This week I have been running workshops in Bristol and London helping Dentists and their Teams with tactics which lift the value and acceptance of courses of treatment, for both new and returning patients. Early in the workshops, I asked the participants to help me identify the habits that separate successful and high grossing dentists from the rest. As you can imagine, I had prepared a list as long as your arm (!) however, I wanted to know what the group would come up with. I was knocked-out by the unanimous nature of their response. In a word, it was, “Confidence”… I knew this was an issue but I didn’t appreciate the scale of it. It is clear to me that successful dentists (together with their teams) have learned to have high self esteem and have acquired the valuable habit of self confidence.
In the 80’s and 90’s I spent a lot of time listening and talking to Omer Reed and Ken James, inspirational American dentists both with their own paradigm-busting take on how dentistry should be delivered. Some of their ideas have stuck (Hygienist-led examinations for example), however in my view their real contribution to dentist’s happiness was their skill at making dentists feel better about themselves. Just being in their company helped me feel more confident. In fact, the giant you see before you now (!) is in many ways down to their influence during my early professional years…
For reasons I don’t quite understand, many dentists (including me) have suffered, at times, from a lack of self confidence or low self esteem. Maybe it’s because of the training we undergo which, in many dental schools involves substantial amounts of humiliation. Maybe it’s the public saying so often that they don’t like dentists. Maybe it’s the inevitable conflict between doing the right thing and making a practice work financially. Whatever the reason, the most important differentiator between successful dental teams and everybody else, is their level of confidence.
Being a dentist is an odd job. It is a unique mixture of medicine, craft skills, communication skills, business skills and confidence. And, it’s up to you to build and protect your confidence. So, if you’d like some more confidence on a daily basis, let me help you now. Here are 7 pragmatic tactics for lifting your confidence today. Read it before you start your patient list and I guarantee that your treatment plans will be bigger and your patients more willing to say yes to them.
Remember that, you are a valuable, competent and clever clinician. You are capable of finding a variety of solutions for most of the clinical problems you come across. These solutions come at different prices, from the cheap, quick and cheerful (NHS) to the private, longer lasting more cosmetic, better functioning solutions.
Understand and accept that providing dental care, under whatever system, NHS, Denplan, Private fee per item ~ is simply a commercial transaction. (All Medical care is effectively a commercial transaction.) Your patient has a problem and you are a solution provider. You accept a fee for providing the solution. If you are unhappy with the fee, then make a decision about whether to do the work or not. Balance your decision against your need to earn an income with the patient’s need to find a solution to their problem. If you are not willing to do the work for the fee the patient is wiling to pay, try and find the patient an alternative solution.
Patients can access NHS solutions in most parts of the UK thanks to Tony Blair’s promise in the noughties that everyone in the UK could have access to NHS dentistry. And they can. NHS solutions have to be delivered by dentists working fast in order to generate sufficient £/hour to pay practice costs and pay themselves. Many NHS dentists see circa 40-60 patients/day. There is no time for long conversations or difficult dentistry. Just simple solutions. More complex, and inevitably, private solutions can be delivered at a more leisurely pace and at a necessarily higher (private) hourly rate.
In a private practice the dentist’s role is to: make friends, build rapport, become the patients’ trusted advisor, diagnose (all of) the pathology, offer the patients a choice of solutions, give them a recommendation, ask them which solution they want, discuss their objections and offer them a Plan B if they don’t like Plan A.
It’s your responsibility to maintain your passion for what you do, so decide what you will and won’t do and make dentistry enjoyable for yourself. (I still remember the day I gave up on Molar Endo!) If you feel resentful about doing work you dislike or which you feel is badly paid, stop doing it! If you keep doing it, you will become cynical about what you do. Do the dentistry that you enjoy, on patients you love, and refer the rest out.
Stop comparing yourself to other dentists and stop worrying about what your colleagues think! Despite their outward appearances, they lack confidence too. Many dentists restrict their commercial activity due to the fear of how they might be perceived by their colleagues. Remember, in the market place, these are your competitors and it’s OK to challenge them by your activity. I have seen many web sites built so as not to upset a dentist’s colleagues!
Understand that despite all they say, your patients and the general public really value what you do. They are simply anxious about undergoing the process of what you do. Treat them as friends and they will never leave you.
Before you go, there is a final tactic, far more powerful than these seven. And it’s this:
“The fastest way to make any change in your life is to behave as if it had already taken place.”
So if you really want to change your state so as to feel and behave more confidently, then do this. Deliberately choose to feel: optimistic, positive, ambitious, self-assured and physically healthy, empathic and a good listener. Model this and, as if by magic, you will appear to others confident, and at the same time, you will feel brimming with confidence! Simply sitting or standing in the way that a confident person sits or stands will deny you the choice of feeling under-confident. I suspect that most of you will feel sceptical as you read this, but ~ please, just try it!!! Simple really…
If you would like some help with improving your confidence or lifting the value and acceptance of courses of your treatment plans, please contact me for a chat.
With all good wishes
m: 07770 430576