Building the Right Atmosphere: Hiring for Change-Positive Attitudes to Build Your Group Practice

“The atmosphere you create determines the product you make.”

– Sam Glenn

The above quotation from motivational speaker Sam Glenn can be true for any business, but it’s especially relevant for those of us who are trying to build something new. If you are just starting out on your path to a group dentistry practice—or just starting to hire—you likely already know exactly what your product is going to be. Whether it’s a focus on affordable dentistry, implants, cosmetic dentistry, or something else, the atmosphere is going to be just as important as the product.

Of course, you’ve thought about the “product,” but do you have any idea how build the atmosphere that’s going to make that product a living, breathing reality? Are you confident you can use the hiring process to bring in the people who will define your atmosphere?

Mark Murphy, author of Hiring for Attitude, did research on new hires and found that about 46% of new hires (from a range of industries) failed within their first 18 months. Those failures were most often not from technical failures, but problems related to soft skills and attitude. It’s easy for you to compare candidates based on their technical skills and relevant work experience, but what really matters is finding people with the attitude that fits into your culture.

Why is attitude such an important aspect of hiring? You can always train and build a person’s skills, and you can help them work on their soft skills, too—but you can’t change attitude. It’s one quality you have to get right, from the beginning.

If you’re building something new, it’s possible you don’t know what your new culture will look like precisely. But you aren’t new to this rodeo. You darn well know which hires have worked out the best in your initial practice and which haven’t. Which people were invaluable to you when your practice went through transitions. Which got on board and led the way? We all have those people we wish we could clone, right? The question is how you can define those assets’ attitudinal strengths as a roadmap for hiring new people that will bring the same change-positive attitude to your group practice.

Look at What You Have to Find Out What You Need

It’s an expected part of interviews now that behavioral questions are going to show up—but few managers really know what to do with those questions. “Tell me about a mistake that you made in the past,” for example. Most of us don’t really know what to do with the answer to this question; if the candidate doesn’t come across as too cocky or offensive, we think it’s probably a good answer…and a great question goes to waste!

If you truly want to find new staff with the right attitude for your culture, what should you look for in a candidate’s answer to this question? Well, you have to do your homework first.

Identify those people you want to clone, your priceless staff that are always at your side and marching in step with you. Take a little time to ask those people your behavioral questions. Tell them you are doing research and that their answers will have no effect on their job or performance evaluations. Have them write down their answers, if possible, as this will help you as you try to aggregate and distill what your top people have in common, attitudinally. (On the flip side, you could also ask your duds the same questions, so you know when you hear a red flag!)

Since you are headed in the direction of growth and transformation, you want to find people with a positive attitude to change. There is no litmus test for this, of course, so focus your behavioral questions on how a person has adapted to or initiated change in the past.

Some behavioral questions you might ask your high performers and candidates:

  • Talk about a time when you had to adapt to a difficult situation.
  • What was a time when you were embarrassed by your performance, and how do you change?
  • What is the most useful criticism you’ve ever received?
  • Tell me about a time when you switched horses midstream (changed your approach mid project).
  • What are you most proud of, in your career thus far?
  • Without naming an individual, when have you been disappointed in a colleague, professionally, and why?

These are just a few; you can find more behavioral interview questions online, of course. Contact us to learn more about the best hiring practices for scaling up and growing your group practice into the enterprise of your dreams.


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