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March 2018--When Trish Lewis-Clark walks into your practice, don’t be surprised if she counts your parking spaces and lets you know how your office smells. Those are just some of the observations that the dental practice consulting coach will make. As director of practice development with Phoenix Solutions, it’s her job to sniff out areas of improvement and give office staff the encouragement and tools to make a great environment for patients. Yes, she says, you can even have fun in dentistry.


When I work with a practice, whether it be a private practice, group practice, or dental service organization (DSO), I am in the dental office evaluating everything from the parking lot to the backdoor and everything in between. I sit down with the doctors in that location, and I listen to what their concerns are. We review what I observed, and we collaborate to come up with a great game plan.


A plan for your dental practice is one thing, implementation another.

Once the plan is in place, I become a coach, working with individual staffers on best practices, among other things. Because I have worked in dental practices as a team member, I have experienced what a team is experiencing. I know what patients want and the myriad aspects of relationships within a practice. I know about many of the business systems dental practices and DSOs use.

I have seen consultants come in, throw it all down, and walk away. I do not do that. I help dental practices implement best practices to create an optimally enjoyable workplace for everyone involved.  Without coached follow-through, your great game plan is likely to get filed away for a later day that never arrives.


What should you expect from a dental practice coach?

Coaching is not telling the staff what they are doing right or wrong. It is regular observation, discussion, and encouragement to use the skills and tools a dental team already has and to enhance these skills and tools to build a great workplace. 

A good coach helps the team develop positive habits through consistent, intentional behaviors, and makes practice performance both predictable and fun. A good coach does not feel good about walking away until the client team has achieved working relationships and systems that are both excellent and in their control.

Motivational and educational opportunities have changed over the years, and coaching can really help. Gone are the days of taking the whole office team to a convention with keynote speakers. Often the staff would come back with notes that are never referred to again. At the end of the day, coaches empower people to be the best they can be.


A great workplace has many qualities.

Among the qualities of a great workplace… a great dental practice are these:

  • Healthy, positive relationships
  • Aligned aspirations and appreciation for co-workers
  • Operational systems and communication channels properly designed to efficiently and effectively provide the desired results
  • Optimal use of those systems
  • Personal confidence and competence
  • Elements of fun
  • A physical environment that supports all this and is pleasant to work in



Role playing fast tracks competence and confidence.

I often use role-playing to develop understanding of how team members feel about themselves and their roles in the practice and to help them develop skills and confidence.  For example, if a hygienist does not feel comfortable recommending additional treatment, I her sit in the patient chair and model a conversation. Then, we reverse roles. Often, that is when the light comes on that it really is about communicating with the patient’s best interest in mind.

Typically, the knowledge and skills are there all along, but team members lack confidence to use them. Role playing develops confidence and allows team members to try new approaches in communication. I do not provide scripts. Instead, I coach a mindset of communicating and behaving with the patient’s and each other’s best interest in mind. 

Role playing can be done in a fun way, so it is not embarrassing and stressful. I follow up role playing with a list of videos to watch or reading material that supports what they are discovering about themselves, about others, and the roles they play in the practice and patients’ lives. 

Focus is on growing confidence and being mindful of your purpose with everyone’s best interest in mind. Competence will grow naturally from those roots.


Add Elements of Fun to Make Your Workplace Special

To make sure your office is a place where people enjoy coming to work, try adding elements of fun. These spark positive emotions that drive appreciation leading to greater trust. We practice adding elements of fun during the role playing, and I look for opportunities to interject fun while coaching. This provides a model that sparks more fun initiatives that make the workplace enjoyable. Adding fun elements can be part of your great game plan.

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