Some dentists run the practice themselves and play the role of a practicing dentist as well as an office manager. That can be a tough road to go down, and we always recommend delegating more. But whether you hire an office manager to delegate the busy role of managing an office or if you want to take on that role yourself, managing is a journey, a learning process, and you need to be a learning organization.
No matter what, you need to trust your office manager because they’re the backbone of every practice. Without strong leadership skills, they will hold your entire practice back. With strong leadership skills, they can help your entire team become more productive. Here are two things you can do to help your office manager become a strong leader.
1. Help them develop an adaptable leadership style.
It would be helpful if one leadership style could resonate with every team member. However, the reality is we have many team members with different personalities and responsibilities working with us. Strong leaders recognize the differences between our team members. Then, they adapt how they engage with each of them to ensure every team member can succeed.
For example, some team members will be more receptive to constructive criticism than others. They might even prefer you don’t sugarcoat criticism—just tell them what they did wrong or what they need to improve. Others might need encouragement when you deliver constructive criticism. Neither personality style is better than the other; they’re just different. In fact, many leaders struggle more with team members who prefer straight-talk constructive criticism because it feels unnatural to deliver criticism without encouragement. However, the best leaders understand the differences among team members and adapt their leadership style to help each team member do their best work.
Adaptive leadership style doesn’t only apply to how you talk with your team members, though. It also applies to the systems, policies, and activities you put in place in your practice. For example, if you lead a book club at your office, might allow people to choose audiobook versions if they don’t learn well with e-books. Or, you might invest in specific tools or technology that might help a team member perform, such as providing a sit-to-stand desk option for team members.
Adaptive leadership is sometimes a learned skill. The best leaders develop the muscle to identify each team member’s uniqueness and quickly adapt to it while staying consistent with office goals and culture.
2. Empower them to be transparent with team members.
Transparency is a tricky topic with dental teams. Some people falsely believe being transparent means you need to tell every team member how much money you make. Others falsely believe being transparent means letting every team member know intimate details of your personal life.
The truth is, transparency is really just about being openly human. For example, we all make mistakes. We have all made mistakes in our past. And we all have fears, insecurities, and challenges. Leaders who pretend they don’t will never build the trust necessary with team members to get them to perform their best.
When someone messes up in your practice, how leaders respond provides a tremendous opportunity to build trust with team members. Respond with healthy transparency and you will build trust. To do so, pause to consider the situation before responding. Quickly consider whether you’ve made a similar mistake when you were in a similar position. How did your supervisor respond? How did it make you feel? With this employee, was it the first time they made this mistake or have they made it over and over again?
If the team member isn’t a habitual underperformer, consider sharing a time you made similar mistake and what you did to remedy it. Then talk with them about what they can do to improve. It might sound like, “I once did something similar and had to stay all night redoing everything. It happens. Here’s what we need to do to fix it this time and what I suggest doing to avoid it in the future.” Sharing your past mistake provides trust-building transparency and positions you as an empathetic leader. Your team members will be much more likely to perform.
Does your office manager have these two leadership skills?
With transparency and an adaptive leadership style, your office manager will be well on the way to helping your practice achieve its full potential.
If you want help training your office manager to become the best leader they can be, sign up for the Delivering WOW Platinum Coaching Program where you can get coaching from me other top experts in the dental industry.