By Marie and Larry Chatterley
From the Spring 2017 Journal of the Colorado Dental Association
Over the course of the past 28 years and 1,500 practice transitions, we have noticed that one thing determines a dentist’s success in practice more than any other: the dentist’s character. More specifically his/her attitudes, beliefs and value systems contribute or detract from success more than anything else.
We do not mean to imply that “success” is defined solely by the amount of revenue generated by the practice, although that is often one of the byproducts of a successful dentist; but real success is better measured by the degree of happiness and level of trust the practice fosters with the doctors, staff members and patients. A successful practice makes a positive difference in the lives of others. Making a positive difference is inspiring others to do better and be better, to improve their lives and the lives of those around them. That is true success.
Years ago, we heard about a practice in the northwest area of the U.S. with such a great reputation for having a culture of team spirit and high levels of trust that it received a steady flow of resumes from other dental staff members seeking to join this practice, even though there was no advertising for any position. The office was such a great place to work, people were applying in hopes of joining the group. What kind of practice would create such an environment that people would “line up” to work there?
Any business is made up of two parts: the “hard” and the “soft.” The “hard part” of any business is what we call the “transactional part,” which refers to the systems, procedures, policies, processes, and so forth—essentially how things are done. The “soft part” is what we refer to as the “transformational part” of the business, which has to do with feelings, trust, respect, communication, motivation and so forth—essentially why things are done. The transformational part lies in attitudes and beliefs—not in circumstances or the way things are done. It’s about your “way of being.”
Some practice owners get so caught up making sure things are done a certain way (the transactional part) they forget why they are doing those things in the first place (the transformational part). In other words, they lose sight of why they are in business. This generally leads to neglect of certain fundamentals of a successful business. One of the most important of these being the intent to make a difference in the lives of others by making them feel good about themselves.
Those practices that not only focus on improving the transactional side, but also invest the same amount of time and resources improving the transformational side, will help create a culture capable of making a positive difference in the lives of others.
True success in business comes from a culture developed by attitudes and beliefs. Those attitudes and beliefs define our character. By focusing on improving beliefs and attitudes, professional life becomes more enjoyable and more productive. However, these changes can only be made effective with the right intent behind them. An intent to use certain attitudes and beliefs to manipulate others into giving us what we want will fail to achieve success. An intent to develop genuine concern for the welfare of others will become success itself.
The happiness and success we are all searching for is already inside of us. It is found by doing what we know to be good and right, regardless of what others may think. A transformational approach seeks to discover our own individuality, uniqueness and goodness and to affirm the same in others. At the pinnacle of this approach, we learn to do what we do out of a sense of unconditional love for others, without thinking “what’s in it for me?” We will love others for their own good and not for our own benefit.
As the German philosopher, Goethe, once said, “Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you will help them become what they are capable of becoming.” When you treat people with compassion and kindness, you begin to empower those around you to feel better about themselves. Feeling better about oneself promotes trust and trust fosters performance. Most of us do not remember much about what others have said or done to us specifically, but we clearly remember how we felt.
For more information about making a positive difference in the work place and at home, please read the book entitled “Outward Mind Set” by the Arbinger Institute.
About the Authors: Larry and Marie Chatterley are a father-daughter team at CTC Associates, a dental practice transition consulting company. Call them at 303-795-8800.