‘Simon says’ isn’t how you change

There’s an old saying in coaching, “persist with what you resist”. The idea is that our resistance is a useful clue to what we should be focusing on (and persisting with!). I sometimes meet resistance in our clients but far more often it comes from their teams, who feel threatened by the changes their boss wants to make as a result of working with Breathe.

Many team members will have enjoyed a quiet, low-stress life for years when suddenly some bloke comes in and disrupts it, getting rid of the cosy front desk and changing the way they answer the phone. The dentists and hygienists meanwhile, sheltering behind their mantle of self-employment, might refuse to make (or sabotage) the changes that their principal has requested in order to grow and develop the practice.

So how can you get past these folk who seem to take root in so many dental practices? What often happens is that the coach gets used as the scapegoat and blamed for the changes, a case of “Simon says…”. All that happens then is that I become a hate figure and the client dare not mention my name in front of their team… Hey, I’ve got thick skin, but the point is that as a tactic this doesn’t work so well. It just means the likelihood is that useful changes will get reversed once I’ve disappeared!

Here’s a better tactic. When faced with implementing a round of significant changes and before you start making them, assemble your whole team together and perform a version of this:

  • Explain to them your vision for the practice for the next six, 12, 24, 36 months. (Tell stories about and use pictures of other practices that have done something similar to illustrate your vision.)
  • List and explain the benefits (to the patients and to the practice) of making these changes
  • List and explain the benefits to your team members (personally) in making these changes
  • Explain that although you will expect and appreciate your team’s help with the detail and implementation, the big picture is not up for negotiation or watering down
  • Tell them that you accept this will involve them making challenging changes to their behaviours and that maybe some folk will be unwilling to do this
  • And that there will be no room on the team for saboteurs

And then, while the practice team is going through a period of implementing change:

  • Encourage and praise team members for their efforts frequently
  • Coach and mentor them through the changes
  • Use a lot of rehearsal and role play to demonstrate what you are trying to achieve and help them adapt
  • Set deadlines for implementation
  • Accept there will be mistakes — learn from them and don’t let behaviours revert

As someone cleverer than me once said, “Successful people do the things that unsuccessful people don’t want to do”. And one of these successful habits is the ability to implement change successfully and often! Of course, it’s not at all easy or comfortable.

If you would like some help with implementing meaningful change in your dental practice, contact me for a chat:

e. simon.hocken@breathebusiness.co.uk

m. 07770 430576

p. 01548 853660

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