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Practice Management and Coaching

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I spent a total of four hours with each individual dentist, reviewing the summary reports, clarifying their questions, comparing their projections with actual respondent results, discussing their feelings and reactions, reviewing specific coachable survey questions, and ultimately, planning for action. For part of this time, I also spent preparing each man for addressing the other. This was an important part of the process, since they had given each other such critically negative feedback revealed in a separate category. I also coached them about sharing some parts of their results with the entire team at a staff meeting and talked about behaviors they would continue to display and changes they intended to work on. This process was very positively received by the staff members who had feared the owners’ reactions. I received emails and phone calls from team members for weeks afterwards stating how moved they had been by the owners’ honesty, their vulnerability and willingness to work on personal change for the good of the dental practice. We continue to work on improving the communication between the two partners and have seen some significant changes that provide much hope.

Appreciative Coaching

Appreciative coaching (Bergquist and Mura, 2011) has become a powerful intervention strategy in my work with dentists. For decades, US dentists have had the highest rates of substance abuse and suicide of any profession in the US.  One can speculate that this may be due to dentists experiencing low self-esteem, due to their perceived lower status when compared to physicians in the US health care arena. Or it may be attributed to performing procedures that so often inflict pain. Often dentists are treating patients who simply don’t want to be there due to fear of pain. Or it has been said that dentistry has been the brunt of jokes for so long that it has tarnished the image of the profession. Or maybe it is the almost debilitating dental school teaching model that dentists survive. No matter what the reasons, appreciative coaching has had amazing transformational benefits on the dentists with whom I coach. Ultimately, this approach also benefits their businesses. I see a shift from spiraling negativity – looking at what is wrong and who is to blame—to analyzing situations when things have gone right and formally acknowledging people for their contributions to these successes. Once these dentist and veterinarian clients experience appreciative coaching, they begin to try appreciative management techniques with their own employees and typically experience a renewed joy in owning and managing a business.

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