I was watching one of the political shows the other morning, listening to members of both political parties exchange comments. It struck me that none of the comments going back and forth were about how to make progress. It was just one group saying how they wanted things to be, then the other group saying how they wanted things to be... and everyone claiming they were right and the other party was wrong. It all came down to selfishness.

What does this have to do with dental practices? Quite a bit, I think. At one time or another, most offices have conflict among team members. Betty thinks that Sally is not pulling her weight. Carol asserts that Mary is not doing her job properly. Or some staff members complain about Fran's attitude. Instead of concentrating on helping the practice reach its goals, dental teams can get caught up in the same kind of self-serving mindset as those politicians on TV.

When conflict arises in a dental office, it's important for the dentist, as practice leader, to resolve it quickly. If team members have conflicting ideas about how to serve patients better... improve the practice... increase production... dentists should channel this into a healthy debate that will lead to genuine progress.

Now, if only the politicians could figure this out!

I love this expression, which I heard from a professor at the Harvard Business School while attending an executive course about lifelong learning. I have always thought that a lifelong learner is probably the ideal. These are people who continually learn new things every day, week, month and year. They expose themselves to things beyond their normal interests just to see what is happening in the world.

I was talking to a very successful businessman recently who told me that every night he goes on the internet and does a random search to read about a totally unfamiliar subject—just for the fun of it. I was very impressed by this concept and started doing it myself. It reminded me of being younger and learning new things all the time... a feeling that I was starting to miss.

Dentists, like all specialized individuals, tend to become more myopic over time. Their intense concentration on their specialized area is understandable given how hard it is to keep up with new developments and technologies. The problem is you tend to stop learning new things in your personal life.

My suggestion would be to take 15 minutes a day and learn something new. First off, it's entertaining. Plus, it'll relieve stress, broaden insights, create better understanding, lead to more innovative ideas and make you a better leader. Not bad for an investment of 15 minutes a day.

 

One of the themes that I've talked about to dentists and specialists at our annual alumni Summit is creating simplicity. Think about your life and the level of complexity you are facing. What can you eliminate physically, emotionally or mentally that will make your life easier? What can you streamline or remove from your life that will give you more "space" and mental clarity? Discovering answers to these questions is the beginning of an amazing new way of thinking.

I am coming to the conclusion that many people (and I freely admit that I'm one of them) spend the first half of their life accumulating and the second half getting rid of the things they realize they don't actually need or care about. We can apply this to our thinking, mental states and emotions as well. Try it. Remove some things from your life—maybe it's too many books, old furniture or disused tools taking up space—and see if you're amazed at how much more mental clarity you have once they're gone.

The same idea applies to your practice. It creates more and more bureaucracy over time as you try to fix problems and create solutions. Unfortunately, this leads to complexity as other aspects are not streamlined or eliminated. Remember that the philosophy of streamlining your own life can apply to your practice as well.

 

Some people are so intent on being right or winning that they can stay angry about something or carry a grudge indefinitely. Rather than letting it go and moving on, they lose sleep over it and make themselves miserable.

At a recent seminar, a doctor told me a patient was suing his practice. Though he had malpractice insurance, which meant he would have no say in the resolution of the case, he was seething with anger. The practice had done nothing wrong, he said, and the patient and lawyers were being unfair.

I knew nothing about the case, of course, but I could see its effect on the doctor. I diplomatically pointed out that his angry remarks were having no impact on the offending parties—that the only person being torn apart by the lawsuit was him.

We all make mistakes. Everyone will feel insulted or attacked at some point. And none of us can go through life without having an occasional bad day. We can get angry at others or blame ourselves, but these approaches accomplish nothing positive. Far better to simply let it go.

 

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