Saturday, August 29, 2009

What is your team culture?

Well over ten years ago, we made a hiring mistake. (It was the only mistake I have ever made…!) We hired and “office manager.” Within days the mistake was apparent. Team members from all directions were complaining:
“I can’t get any work done."
"He is too nosy."
"He’s driving me crazy.”

Upon further investigation, we discovered that the “manager” in question would give someone something to do, and then would constantly badger that person with frequent questions like, “How’s it coming? What kind of progress have you made so far? When are you going to have that done?” That approach communicates a lack of trust and a culture of irresponsibility. There has to be a better way.

In contrast to the above, imagine an office where each week the team meets for one hour. The agenda is prepared in advance and everyone knows what to expect. Just about anyone could run the meeting because it is run the same way every week. Systematically, each team member reports to the rest of the team on his or her area of accountability including results compared to the goals and the action plan that he or she has developed to further the results in the right direction. After giving the report, he or she asks for further input from the leader and the rest of the team. When done, the next person does the same thing until each area of the practice has been covered. That is what you call Team Accountability. When set up correctly, it can take tremendous stress off the dentist or the leader and the results will be far greater than the alternative approach.

Here are some of the characteristics of a Team Accountability:
1. Areas of accountability are clearly defined.

2. Some ONE is assigned to each area of accountability. Others may help, but just one person is accountable for ultimately answering for the results.

3. With each accountability is given the proper tools to get the job done.

4. Desired results are identified in advance so the person accountable understands the end result for which he or she is ultimately responsible.

5. Diagnostics are put in place so there is an easy way to measure results. Those who are accountable for specific results need to have a way to measure if they are indeed getting the results for which they are accountable.

6. Regular reporting intervals are set up in advance so the person knows when he or she will report to the team and to the leader on the results to that point and the action plan in place to continually improve.

When set up properly, the only question that the leader needs to ask is a follow up question or two for clarification or suggestion. Leading has never been so easy!

After the “Office Manager” disaster mentioned at the beginning of this article, the team pleaded with me NOT to find a replacement. “We don’t need to be managed,” they said. Just tell us what you want and we’ll do it. It was at that point that we implemented the 6 steps above. Then on a regular basis, we got together and each person reported on his or her area of accountability accordingly. Amazingly, but not surprisingly, moral and motivation went up, results came much faster, and everyone enjoyed their work more.

So what kind of culture do you have in your office? Is it a culture of irresponsibility or do you have an accountable team? Put the 6 steps of accountability in place today. It may take some time for your team to make the shift from your badgering to their reporting, but they will ultimately enjoy their work more and appreciate you as a much more effective leader.

(Team accountability is just one of the many principles taught at the ToPS “Leading a ToP Team” course for dentists and key team members. For dates and availability go to or call 1-877-399-8677.)

Sunday, August 16, 2009


We’ve just finished an amazing week with 170 high school and college age young people from all over the U.S., Canada and South Africa who attended the LEAP Youth Leadership Program. ( Founded by Dr. Bill Dorfman and myself over a year ago, LEAP’s mission is to expose young people to ideas, techniques and systems of success that will help them get a significant lead in life. (Pictured from the left: Leeto Khoza - South Africa, Steve Anderson, Kevin Carroll - speaker, Bill Dorfman, Kim Fineberg - Tomorrow Trust South Africa, Kim Palelo - South Africa.)

For 6 days, we enjoyed introducing these young people to successful mentors and success ideas they can use in school, their future careers, and in life to get ahead. Consider it a success university.

My two favorite highlights of the week happen near the end. Friday afternoon, we introduced all the students to 52 mentors who came in for the afternoon to answer any questions the students had about their respective professions and what has made them successful. Based on the concept that it is a lot easier to copy genius than it is to create mediocrity, this mentor session was stunning. So impressive were the group of mentors that attended that the mentors themselves decided that they had been slighted because they did not have the same opportunity the students had to “work the room” and get to know all the other mentors! What a thrill to watch the light bulbs go on in the student’s minds as they applied the principles they learned all week as they met face-to-face with people who had done it and asked them relevant questions so they could learn from their experience. In the words of one student, Tanner Roeller, a recent high school grad from Texas, “I always thought that success was out of reach and too difficult to attain. Now that I know the secrets of success, I know it is attainable for me.”

Early Saturday morning, the students gathered for the LEAP speech contest where each student presented a prepared speech in front of a group of 8 to 10 other students. The students then voted the best speech to be presented in front of all the LEAP participants, mentors and many parents. What a thrill to listen to the discoveries that had been made during the week, the commitments that had been made, and the life changes that these students made this week. After listening to these students, it was easy to conclude that LEAP is a game changer for these young people. It gives them principles to live by that will take them to the top.

My thanks to the many charitable donors who make this program possible and to the parents and other sponsors who send their students. LEAP is a non-profit education foundation made possible by the generous donations of so many people who want to make a difference in the lives of youth. Thanks for making this week possible.

LEAP 2010 is already scheduled for August 9-14 at the UCLA campus in Los Angeles. Details can be found at or by calling 877-855-5327.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Adjusting to Success

One of my all time favorite pieces of business and motivational literature is a speech given by insurance executive Albert E.N. Gray entitled “The Common Denominator of Success.” Some of the more salient points of this address were popularized by Earl Nightingale in later years.

I was reminded this week of a specific point Mr. Gray makes in his address. He said, “It is easier to adjust ourselves to the hardships of a poor living than it is to adjust ourselves to the hardships of making a better one.”

“Making it” in dentistry, or any other field takes effort, energy, and endurance; three things that are increasingly difficult to find. But the key ingredient is adhering to a set of natural laws and systems that get results. That sounds easy, but it is much more fun and entertaining to run off after the latest fad or new idea, show up late and leave early, or forgo additional wants in order to avoid the work, effort and energy it takes to become better.

I have frequently thought that there are few professions to which Albert Gray’s quote applies more than dentistry. There are few professions or professionals that I have seen that work harder at not working than dentists. In dentistry, it seems to be a badge of honor to not work very much. You’ve heard the conversation. A dentist will ask a colleague, “How many days-a-week are you seeing patients?” “Four days,” the other dentist responds to which the inquiring dentist replies, “Well, I’m only seeing patients 3 days a week.” And then he strides arrogantly away!

Sometimes it gets so bad that this “Don’t work” syndrome seeps down to the earliest entries in the dental field. I recall a dentist out of school just a few years who was only working 3 days a week. His practice was suffering, his production was mediocre, but he sure knew how to strut on the golf course two to three days a week!

Maybe I am out of touch here, but if your goal is to work less and see patients as little as possible so you can do other things, you might want to seriously consider your approach to your chosen profession. I have never seen anyone rise to any level of true success that did not put in the effort, energy and endurance to get there.

Case in point: I just finished reading Geoff Colvin’s book, Talent is Overrated – What Really Separates World-class Performers from Everybody Else, as recommended to me by Olympic Gold Metalist, Lanny Bassham ( If you want to read something that will give you some great hope, especially if you don’t think you are particularly talented in any one area, this is the book for you. As the title suggests, Colvin makes the convincing case that we give far too much credit to talent when observing the success of others, and we have far too little appreciation for the work that it really takes to be great. Becoming good – really good, takes effort, energy, and endurance. That’s why it is, as Albert Gray suggested, a lot “easier to adapt to the hardships of a poor living than it is to adjust ourselves to the hardships of making a better one.”

So, where are you slacking off? Where have you adjusted your desires, ambitions and attitudes to a lower level of accomplishment? Where do you need to step it up and apply some additional energy, effort and endurance? The “hardship” on the front end might take some sacrifice, but the success on the back end will be much better than the long, unending hardships of adjusting yourself to a lower level of success.

Now….Go to WORK!