Is Your Leadership Style at Your Dental Practice Compromising Patient Safety?
Your dental patients depend on your team to stay safe, but safety doesn't happen by accident. Your leadership style has a direct connection to the quality of patient care your dental practice can provide. That includes the number of safety incidents that occur in your practice, as well as the likelihood of a positive patient outcome.
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Is Your Leadership Style Compromising Patient Safety?
Your patients depend on your team to stay safe, but safety doesn't happen by accident. Your leadership style has a direct connection to the quality of patient care. That includes the number of safety incidents that occur in your dental practice, as well as the likelihood of a positive patient outcome.
In a busy practice, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day work. You and your team are so focused on patients that you fall into bad habits when interacting with each other. Sometimes, that means entire days go by when your only communication is giving direction and correcting errors. Other times, the day ends and you realize you didn’t recognize employees for exceptional work, and you didn’t address areas of opportunity. That's bad for business. In particular, research shows that it's bad for dental patients.
Leadership styles in dentistry can fall anywhere on the spectrum between what is referred to as laissez-faire leadership — letting your team do as they please — and autocratic leadership, a fully top-down approach.
Both ends of this spectrum are too extreme to be effective. In between, there are a variety of leadership styles that can take your practice to the next level — styles that encourage engagement, innovation, and passion for the work. Making a deliberate effort to adjust and develop your leadership style can have a positive impact on your practice and a transformational effect on patient safety and outcomes.
Importance of Leadership in Dental Organizations
There are all sorts of employee issues that can distract from the work of patient care. Some of the most pressing include difficulty attracting top talent, an inability to retain your best team members, and ongoing performance problems that linger for months.
Effective leadership changes all of that. Certain leadership styles have been shown to increase employee engagement, which directly contributes to the quality of patient care and eventually your bottom-line results. Specifically, high-quality leadership is correlated with a culture of safety, improved patient outcomes, and increased patient satisfaction.
Understanding where you fall on the spectrum of leadership styles, then developing the skills and characteristics of a highly effective leader, improves employee morale, transforms the culture of your practice, and ensures that you can hire and hold on to highly qualified team members.
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The 5 Leadership Types
Researchers have spent decades examining leadership styles, along with the pros and cons of each. These five make a regular appearance in the dental industry. Which best describes you? More importantly, which leadership style would you like to see more of in your practice?
The transactional leadership style tends to be the most traditional. It is based on a clear hierarchy, attention to policies and procedures, and a visible link between positive behaviors and recognition. Of course, the converse is also true. Teams led by transactional leaders understand the consequences for failure to comply with established procedures.
- Employees understand what is expected of them.
- Your team can quickly achieve short-term goals.
- There is a chain of command and procedures for resolving concerns.
- Team members are supervised carefully, limiting the likelihood of errors.
- There is little room for collaboration, which can detract from employee engagement.
- Innovation and problem-solving aren’t actively encouraged, which limits employees’ ability to pursue more efficient and effective methods of completing tasks.
Transactional leadership makes sense in a high-pressure healthcare environment, but it is best limited to crisis situations. When time is of the essence and you are working through an emergency, it’s helpful to have a team that will follow directions quickly and precisely. Outside of crisis situations, many healthcare leaders find other leadership styles are better suited for creating a culture of engagement.
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Innovative leadership takes the attention off of what has been done in the past and gives employees the freedom to think creatively. They are encouraged to ask, “What if…?”, to find new ways of doing things, and to explore uncommon solutions to the most pressing problems facing your practice.
Teams working under an innovative leader are known for challenging the status quo. Just because it has always been done a certain way doesn’t mean that’s the right way. They embrace change, and they are always looking for opportunities to add value to the work environment and the patient experience. That’s important in a time when medical technology is advancing rapidly.
- Innovative leaders have teams that adapt quickly.
- Employees feel empowered when their ideas are encouraged.
- Your practice benefits from implementing new, better ways of getting the job done.
- Sometimes the existing methods are the best methods. Don’t get caught up in change just for the sake of change.
The primary pitfall of innovative leadership is that it isn’t right for every situation you will encounter within your practice. Sometimes, the existing process is a necessary and important path for getting things done, so developing the skills of other leadership styles is a must.
Charismatic leaders are those with big personalities and extraordinary communication skills. They inspire, motivate, persuade, and charm employees into giving their all to the job. Their ability to make deep connections with team members ensures employees feel heard and valued. That goes a long way toward building a practice that exceeds patients’ expectations.
- Working in healthcare brings unique challenges — charismatic leaders develop teams willing to overcome those challenges for the good of the practice.
- Under charismatic leaders, teams feel connected — both with each other and with you.
- Employees are inspired to embrace new ideas and adapt to change.
- When it’s all about personality, but there isn’t substance behind the charm, employees can become disillusioned
- Charismatic leaders run the risk of focusing more on themselves than their team members.
- Given the popularity of charismatic leaders, employees often avoid sharing negative feedback.
Inspiring your team by letting the best parts of your personality shine through can motivate them to do more and be more. However, if you are a charismatic leader, take special care to keep the focus on your employees, and stay open to constructive feedback.
Situational leaders are perhaps the most dynamic of the group. They understand that different circumstances may require different leadership styles. In an emergency, they take on the characteristics of a transactional leader, but when it is time for problem-solving, they are all about innovation. The ability to flex and adapt your leadership style can have important benefits to your practice.
- You have the ability to motivate and inspire during difficult times.
- Your team listens to you and takes direction when you must rapidly achieve a short-term goal.
- Employees are always on the lookout for ways to improve, which ensures innovative solutions to complex problems.
- Some employees struggle with changing leadership styles — they need the stability and reliability of knowing what to expect from you.
- It’s difficult to develop the skill of knowing which leadership style is right for the situation at hand.
To some extent, it is likely you already adapt your leadership style depending on the situation. Developing the skills associated with different leadership styles will increase your effectiveness in changing and adapting to the current situation.
Transformational leaders bring out the leadership skills of others. They aren’t concerned with being “in charge” — instead, they empower their teams to collaborate on solutions for getting the job done. These types of leaders are committed to coaching, training, and developing their employees so that their team members have the ability to achieve personal goals as well as the goals of the practice.
- Transformational leaders create inspired, motivated teams.
- Team members are empowered to do their jobs well.
- Collaboration develops naturally under this leadership style.
- This type of leadership isn’t right for every setting. For example, in an emergency, employees must take direction.
- Some employees prefer the stability of a transactional leader. They want black-and-white answers.
Your effectiveness as a transformational leader depends as much on your team members as it does on your skills. Employees who are passionate about professional development and patient care will appreciate being empowered, but it might take some time to persuade others.
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How HR For Health Can Help
HR for Health makes it easier for you to be an effective leader. Automating labor-intensive manual tasks leaves you more time to focus on the things that matter: communication, recognition, coaching, training, and supporting your team. Learn more about the solutions available from HR for Health by contacting HR for Health here.
About HR for Health
HR for Health is an all-in-one HR software solution dedicated to helping the dental, optometry, and veterinary industries. Our human resources platform features all the tools practice owners need to manage payroll, timekeeping, 401(k), and more with total integration and ease.
Whether you’re looking for HR support for a small business or you’re a large group dental practice, HR for Health has the solution to fit your practice and budget. Reach out to a HR for Health account representative to learn more, today: Schedule a Meeting