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Do Doctors or Dentists Face Unique Leadership Challenges?

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I spoke with a group of residents in a large university prosthodontics program recently about the challenges of managing and leading organizations today. Some of their concerns as potential future practice owners were the very same concerns a leader of any organization might have, including:

  • Balancing or integrating “doing the work” and being a manager/leader
  • Finding the appropriate distance to maintain from office scuffles, and . . .
  • Knowing how to keep oneself aware enough of what is going on with staff to be able to intervene when needed
  • How to work most effectively with various personality styles
  • Negotiating and reinforcing roles and responsibilities

And more unique to their profession, the residents asked about:

  • Determining whether gender imbalance is or is not an actual problem
  • How introverts can work together most effectively (teams of ALL introverted folks)
  • What to consider in launching a new practice related to staff, leadership, and culture
  • How to approach joining an existing practice to co-lead with another established DDS
  • Managing on-going stress and anxiety

In response to these workplace issues I offered several recommendations which may be especially useful to medical professionals but which also have merit for any manager or leader.

First, carve out the time and space needed to figure out where you stand on the above challenges. We can easily feel off-kilter and uncertain if we open up challenging discussions with others before we have our own thoughts together.

Second, make standing staff meetings a cornerstone of your operation. You need all-staff meetings, you need team meetings, and you need one-on-one meetings. They all serve different purposes and only you (and they) can determine the best frequency. But do them. They are the best opportunity you’ll have to raise issues and spot potential issues before they become troublesome.

Third, solicit input. But please don’t feel you have to let everyone weigh in about everything. There are times and places for allowing input and reasons both to ask for it and to declare that input will not be asked for. If it is a situation where input could be useful and would build communication, teamwork, and morale to invite it, do so within appropriate parameters. You may not want to open a “free-for-all” in a staff meeting with no recourse if the discussion goes in a direction you didn’t want it to. Think this one through ahead of time.

Fourth, use others as resources. You are not the only medical professional who ever struggled with the issues and situations you struggle with. Opening yourself up to another and asking for their thoughts or experiences can allow you to build professional relationships that support the managerial/leadership aspects of your work, not just the technical/professional aspects.

Lastly, read broadly. Access management and leadership-related blogs, websites, webinars, journals, etc. The cross-fertilization of ideas can be extremely productive and reassuring.

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