Every dentist has faced the challenge of trying to get the team on board with a big change. In the business world, this process is known as managing disruptive organizational change, and it isn’t something taught in dental school. As practice leaders, many dentists encounter the need to make essential changes to practice operations or systems but meet with team resistance. This often results in poor implementation of the change or a situation where the change falls away quickly as the team reverts to their old way of doing things.
When managing disruptive change, the first thing is to be mindful of your own attitude. Are you feeling disrupted by the change? Do you think your team can make the change? Are you already anxious knowing that they will fight back regarding the change? You should start with yourself and understand why you have concerns. Identifying and dealing with your own attitude and emotions will help you manage any negativity the team may have.
Next, you will need to share with the team openly and honestly what change needs to be made. Tell them why it needs to be made and share your own concerns about the impact of making the change and of the consequences of not making the change. You want to provide them with a forthright description of the change if you expect to get them on board. Remember that your team members are not your enemies even if they resist change. They are normal people with psychological motivations that pull them toward staying with the status quo. Unfortunately, it is often the status quo that will limit (or harm) the practice.
Next, identify what your team is afraid of losing. Yes, losing. Many people resist change and fight to stay with the status quo because they are more afraid of losing the status quo than gaining the benefits of the change. This indicates that they don’t really understand the reason for the change. Look beyond your team’s resistance to change and try to understand what they love about the way things are currently being done and their fear about changes for the future. The best way to approach this is to talk about it with them. Help them understand what needs to change and the support they will get during the change.
Then start talking about what the change will achieve. Your inclination will be to jump right into how the change will occur, but that would be a mistake. The word “how” is the single most paralyzing word in the English language. Most people immediately get mired in the details when you focus first on how something will get done. Always start with what the change is intended to do. Don’t worry about how you’re going to achieve it—that comes later.
Finally, validate your team’s concerns. It is not a matter of glossing over their concerns or ignoring them. They want to be part of the process and the solution, and you need them. If you are transparent about the change, what it will take, the work involved, etc., you will build the trust and motivation needed to make the change happen.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Roger P. Levin, DDS, is the CEO and founder of Levin Group, a leading practice management consulting firm that has worked with over 30,000 clients to increase production. A recognized expert on dental practice management and marketing, he has written more than 60 books and over 4,000 articles and regularly presents seminars in the U.S. and around the world.