No dentist practices alone. Your profitability, your patients’ comfort, and your own pleasure in your practice are tied directly to how well you and your staff operate as a team.

But did you know? Many dentists believe that if they hire the best people for the job (and there’s no getting around the need for that!) and bring them all together under one roof, they will have a team. And not just any team, but a great team! Then they wonder what went wrong when their practice dreams don’t come true. Who’s to blame? What hiring mistake did they make? Which person wasn’t a star after all?

Well, maybe there were no hiring mistakes. But if that’s true, how do you fix the problem of your disappointing practice numbers – your distress at going to work every morning to a practice that feels like it’s stuck in glue, where people work at cross purposes and get on each other’s nerves? And where you aren’t making any money! There has to be something you can fix, or you’re doomed to continue as you are. What’s wrong with your team???

The answer may surprise you. The fact is, you may not actually have a team. A collection of talented individuals and a team are not necessarily one and the same.

Think about it. In sports, people dream of an All-Star team – of what a team with the best hitters, the best pitchers, the best fielders, or maybe the best quarterback and the best running backs and tacklers could do. Some sports actually have All-Star team competitions at some point in the season. But the games don’t live up to the hype. Why? Because these ad-hoc “teams” aren’t really teams at all. They’re just a collection of stellar players that somebody called a team. But just calling a group, no matter how talented, a team, does not make it so.

Have you noticed how two brothers or two sisters on a team can play circles around the other players? Or two friends from the same high school on a college team? Or a quarterback and his favorite receiver? That’s because they have something going between them that puts them at an advantage over other players. This something forms them into a mini-team, and when you have teamwork going for you, you’re hard to beat.

A real team made up of average players can probably beat a random collection of star players any day, because a team is greater than the sum of its parts. And what you may have is not a team at all but a random collection of star players.

So now you may ask, jis there something I can do about this? kHow do I take my “random” collection of star performers and make them into a real team? lAnd if I can, how will I know I’ve succeeded? mWhat difference will I see on a day to day basis? nIs it too late? And ois it worth it?

Excellent questions.

The short answers are 1) yes, 2) it’s hard, 3) you’ll love going to work and you’ll be making money, 4) work will flow smoothly and there will be lots of it, with no infighting, 5) no, and 6) yes.

Getting started is simple. Just as you do an exam on a new patient, you and your team can examine team skills by taking a simple survey. The results can guide your actions. To request a survey for your team, email me at I’ll send you a link to the survey that is unique for your team, along with complete instructions. Then, you and each of your care team members fill it out online. When we get all the responses, I will send you a written report, summarizing your team’s results and offering ideas for improvement (I will send your report to you at the email account from which you request the survey, unless you indicate otherwise.)

Dana C. Ackley, Ph.D, EQ Leader, Inc.
ETS Dental Industry Insight, December 2009

Dana C. Ackley, Ph.D. is president of EQ Leader, Inc. A psychologist, he has years of experience coaching dentists and their teams. Dr. Ackley has been a guest lecturer at the Pankey Institute and published numerous articles in Dentistry Today and Dental Economics. He is an internationally recognized expert in emotional intelligence.

Posted by Mark Kennedy, Owner/Director of ETS Dental. You can reach Mark at or 540-491-9103. To find out more about ETS Dental, check us out at

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