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Creating a positive culture for your dental practice or DSO begins with opening the doors to communication and making everyone feel safe to communicate with leadership.


The culture of your organization is a living, dynamic phenomenon. Leadership directs the culture, but the strength of the culture is a result of the entire team’s happiness. There are reasons why you want to foster and facilitate open communication and some best practices to do that.


Why do you want open communication?

If the team isn't comfortable communicating with leadership, assumptions happen, and assumptions create many problems. 


Open communication does not flow unless team members feel safe.

We should treat our teams as well or better than we treat our patients. If the team doesn't feel safe in sharing their thoughts or ideas, then you're limited to one view. You're not really utilizing all your resources. 


How do leaders foster a culture of open communication?

  1. Leadership is approachable.
    Whether it be doctors, managers, or team leads, leadership has an attitude of care and concern, not judgment or criticism.
  2. Leadership welcomes feedback.
    While hearing concerns and feedback, leaders listen with respect and acknowledge and validate what the speaker is feeling and thinking.
  3. Leadership models vulnerability.
    One way for leadership to open communication and start the culture conversation is to let the team know they, themselves, are not perfect. Everyone is concerned about how they appear to others. The dentists and other practice leaders are vulnerable to this concern, as well as those they lead.
  4. Leadership replaces blame with understanding.
    Oftentimes you hear, “It's okay. You can make mistakes. We're here to support you.” Then someone makes a mistake, and others ask, “Who did that?” It’s easy to fall into the blame game to escape personal shame and embarrassment. A positive approach that opens communication is to say, “I’m not quite sure what happened today. Let's talk about it. Help me understand what happened. Those kinds of words start the conversation in an environment of safety. But body language and tone convey 93% of your energy. The magic words only are magic if you are calm and genuinely care. 
  5. Leadership informs co-workers about decisions.
    Even in a great culture, a team member may not feel entirely safe, but feeling empowered makes a difference. Everyone knows from personal experience that if you are kept “in the dark” as to what is decided and why the decision has been made, you aren’t fully engaged and cannot be fully helpful. Being uninformed makes you feel unappreciated and undervalued. In a culture of open and positive communication, the team knows why. They’re always kept in the loop. This is ultimately empowering.


More Resources for Dynamic Team Development

If you want to harness the power of Judy Kay Mausolf’s approach in your dental practice or DSO, here are some additional resources. Judy Kay provides workshops, she calls “culture camps” for dental teams. The purpose of the workshops is to promote a positive culture in the practice that opens communication and enables team members to not only team together but happily do so, knowing “I am appreciated, valued, and trusted, and I am helping create the work environment in which all others feel the same.”

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