practice environment.
According to Edgar Schein, a noted MIT professor, scholar, and author, a leader’s primary responsibility is to create an organization’s culture. Schein recognized that leadership alone, although an essential precursor to culture development, was not enough to produce “organizational success”. His concept of organizational success driven by a unified team, guided by certain mutually shared principles has been widely embraced by organizations worldwide.
Warren Bennis, another noted scholar and author is famous for stating that “organizations that are over-managed and under-led are more likely to fail”.
Organizations do not succeed through the efforts of a single person. They succeed through the combined efforts of leaders and committed stakeholders that share a clear vision and commitment to achieving that vision. Their actions are guided by a set of commonly shared values and organizational purpose. Clarity of vision, values, and purpose is the essential ingredient of what is known as organizational culture.”
Team building has become a popular topic as evidenced by the numerous courses available at many national, state, and regional dental meetings.
Unfortunately, many of these courses promote techniques for building teams while failing to address the most critical component of any team-building initiative: leadership. Without competent and sustainable leadership, any positive result will be short-lived and a return to the previous status quo will be inevitable.
The following actions are designed to help create a practice culture that both performs and transforms:
1. Become a Leader
Leadership is the catalyst that makes everything else work effectively. It is important to note that our practices will never exceed our ability to lead them. We are the limiting factor. Developing our leadership skill is a gift that never stops paying dividends for us and our team.
Leadership development is no longer about techniques; rather it is about self-awareness, authenticity, and personal style. There is no longer a “one size fits all” approach to leadership. Leadership is very personal.
Look for leadership courses that stress personal development and self-awareness as the path to becoming a better leader. Read modern leadership literature that does the same. Better yet, hire a leadership coach to fast track your leadership development. A leadership coach helps you develop your skill quickly while addressing actual leadership related practice issues in real-time.
2. Develop Emotional Intelligence
The very best leaders are acutely aware of how they show up for their team in any given situation. This attribute may be one of the hardest to master. Too often we react without any consideration of what our team needs in a given moment. These knee jerk reactions are commonly based in beliefs and assumptions that have become ingrained in our subconscious from previous experiences that we have brought forward into adulthood. Overcoming these negative reactions takes a significant degree of self-awareness. Being aware of our team’s needs by suppressing impulsive negative reactions and replacing them with appropriate actions requires a split-second response.
Emotional Intelligence is an acquired skill. It takes practice. Consider reading Daniel Goldman’s seminal book, “Emotional Intelligence”. There is also a well-researched assessment for emotional intelligence. The EQ2 assessment not only evaluates one’s emotional Intelligence but serves as a guide to improving one’s skills in this vital area.
3. Seek and Acknowledge Feedback
If we really want to know how well we are leading, ask our team. They are, by far, the very best judges of our leadership effectiveness. But don’t stop there. Why just rely on ourselves when making important practice-related decisions? Our team has a lot to offer. Utilize your team’s knowledge and skills. We will make better decisions when considering our team’s insight.
Furthermore, when we utilize staff feedback in decision making, the staff feels more empowered and knowing that their feedback counts and is appreciated makes them more committed to the practice’s success.
4. Create a Psychologically Safe Environment
If we want true, unvarnished feedback, we must seek it, acknowledge it, and appreciate it. This can only happen when we have created an environment in which staff can speak the truth without fear of reprisal. Admittedly, the truth sometimes hurts, but without it we can not grow.
The Leadership Circle Profile 360 is a scientifically valid assessment of one’s leadership ability. It provides both qualitative and quantitative feedback from a team regarding the leader’s effectiveness. It serves as a useful tool for correcting leadership deficiencies as well as recognizing and building upon leadership strengths.
If you want to learn more about the Leadership Circle Profile 360 tool that we use in our practice, click here to get more details on this tool.
5. Accept Imperfection
Healthcare Professionals are perfectionists that unfortunately live in an imperfect world. Our lack of tolerance for anything less than perfect plagues us, and yet, true perfection is seldom achievable. We often forget that failure is a necessary part of growth and moves us closer to being as perfect as humanly possible. The same is true of our team. They are not perfect either. They too will fail in their journey to be as perfect as humanly possible.
We must support our team if they fail while encouraging them to grow. If we condemn failure, our team will never move beyond their comfort zone and their growth will suffer. If our team fails but has the best intentions, we should make failure a learning experience. This is how we develop a strong culture with a committed and accountable team.
These five steps are a great starting off point when thinking about how to improve your leadership skills to build a strong organizational culture. Remember that your practice will never change unless you change first!
If you want to learn more about how Leadership and Coaching Culture can change your team dynamics, then download our free ebook: 7 Surprising Steps to Grow your Practice Through Leadership.
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.