The COVID-19 crisis has sent shockwaves throughout dentistry. When practices fully reopen, dental teams won’t look the same. Some team members won’t be back. And those who do return will experience various challenges ranging from fear to finances to family issues. COVID-19 has probably changed almost everyone to some degree. As leaders, dentists have the responsibility of bringing their teams back together and creating a common purpose.
Understanding the Team
In many seminars where I have taught leadership, I’ve explained that one of the most important characteristics of a great leader is compassion. During these times, your dental staff will need your sensitivity and empathy more than ever before. In the past, part of leadership was the ability to establish and enforce rules and protocols. That will continue, but with an important distinction—you must be compassionate.
After COVID-19, providing compassion will require you to understand and tolerate people and their situations in a much different way. With children at home, team members will need to check their cell phones and make calls. A team member’s spouse may be ill or have lost a job or, worse, their friend or family member may have lost their life. This will bring them concern, sadness, or even depression. They will come back to work and do their jobs, but they might not be able to shake their emotions. As a leader, you must remember that your staff members are all people going through a crisis, and this crisis will be with us for some time to come.
Three Factors of Compassionate Leadership
Consider the following factors in compassionate leadership as you lead your practice through these difficult times:
Understanding: Understanding the team means having a sense of awareness. People are scared, worried, and anxious. If someone is upset, allow them to go sit in the staff room and pull themselves together. There will be meltdowns in many offices without a moment’s notice.
Communication: Doctors are worried about their practices, but they should never forget how important the team is to practice recovery and long-term success. We suggest that you meet with each team member individually at least every two weeks. If you have a large practice, split the team up among the doctors and/or office managers. It doesn’t matter how you do it. Just do it. Sitting down and asking how them how they are doing, focusing on that person, and showing that you care will go a long way toward bringing the team back together and providing support to everyone. Remember, listening is part of communication. Many people will simply want to tell someone how they are feeling and are not necessarily looking for solutions.
A common purpose: Prior to COVID-19, your practice probably had a mission statement. That mission is still valid, but it is not the immediate rallying point in a crisis and business turnaround. There needs to be a new mission for the moment that allows the team to focus as a group. That new mission is the recovery.
The COVID-19 crisis has created a scenario where it will never be business as usual again. As a leader, you have the unique opportunityo use your compassion to support team members through the crisis, galvanize the practice to focus on the recovery, and gradually bring back a dynamic, positive environment.
Dr. Levin is the CEO and founder of Levin Group, a leading practice management consulting firm that has worked with over 30,000 practices to increase production. A recognized expert on dental practice management and marketing, he has written 67 books and more than 4,000 articles and regularly presents seminars in the United States and around the world. To contact Dr. Levin or to join the 40,000 dental professionals who receive his Practice Production Tip of the Day, visit levingroup.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.