Having just concluded our ToPS “Total Immersion” course in San Jose, CA, I found myself standing at the entrance to the security checkpoint at the airport with some decisions to make. I had to decide what type of traveler I was before I entered the line:
- Casual Traveler,
- Family Traveler, or
- Expert Traveler.
There was a separate line for each. The problem was that the expert traveler line started further down the concourse, so it was not worth the trip. I was not with my family, so I was left with the “casual traveler” choice. I remarked to our team that I was probably the furthest thing from a casual traveler, but forced to make the decision at hand, I could fake it for the next few minutes. I almost had to catch myself as my pace slowed and my step swaggered a bit as I took on the characteristics of the “label” that had been placed on me by virtue of the line I had chosen. After all, if you are in the “casual traveler” line, you better act the part!
Labels. They can help you. They can hurt you. It all depends on the labels you choose. While some may dismiss their importance, they wield powerful influence over human behavior.
I consider my mother as one of the masters of positive labels. As a young teenager, I was riding along with my mom one day when the topic turned to driving. With my 16th birthday approaching sometime in the next 12 months, she very astutely said, “I just know that you are going to be the best driver in the family.” Call it affirmation or expectation, the positive label she placed on me as “the best driver in the family” made me take extra care to live up to the label she had given me.
In contrast, consider the negative label most unthinking adults give their up-and-coming teenage driver. “The roads aren’t safe anymore,” they will say jokingly. But, label has been cast and the behavior will most likely follow.
Consider some of the labels in the dental office that could be and should be changed in order to naturally achieve a more desirable result:
Change the “Morning Huddle” to the “Morning Opportunity Meeting.” The most effective huddles we see are those that focus on uncovering opportunities for the day. If that is the main purpose, then let’s put the proper label on it and the behavior will follow. Everyone will come more prepared to find opportunities for the day.
Change “re-care” to “continuing care.” To “re” anything is to do it over. No one likes to have to do something over again that they already did once. We all like to progress, improve, and to move on. “Continuing care” is the label that will encourage the positive behavior we seek.
Change “dental insurance” to “dental benefits.” After all, it is not insurance in the pure definition of the word. Legitimate “insurance” covers or reduces your “risk.” That is not what dental “insurance” does. On the other hand, a “benefit” is something that is provided as a “perk” or additional help to defray the investment someone is making. Put the right label on it and it will help people understand what it really is.
Replace “job” with “career.” A “job” is a paid position of regular employment. A “career” is an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life with opportunities for progress. The label we choose determines the mindset with which we approach our daily responsibilities.
Then there is my favorite: Replace “staff” with “team.” A staff is just the people employed by an organization. A team works together. The label you choose for the group may very well project onto them the behavior they will ultimately exhibit.
Take a look at the labels you choose for everything in your office and your life. They have the power to influence your behavior and the behavior of others.
Now that you have been reminded of the importance of labels, you are likely to do something about it because anyone who has read this far is serious about what they are doing and is an excellent implementer. An excellent implementer – that is a label you can live with!