The Dash to the 2019 Finish Line

Kristine Berry

By Kristine Berry, RDH, MSEC

4 steps to implementable success

Where are you regarding reaching your year-end goals? I invite you to pause and take stock of your successes from the last two quarters. This article focuses on the support you need in planning for the months ahead.

Looking backwards to the first two quarters of the year:

  • What successes did your team have?
  • What major accomplishments did your team have?
  • What were the key lessons learned?
  • What habits or practices helped you?
  • What role did you play in planning?
  • What systems and practices supported your focus and planning?
  • What got in the way?
  • What do you NOT want to carry forward into the coming seasons?

What’s this you say? You have yet to lay out your goals for this year? If a poll was taken of most people, it would reveal that the life they lead is a result of happenstance and not planning. The same goes for business. It’s my belief – and the belief of many business and professional coaches – that the business solvency of the companies we lead is more often a result of lack of planning, rather than over-planning or having the wrong plan.

Perhaps you dread making or tracking key metrics, or you never planned what your income will be, or you never decided how many patients you want to have. Perhaps you are at a point where you wish your team would just listen to you, so that you only have to say things once and it’s done! Or you are feeling like you’ve been on a treadmill the first half of the year and are ready to bust through the brick wall of running your business so that you can grow. Or perhaps you feel the people around you just don’t care. Or maybe you don’t care anymore!

Effectiveness in business requires a focus on both results and relationships. One without the other is not enough. This article offers tools and a roadmap to make your dash to the 2019 finish line more focused, effective and without carnage.

In order to establish and achieve your goals, you must follow these 4 steps:

  • Discover your direction.
  • Identify your gaps.
  • Pack your practice with meaningful purpose.
  • Create sustainable results.

Discover your direction
This is where the rubber meets the road. “Where is the road?” you ask. My answer: “Where do you want it to be?” Whether or not you set goals for your practice in January, yesterday or you commit to doing it after reading this article, Step 1 is to create space.

You must clarify and specify the future you want for your business, where you want to go or what you want to have. Some people do not even know what’s possible for their businesses; you may need someone to help you get a clear vision of how you want your office to be. At dental practice management firm Next Level Practice, our community sets goals considering the following divisions: leadership, management, administration, marketing, case acceptance, finance and quality assurance.

With these divisions in mind, you can begin to create specific destinations for your business. For example, one of my clients took the quality assurance division and set monthly calibrations with the clinical teams to ensure everyone was working to their highest standard of care. In the leadership department, a doctor who owned multiple locations shared that she kept encountering the same obstacle: Her team did not want to implement anything 100 percent. During one of our coaching sessions, she was willing to explore why this kept happening. She discovered that her team did not trust her to keep and honor her word about the changes, or to hold anyone accountable; she was known for not following through. Her team was playing the waiting game – always waiting for her to go on to the next idea. So, the doctor’s end game was to implement a system to interrupt that pattern. She realized it started with her leadership and that she needed to develop this first.

Identify your gaps
Once you have identified where you want to go, the next step is to identify the gaps between what you want for your business and where you are now. For example, if you want to work three days a week and take four weeks off a year, and you are currently working five days a week with two weeks of vacation, those gaps begin the process of awareness.

People do not particularly like gaps. Once identified, we instinctively want to close them. Some of this is the result of cognitive dissonance. People in general want to be consistent in their attitudes, beliefs, values and actions/behaviors. They want to act in accordance with their attitudes, beliefs, values and goals. When their actions contradict them, they experience dissonance.

This dissonance is uncomfortable, and people naturally want to reduce it. The dissonance gap creates a vacuum in which the solution starts to unfold. This strategy is one competency that I implement with my client teams. We discover what the owner/doctor/CEO/team leader, etc., wants to create with regard to time and dollars, and then we walk them through a process called reverse engineering. Reverse engineering is a proven implementation strategy or process for goals, systems and engaging teams.

Leaders with effective communication structures, team leaders, morning huddles and other key practice success methodologies will not find themselves in the position of being a hall monitor and policing or micromanaging people. Rather, they can do what they love to do: Practice dentistry and monitor outcomes.

Pack your practice with meaningful purpose
Perhaps some readers of this article are members of the drill-and-fill PPO club. Your culture and standards crank out transactional dentistry and experience the daily challenge of outrunning the expenses of your practices. That’s not good, bad, right or wrong; it just is. On the other side of the spectrum, there are practices that deliver complete health dentistry that have a high value proposition and embrace the triple win. The triple win is a culture that embodies agreements and systems to ensure the patient, team and practice all win.

These triple-win practices are playing a different game; they understand whole-body health and the mouth’s role in preventing chronic inflammatory and brain disorders. Doctors and teams go to work every day with an abundance mindset. They believe there are more than enough patients who value health, and they love to serve them.

You may find you are somewhere in the middle. It’s important to identify where you are on the purpose spectrum. No position is good or bad. And, if you want to finish every year strong, you cannot get there alone. Your team wants meaningful careers and workplaces. In order for you to achieve your goals, your team must align their values and passions with your vision, philosophy and/or guiding principles.

Create sustainable results
To create happy teams that implement sustainable results, you as a leader must locate your authentic leadership style. If you are not breaking even and/or have not consistently hit your financial goals, I invite you to take a deep dive into your leadership style. At Next Level Practice, we have worked with 6,000 practices and researched the personas of thousands of doctors.

Communicating solely from your dominant persona often results in your team not understanding you; their personas cannot yet hear yours. The following are four personalities we identify within doctors and teams: methodical, humorist, competitive and spontaneous. Seventy-five percent of dentists we researched fall into the category of introvert methodical, meaning they know the steps, but they might find it challenging to articulate their ideas. As you read the descriptors below, which one resonates with you?

  • Methodical. Paralysis analysis, likes step-by-steps, might not consider relationships while focusing on the finish line.
  • Competitive. Needs it done yesterday; get to the bottom line; you are not moving fast enough.
  • People pleaser, listens to how any strategy will influence relationships, acquiesces decisions.
  • Spontaneous. Likes to have fun and, if it is too much work, they won’t do it!

Identify which category best describes you. In order to achieve the goals you set and the freedom you deserve, you may need to disrupt your current modus operandi. You can do so by becoming aware of the way you see yourself and the manner you customarily use to relate to everyone around you. Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, preeminent executive coach and author of What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, believes that leaders need “guidelines to help eliminate dysfunctions and move to where you want to go.” He adds, “Often our own success delusion stands in our way and causes us to resist change.” In order to reach your goals, you may need to move out of your comfort zone.

The doctor’s persona overlays the practice’s communication system. Think about what can happen when a competitive doctor/owner wants to talk to his 80 percent humanistic team about numbers. The team is most likely going to view any metrics-and-measurements conversation as the doctor being obsessed with production. They may suspect he only cares about the money. Unless the owner knows how to set the context for his or her humanist team, and understands that KPIs are a way of tracking how they are living their standard of care or helping their community become healthier, the team will disengage. It only takes one person to derail the team. Leaders must be aware of whether or not their automatic leadership (and hence communication style) is alienating team members. The truth is, a team’s perception is their reality!

Another way to determine whether some team members aren’t engaged in your mission, and to better understand your style, is to look at team meeting agendas for 2009 and 2019. If the same items are on both agendas, you need to be open to leadership development. Think about hiring a coach to support your expansion as a leader. Once clear leadership and effective communication style are in place, you are in a better position to lead a happy team that get consistent results.

Now turn to the remainder of the year’s planning and set your group practice up to finish strong:

  • What are your goals for quarters three and four?
  • Narrowing it down, what are your top three to five priorities?
  • What time is earmarked for planning?
  • What time is earmarked for team training and development?
  • What new habits and practices do you want to put in place?
  • What relationships do you want to focus on?
  • What is the one thing you can do on a daily basis to move your goals forward?
  • What needs clearing up?
  • Where can you get accountability, support and mentorship?

Successful practices require dedication and strategy. Consider the four strategic steps to implementing effective results and relationships in your practice. Think about which of these areas is the weakest in your practice, and start there. Coaching can be a powerful ally in moving forward to a healthy, thriving practice. Be in touch if I can assist you in making a dash to the 2019 finish line!

Kristine Berry is an international speaker and executive business coach, specializing in enhancing group practices. If you are looking for a speaker or coach, she invites you to email her at, or visit