September brings new beginnings for many of us. Students return to school, the next round of new dentists enter the workforce, and many of us get to catch our breath after busy summers at work. Fall activities get underway in many organizations, including our own, as we build new relationships and discover new ideas in various seminars and conferences.
If you’re a sports nut like I am, however, it also means the start of football season. It is a time when hope springs eternal and everyone has a chance. There is optimism and excitement among the teams and their fans, no matter what happened the year before. Of course, reality checks us all throughout the season, but the excitement and thrill of our uniquely American sport is without equal.
In my practice, I use football analogies constantly. While this undoubtedly is influenced by my own affection for the sport, it is also because there are many applications to the values learned and organizational structure of the team. Here are few that you may find useful in your day to day conversation with your patients or staff:
- “I’m like the quarterback, and our specialists are the receivers.” I use this often to help patients understand that our goal is to get them healthy (in the end zone), and this often cannot be accomplished without the help of a talented team. Of course, in this analogy, the patient is the football!
- “Football is a game of inches, and dentistry is a game of microns.” Patients sometimes have a hard time understanding why a small open margin could mean failure of a restoration, or how a tiny radiolucency can turn into an ER visit if not attended to. This helps me put our small world into perspective for my patients.
- “We’re going to have to call an audible here.” This can be helpful when explaining to a patient that treatment will have to be changed mid-procedure. There are many variables in dentistry, some out of our control, which can require the plan to be altered at a moment’s notice in order to achieve the desired result.
- “I’m the head coach, and ultimately the one who is responsible.” I find this to be very helpful with patients and staff. When a case is not going as planned or there is a failure in systems, I think it is important for the patient to know that as the leader of the practice it is on me to take ownership of the problem, and take the steps necessary to fix it. The same goes for missed assignments or mistakes made by the staff – although everyone may know who did it, I make a point to never single out the individual, and try to use it as an opportunity for the team to learn together. As a football fan, there is nothing more aggravating than watching a coach throw one of their players under the bus for making crucial errors in a game. As the leader, the onus of responsibility lies with us to get the job done.
I hope some of you can find use in these few examples in your daily practice, and of course, here’s to a great football season!
“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do.
Attitude determines how well you do it.” –Lou Holtz
By Matthew J. Heck, DDS
CADS President, 2016-2017