Improving team member engagement

By | March 1, 2021

Dentistry is a rewarding career despite some of its challenges. You have probably already thought about the ups and downs when choosing it as a career.

Photo of Dr. Al Sammarraie

Dr. Al Sammarraie

Unfortunately, many lose their enthusiasm for dentistry with each passing day for various reasons: Think student loans, need to increase the number of patients, etc.

Working in team building and development taught me how hurdles could diminish motivation and hinder performance. Some of the victims among the professionals I worked with were dentists. In this article, I will focus on team engagement. I hope that some of the lessons I learned and shared here will help new dentists improve their performance and increase their motivation to engage with other team members.

Work Culture and Environment

One of the biggest challenges new dentists face can come from their work environment dynamic. Sometimes team members seem to demotivate and discredit you. Many of them have probably been working in the profession longer than you have.

I recall helping a friend of mine hire an office manager for his new office. One of the candidates claimed to be successful in building productive practices and “training dentists.” After first hearing that weird statement, I didn’t ask him for more details about it.

As the interview moved on, I asked a question to learn about his problem-solving skills – nothing more. I asked how he would solve a conflict or disagreement between two staff members.

The hypothetical scenario I presented involved a new dentist and an established hygienist. The candidate answered without hesitation, saying, “of course, the hygienist knows more than the new dentist does. New dentists need to understand when they start their career in real life that they are no longer princes or princesses.” While he was answering, I imagined how I would feel if I was that new dentist. I do not need to tell you that I highly recommended not hiring that candidate.

Nonetheless, there will be times when new dentists, possibly in their first jobs, encounter team members who may try to intimidate them.

You do need to work well with office managers and other team members. You will soon find out how production is defined and managed. Despite the office politics, new dentists will need to be strict and firm when it comes to quality and resilient when it comes to other subjects and practices.

Here are a few pointers that can help new dentists stay focused and do what they need to do in certain situations:

Be respectful and kind

It is practically impossible to work alone. Remember that  dental assistants, hygienists, and other team members play a significant role in helping you carry out your dental work.

It doesn’t take rocket science to gain the respect from your team. Sometimes, all it takes is kindness and respect. For example, you could buy them an occasional cup of coffee, learn and call them by their names, and treat them as professionals. At the end of the day, we are all human. There are times when you’ll see team more than you see your family or friends. Furthermore, your team can lift you up if you gain their love and loyalty and show the same to them.

As a people person, I genuinely like to get to know the people I work with. I show them my best, have lunch with the whole team, avoid showing favoritism, act kind and approachable, listen well, and show. I ask them to teach me their part in data entry and establish how to work in harmony when we do exams together. I also spend time to share my knowledge on procedures, materials, or techniques when they ask.

Learn new skills

Improving your skills is one of the easiest ways to remain relevant in your dental practice. This calls for continuing education and learning the trends that shape global dentistry.

One strategy is to focus on one new skill at a time instead of trying to learn everything at once. Keep practicing until you have mastered the procedure.

This will help you avoid making mistakes that could easily occur if you try to accomplish too much too soon.

How engaged are you?

You must realize that even if you work hard, that does not necessarily mean that you are engaged with the rest of the team. So, how can you know if your level of engagement is enough?

It’s all about effort. Sometimes your team needs to see your attempts before they reward you with engagement. Some of the things you could do include:

  • Understanding the role that you play at the practice and managing your time efficiently.
  • Accepting and respecting the opinions of your teammates.
  • Holding yourself accountable for your decisions and mistakes.
  • Being flexible and willing to learn more about the team and its efficiency.
  • Updating the team on your progress.
  • Offering to help and support struggling team members.
  • Kick starting the brainstorming process to find solutions to workplace problems.

Respect is another crucial aspect that will help you learn and commit to the team’s values and goals. Always maintain a positive attitude and manage your expectations accordingly.

Final Thoughts

For new dentists, it takes a while before you see a positive outcome and rewards. Just stay positive and keep increasing your knowledge and skills. I lead my team by example and set the bar high for excellent office culture. This approach represents my values and morals without forcing them on my team.

We would love to hear from you about how new dentists can perform better on the job and become more engaged as team members.

Leave us a comment in the section below.

Dr. Muhalab Al Sammarraie is a New Dentist Now guest blogger. He grew up in Baghdad before coming to the U.S. as a foreign-trained dentist. He obtained his D.D.S. with honors in 2019 and became a member of the A.D.A., California Dental Association, and the San Diego County Dental Society. While working towards his second degree, He accrued remarkable leadership experience working in public, private, and non-profit sectors. He led many departments and oversaw process improvement in education, social services, and community health. Dr. Al Sammarraie is currently a site dental director at AltaMed Health Services, the nation’s largest FQHC. Outside of dentistry, Dr. Al Sammarraie supports activist groups in Iraq that help war victims and displaced people find educational opportunities and medical care.

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