Dealing with Growing Pains – Riding the Elephant

Scaling up and improving your practice is never going to come without disruption. Growing pains can interrupt your smoothly functioning dental office or group in ways you might not predict. These pains might come into the light or they may be self-suppressed. Either way, as a leader you’ll be better able to help your dental team ride out the growing pains if you can keep your eyes on the big picture.

Any time I hear the expression “the elephant in the room” I always think about the story of the blind men and the elephant. Feel free to skip this if you know the story already. It’s an improbable tale, but it makes a good point about perspective:

Five blind men come upon an elephant. One man feels the trunk and says an elephant is very like a snake. Another feels the leg and says the elephant is like a tree. Another feels the flank and says the elephant is very much like a wall. Another feels the ear and says it is like a curtain. Rather than continue to explore the creature, they spend hours arguing that the others are wrong. In fact, all are totally right and yet totally wrong in their understanding of the creature before them.

I’ve already discussed the value of “group therapy” meetings that give your team a platform for airing all the negatives that may be clogging your pipes and blocking your dental team from moving forward. It doesn’t need to be a major part of your routine, but it should be a part of your routine. It works. It builds trust, successful patterns of communication, and a winning team mentality.

Another benefit is that it can help you identify your proverbial elephants in the room—those issues that don’t get discussed but weigh heavily on everyone and stop the gears from moving.

Riding Out Your Growing Pains

Let’s say, for example, your team is implementing a new paperless management system that you have faith will benefit your business. It’s been prescribed by the experts and you’re taking your medicine. In the beginning, it’s a given you’ll need a period of adjustment as everyone learns new processes and software. You have to be patient and soldier through it to reap the potential rewards. Your team gets this and does their best to stay positive when old routines are disrupted. Soon they think they’ve got it down, and try to get back to business as usual.

The problem though, is that your dental team may be so compartmentalized in their specific roles—and so consumed by immediate challenges–that they don’t necessarily see all the related growing pains for what they are.

  • One member of your staff sees only process delays that may seem unrelated to the new system
  • Another person is seeing an influx of data errors
  • Someone else faces a data-based bottleneck that’s driving them over the edge
  • Another may already be seeing positive gains from the new system, and is therefore deaf to any legitimate concerns about the process.

Each may have a legitimate complaint, but they may be blind to the bigger picture and the natural lifespan of their problem.

As the leader, your job is to be the sighted man who sees the whole elephant. What would have happened if those five blind men had had just one person who could see the usefulness of the whole beast and, say, guide them to the top of the elephant’s back? They could ride that elephant the 20 miles back to their village and save them the trouble of walking through the jungle!

Is seeing the big picture going to magically make it easier for your team to deal with the bugs and bumps of a new system? No. But you need to find a ladder that will let them ride it out.

See beyond the immediate problems and find a common benefit to help your team ride out the difficult period of adjustment. Figure out how to get them safely back home, and on the same page.

That ladder may look like:

  • Simple communication interventions
  • A temporary vacation from other responsibilities or initiatives.
  • An extended timeline
  • Cross-training staff on different aspects of the initiative.

We all know growing pains are inevitable in scaling up and sealing the cracks that leak revenue. Use your unique perspective to help your team ride them out.

Contact us about your challenges and the solutions you’re looking for.

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