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Motivating the Dental Team and Empowering Others

Posted September 26, 2012

Rhonda Mullins

For the majority of dentists, providing affordable treatment and Care-Driven® dentistry is their main priority. Proficient attention to the entrepreneurial aspects of a practice is imperative to that goal. Without an efficient and effective business plan and the promise of consistent growth, a dental practice business can become stagnate, struggle, and altogether fail.

iStock_000029938808XSmallDentists invest a significant amount of time and money interviewing, hiring, training, and assimilating Top Line team members into their practices, which is a necessary first step. However, investing in Top Line dental team members mustn’t end there. The dental team is a major asset in the success and significance of the purpose of “why” a dentist serves their patients and how a dentist grows the practice to be a profitable business.

An empowered team that is productive, positive, and professional will be motivated to provide Care-Driven® dentistry consistently and continuously as the key major practice builder. These types of Top Line team members set the tone and establish memorable first impressions on the phone and in person. Valued employees, content with their position, are more likely to value patients, keep them returning, and encourage referrals. Patients often bond with Top Line team members who are memorable and motivated to serve beyond what is expected, particularly the hygienist, more so than the dentist, so the right people in the right place are highly valuable assets to an efficient and effective dental practice development model.

There are several ways dentists can encourage an empowering work environment and keep the team motivated and invested in the goals and objectives of the practice and committed to providing Care-Driven® dentistry to patients.

The truth about what motivates us!

For incentives that work, simple and straight forward tasks, the “if and then” rule, works very well: if you do this, then you get that. But when the task gets more complicated and requires more conceptual creative thinking, those kinds of motivators don’t work.

FACT: Money is a motivator, but if you don’t pay people enough they will not be motivated. The best use of money is to pay people enough that it takes money off the table, so they think about the work, not the money.

Three factors lead to better performance and personal satisfaction:


Autonomy is the desire to be self- directed, to direct our own lives. In many ways, traditional notions of management run astray of this. Management is great if you want compliance, but if you want “engagement,” self-direction is better. An example of “all out” engagement: Give your team members 24 hours to work on anything they want, make it fun for them (e.g., provide food, beverages, atmosphere) with the condition that they have to share the results of what they work on with the entire team. One day of autonomy will produce something that would not have ever emerged.

Each team member should be given a degree of autonomy relating to his or her skill set, to fulfill their responsibilities, and make necessary decisions. Authority and professional accountability generate pride and commitment. Also, the freedom to have creativity and innovation time one day a week and to bring those ideas to the team for input and possibilities will advance the team and the practice overall.


Mastery is our urge to get better at things. Here’s a great business model. You get a bunch of people around your office who do highly skilled work but are willing to do it for free and volunteer their time – sometimes 20 to 30 hours per week. The “what” that they create they “give away,” rather than sell it. It will be huge! Why would they do this? Challenge, mastery and making a contribution!


More and more practices and their people want to have a transcended purpose. It makes coming to work more meaningful and, more importantly, it is the way to get more talented people. When the profit motive becomes unmoored from the purpose motive, bad things happen, not just ethically, but in terms of poor product quality, inattentive service, and an uninspiring place to work. When the profit motive becomes completely unhitched from the purpose motive, people don’t do great things. Practices that are flourishing are animated by purpose motive. Be a profit maximize and purpose maximize!

We care about mastery very deeply and want to be self-directed. The big take away is that if you treat people more like people, don’t assume they’re simply dentistry workhorses, and get past the ideology of carrots and sticks, you can actually build a practice and lives that are better off, and make greater contributions to others and to yourself. More importantly, you’ll empower your team with the promise to make our world a little better.

The importance of a positive and motivated team cannot be overstated. The dental entrepreneur must strive for an edge to keep the dream alive, attract and retain the type of patients that are looking for an amusement park dental practice like yours that has the unique factor in every aspect of the culture. Answer these question: WHY do your patients come to your practice? WHY do you get up every morning and go to work? Or WHY is the attraction so great you would not go anywhere else to work?

The personality and skills of the dental team and staff provide that edge. Practice success is the optimum outcome of the dentist’s decisions, and a superlative support team is not acquired but cultivated. The decision to keep staff invested, empowered, and invigorated is advantageous to everyone who participates in the practice.

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