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Every single day in your office there are opportunities for teamwork, from the morning huddle, to preparing for patients, to closing out the end of the day. Almost everyone engages in teamwork at some point in their day, and it’s highly unlikely society would function at without teamwork. It is also highly unlikely that people think about what teamwork is, and what their contribution means. At its most basic, teamwork is defined as people working together toward common goals. Working together as a team is critical to the overall health of any practice, and creates a professional environment that can be fun, which results in exceptional patient care.

In practice, teamwork is much more than a group of people working together. Teamwork is based on mutual respect and focusing on what’s good for the patient and practice. At times this may mean setting aside individual differences, or realigning personal priorities to make sure the goals are met (i.e., the patient experience, the success of the business). Teamwork takes practice, as well as an understanding of and dedication to a set of common goals and ethics. Teamwork will increase productivity and profitability and decrease stress.

Respect is, at its core, a form of trust. As a team member you must trust that others know their job and perform it well, will do what they say they’ll do, will give credit where it’s due, and will expect the same of you. Trust means knowing that if you ask for help you will not be judged or ridiculed. This can’t be stressed enough – if someone on your team is afraid to ask for help it is a serious indication that the team is lacking in trust. If you can’t trust someone on your team you’ll feel you can’t count on them, and invariably you’ll lose respect for them.

For doctors and managers, teamwork means letting go of some of the control over the tasks assigned to team members. Contrary to their own beliefs, “control freaks” do not get more done than others, nor do they make fewer mistakes. In fact, a control freak can be a major hindrance to the smooth operation of an office and severely damage efficiency and trust. By trusting that each team member knows how to do his or her job, and that each team member will help each other, the people in charge can focus on their own areas.

Whether you’re “the boss” or in an entry-level position, knowing that you’re part of a team and that your team members “have your back” creates the sense that we’re all in this together. This will drive success, and ultimately leads to a more rewarding day at the office, day in and day out!

Ideas for strengthening teamwork include setting goals in a team meeting, such as asking existing patients for referrals or completing a certain number of whitening or Invisalign cases. After reaching the goals, it’s important to celebrate the team’s success with lunch, a Starbucks gift card, or time off. Recognize that each member of the team contributes based on his or her duties and skills, and acknowledge this. Each team member should have the opportunity to take continuing education classes, and should share what they learn, especially because it will benefit the practice. By continually learning and growing, team members increase their value.

Always remember that patients can sense when they are in the midst of a team that works well together. They will often make comments such as, “You guys seem to be having fun,” or “You all seem to really like each other.” Such feedback reinforces the strength of the team and illustrates how important an atmosphere of teamwork can be to your practice. There will be times of stress and struggles in all dental practices; the strong teams will not only survive, but thrive. Truly, teamwork makes the dream work!

Tonya Lanthier, RDH, began her career as a dental hygienist in 1995. Her love for dentistry was a driving force in the founding of DentalPost.net in 2005, as an easy-to-use platform to help dental professionals and dental practices connect. Tonya is a delegate for the Atlanta Dental Hygiene Society, serves on the planning committee for the Gala for Smiles, and volunteers for the Georgia Mission of Mercy and the Ben Mansell Clinic. Tonya lives in Atlanta and is the mother of twin girls.

Tanya Brown, DMD, FAGD, understands you and your dental team because she has worked in every area of a dental practice, from dental assistant to practice administrator to owner-dentist. She works with dentists and dental teams who want to improve patient care, increase their performance, and decrease stress. She can be reached at Tanya@TanyaBrownDMD.com or 757-285-2833.

Note: This article originally appeared on DentistryIQ.com

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