The Value of “Group Therapy” in Building a Culture of Progress

There is an African fable about a village who were beset by misfortune, where everyone had more than their usual share of hardships to deal with. With everyone coming to him and complaining, the village leader decided to call everyone together. He asked everyone to write down their biggest problem on a piece of paper and put it into a pot. He then passed the pot around and made each person choose a new one at random. “Your old problem is gone,” he said, “this is now your new problem to deal with.” Without fail, each person wanted their old problem back and complained a great deal less from then on.

The moral of the story is not to punish our people for complaining, but to point out that there is something cathartic about coming together and sharing our problems when life gets ugly. Knowing what others are dealing with can help us feel more empowered to address our own problems head-on and find a way through them.

And there’s something to be said for having problems. No matter how well you set up the chess pieces for efficiency and progress, there are going to be snags. We hate those snags, of course, but we have to own them to get through them and move on.

Yes, we must deal with emotional and professional challenges ourselves, but that doesn’t mean we have to do it alone.

We all have professional failures from time to time, individually and systemically, and the worst thing a person can do is obsess on them in silence. If you’re struggling to build a culture of progress and empowerment in your dental group, you might be focusing too hard on the positive messages and forgetting that unaired grievances can be a morale-suck for even the strongest leaders in your group.

As any therapist will tell you, just talking about it with a trusted someone can help you feel better—and maybe even help you see a solution.

Office Cultures that Work

When you look at successful enterprises composed of well-functioning scalable staff, you notice that they all have a few things in common. One of those things is that they communicate regularly, and feel empowered to communicate whenever they need to.

But a common problem is that a lot of people don’t know when they need to get something off their chest, because they have so little professional experience doing so, or doing it together.

I tell all my clients that you should make time for “group therapy” if you want to keep your team functioning. This is not social time or an add on, but should be a regular part of your team’s communication MO.

How to Do It

Even if it’s just 20 minutes bi-weekly, or ten minutes at the end of a meeting, you have to give your team a vehicle for exorcising any bad vibes that may clog up your professional atmosphere.

Prompt everyone to share one of the following common stressors:

  • Something I screwed up recently
  • Something that made me mad and compromised my performance
  • Something that distracted me from my job and how I dealt with it (or didn’t)
  • Something that isn’t working for me

Some of the things that may come out are going to be personal, but that’s okay. Personal and professional are going to overlap if you want your people to give their best selves to your business.

Assign a timekeeper to ensure you only spend a few minutes on each person or issue that comes up, and this will help prevent lingering on negativity. Air it, discuss it, and move on to the next.

Your staff will naturally start small as you implement this, but, gradually, trust and openness will build toward a stronger sense of community.

The Value of “Group Therapy”

The value of these meetings works on both an individual and group scale:

  • Talking about negative experiences is emotionally cathartic on an individual level
  • New perspectives can be brought to old challenges
  • Snowballing catastrophes can be identified in their earlier stages
  • Everyone walks away feeling a little bit closer, a little bit more connected

Even if you’ve never been a fan of talking about your problems and stressors with others, your team needs this. There is research to support the adage that a problem shared is a problem halved. If you want to build a scalable culture of progress, empowering your team to communicate (for better or worse) will help you get there.

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

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