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January 1, 2018

The Buck Stops with Leadership

The Buck Stops with Leadership

Every office culture is unique based on its leadership. What leaders do and even what they don’t do affects the culture. Culture is always a direct result of leadership’s actions or inaction.   If leaders don’t cultivate a culture by design they will reap a culture by default. Leaders, the good news is if you have an awesome culture take a bow. The bad news is if you have a negative culture take a bow.

I often hear; “I just want to do the dentistry and let someone else run the practice.” News alert for practice owners! Even if you hand over the responsibility of running the practice so you can just focus on just doing dentistry you are still responsible for the culture. It’s what is accepted and allowed by the practice owner that determines the culture.

The practice owner is responsible for the organization and all decisions made within the organization. Whether they are the one making the decisions or not the buck stops with the practice owner. Which is why it is so important to develop cohesive leadership with your practice administrator and any other team members helping you to run your practice. Without cohesive leadership performance expectations will be ambiguous and the team will conform to whatever are the lowest standards or expectations. I refer to a cohesive leadership team as the We Team.  The We Team may consist of the owner doctor or doctors, practice administrator, manager, team lead and any other leadership roles in the practice.

The first step in developing a cohesive We Team is to clarify the vision and purpose of the practice. The practice owner needs to define the vision for their practice. In essence their WHY behind their practice. Otherwise, it’s very difficult to get others to follow their lead if they don’t even know who they are and what they stand for. I ask owners to come up with four core words that reflect the core values they want to have in their practice. I have found that four core words are much more powerful and effective than a rambling vision statement.

What four words in order of priority best describe your core values? Would other people be able to recognize those values in you? For example, my four core words in order of priority are: Lifter, Authentic, Happy, and Committed. If you don’t know what yours are stop reading and take some time to reflect. They are important to define and prioritize because they will help guide you and your leadership team in decision making. Defining and living by core values will also help to avoid the distractions of the daily mundane, shiny new things and the noise from other people’s shoulds. Core values give us a strategy and blue print on how to lead and live each day. We become more powerful when we examine every action or attitude before proceeding. Does the action or attitude support or sabotage the core values? We are all response-able. I use the suffix able because we are able to think and choose how we respond. Ask yourself how would the person I want to be respond or react based on the four core values instead of responding based on emotions. I fly almost every week to work with clients. Flying is well…let’s just say it can be very interesting. Asking myself, “How would a lifter respond?” has kept me many times from responding in anger or frustration when life is interesting.

Schedule weekly We Team Meetings to nurture and maintain cohesiveness. Pre-schedule a consistent day and time of the week for the year. They can range in time anywhere from a half hour up to two hours depending on the size of the We Team. We Team Meetings are very important and are not to be sacrificed to accommodate patients or other reasons. If for some reason it is absolutely necessary to reschedule find another time the same week even if it means cutting into patient schedule time. Yes practice owners it is imperative that you attend and participate. Otherwise, the practice culture will not be a culture you designed it will be a culture you accepted or allowed.

A weekly time frame allows the We Team to have real-time discussions, keep everyone in the loop and resolve issues before emotions soar. The practice administrator becomes the designated point of entry for the We Team. All questions, suggestions and concerns (unless immediate concern) are to be brought to the practice administrator. The benefit of having the team go to the practice administrator instead of the doctor will prevent many of the daily disruptions and on the fly decisions. The Practice Administrator will bring the information to the weekly We Team Meeting.   The We Team will discuss, give feedback and come to a decision or solution with final ruling determined by the practice owner. In some cases it may be beneficial to have a team meeting to discuss and get feedback from the entire team before making a final decision.

The practice administrator will schedule a Response Meeting (within 24 hours of the We Team Meeting when possible) with the team member or members. At the Response Meeting the Practice Administrator will share the We Team’s decision or solution with the team member.

Holding a weekly We Team Meeting will maintain a cohesive leadership team that is empowered to cultivate a culture by design versus a culture by default. Everything will begin and end with leadership. Leadership will be prepared for when the buck stops!

Tune is next month to learn the We Team’s discussion and decision process!

December 1, 2017

The Great Divide!

The Great Divide!

Culture is a way of life of a group of people–the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one person to the next.

I am a Culture Cultivator. I use the description of cultivator to describe what I do because cultivators are designed to disturb the soil in careful patterns, sparing the crop plants but disrupting the weeds. I have the privilege of helping dental teams nationwide weed out their weeds to create a happier, healthier and higher performing culture.

One of the most common and most toxic weeds I observe is The Great Divide! The Great Divide is the division between the business team and the clinical team commonly referred to as the front and back office. The team sees themselves as adversaries on different sides and stops working together for the greater good of the patients, practice and team. The divide often starts with each side blaming the other side for what went wrong with the schedule and patient flow. They are quick to point the finger at the opposing side and should all over them. You hear; “They should just…! They shouldn’t have done that…! It’s their responsibility or fault!” The blame game runs rampant. Each side is quick to throw the other side under the bus.   The line has been drawn dividing the team into front and back sides!



The first day of my Rise & Shine Culture Camp is Obstacle and Opportunity Assessment Day. I observe the practice culture and speak with the team members. The teams that are most divided are often understaffed and over scheduled (lacking adequate time for procedures). The team is working as fast as they possibly can and still not able to keep up. Chaos, frustration and stress become the norm.

Each side thinks they are working harder than the other side. They are quick to judge and blame the other side when they fall behind and can’t get the help they need.

We can end The Great Divide between team members by resolving the following questions. It starts with awareness. Have a team meeting with the entire team and discuss:

  • The entire journey of a patient through the practice.
  • Who needs to do what and when? Do we have enough people?
  • Are we scheduling the appropriate time for each procedure?
  • What needs to happen (the absolutes) before we can hand the patient off to the next team member?
  • What are the obstacles that get in the way?
  • How can we support each other to overcome the obstacles?
  • Who needs to know what information and when?
  • Who and how can we step in when the wheels do fall off?


Invite the business and clinical team members to observe each other at work for at least several hours. It is easy to judge if we have not walked in the other person’s shoes.

It is vital to understand that the patient experience is dependent on every team member. It doesn’t matter how well we do are job. If the patient has a bad experience with another team member and leaves the practice we have lost the patient. The patients experience and the practice success rely on how well we support one another.

Service and patient care are contingent on consistent team support. In order to be consistent we need to be realistic when it comes to scheduling time and staffing and make necessary adjustments.   If we don’t we will frustrate, disengage and eventually lose even the best of team members.

There is a huge what’s in it for the practice to end the division. The Great Divide not only affects the team it greatly affects service, patient care and the bottom line!

Contact Judy Kay at  today if you want to learn how she can help you build a cohesive team that support each other and the practice, become better leaders, and deliver service with more focus and passion!

November 1, 2017

I’m RIGHT! You’re WRONG!

I’m RIGHT! You’re WRONG!

Our success in life depends greatly on how well we communicate in our personal and our professional lives. When we communicate openly, positively, and effectively we inspire connections and build sincere, strong, sustaining relationships. Our ceiling of success then becomes like the old expression, “Sky’s the limit”.

What often gets in the way and sabotages successful communication is our personal beliefs of right and wrong.

Most of our beliefs can be traced back to our early years. I’m the youngest of seven and am blessed with a great family. I grew up on a farm in North Dakota. My past experiences will differ greatly from those who were not raised in the same environment. Our expectations of right and wrong will vary and may even conflict based on our past experiences.

When we interact with others, we are always coming from a place filled with our own experiences. Our expectations differ because of our unique and individual beliefs, opinions, and assumptions based on our experiences. These expectations become our personal truths upon which we base judgments of right and wrong. To help you remember the concept, see the first letters of each word; it spells out the word B.O.A.T. Beliefs, Opinions, Assumptions, therefore, are Truths based on our experiences.

We all have unique and individual experiences, yet we expect each other to think, act, and respond the same. These are some false expectations that can get us into trouble.

  • Others must behave in the same manner as we do or their behavior is wrong.
  • Another person’s behavior must mean the same as ours if we did that same behavior.
  • We get in a disagreement because others disagree with our opinion (after all we are right)!

These are examples of expectations based on personal truths. Once we understand that our personal truths (how we judge the world by what is right and wrong) are based on the unique and individual experiences we have, we can no longer believe that our answer is the only right answer.

I would like you to try this exercise. Take your right hand and make a little telescope. Now close your left eye and look through your telescope with your right eye. Take a moment and look around the room. Imagine that the small circle area you are looking through is the scope of what you have experienced in life. Everything else outside of that view are experiences you have not encountered.

Our beliefs dictate our right! We may be right based on the current extent of our experiences. However, there is a whole big universe out there filled with experiences we have yet to meet. Right and wrong are really arbitrary. The more knowledge and understanding we have the more we will realize how ambiguous right and wrong become. When we continue to explore we will find there is always more to the story. For example a round versus a flat world.

I used to love listening to Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story. The Rest of the Story was a Monday-through-Friday radio program originally hosted by Paul Harvey. The Rest of the Story consisted of stories presented as little-known or forgotten facts on a variety of subjects with some key element of the story (usually the name of some well-known person) held back until the end. The broadcasts always concluded with a variation on the tag line “And now you know the rest of the story.”

Be open to the more of the story instead of stubbornly attaching to your beliefs. Avoid making assumptions and filling in the gap based on your B.O.A.T.! Ask questions until you uncover and understand the root of the belief. Here are some good questions to ask when you are in disagreement.

  • Where did you learn this belief?
  • Tell me why you believe this to be right?
  • Tell me why you feel so strongly about this?

More importantly, do a little soul searching first to understand your beliefs before you question other’s beliefs. Here are triggering questions to ask yourself to uncover your why.

  • Where did I learn this belief?
  • Is this belief based on truth or illusion?
  • How important is this belief?
  • How this belief affecting me?
  • Do I still need this belief (how relevant is it now)?

Let go of thinking I have to, you must, they should, and it has to be! These are the words we use to judge others. When we think we know more or better than someone else we are setting ourselves up for a clash of beliefs. We become too attached to our own point of view and that others must share it.   Once we become too attached to an idea we lose respect both for ourselves and others. Sometimes a belief can even become more important than the other people. It is the root of extremism and fanatics.

The world is filled with different beliefs. Who says we all have to always agree. More importantly we need to respect each other and work together for the better of all mankind. I love what my big sis Lorraine taught me years ago. It is okay to agree to disagree. We can stick to our right or we can be open to infinite possibilities!

August 1, 2017

Non-Morning People!

Attention all non-morning people and those who have the pleasure of working with non-morning people! This message is for you!

The minute we step across our office door threshold we are part of creating the culture. What we bring to work affects the happiness and success of the entire team. It is important to be mindful of our attitude, communication and behaviors that we bring into our culture.   That includes even you non-morning people!

Many non-morning team members believe that because they are non-morning person others should just understand their mood.   They believe it is acceptable to turn it off for each other. After all we wouldn’t want to be fake would we? We frequently even turn it off for the people we love the most like our family. Think about this morning’s routine. How did you treat your family? What would you have done differently if they were your patients? I find it thought-provoking that we put filters of kindness and respect on for strangers and acquaintances and don’t for the people we care about and love the most. Something seems a little backward with this behavior. I was curious to uncover the mindset behind a non-morning person’s behavior. Here are few consistent responses I receive when I asked non-morning team members how they treat their coworkers when they first arrive at work.

  • I don’t talk to anyone until I have my coffee
  • I don’t make eye contact or smile at anyone
  • I sometimes give coworkers a stern look and may even grunt at them
  • I just ignore them by walking away
  • I am usually good by 10am. They know I’m not a morning person so if I don’t talk to them or seem a little grumpy they understand.

I have asked non-morning team members if they treat their patients differently in the morning than how they treat their coworkers. The unanimous response I receive is; “Yes of course I do.” The point I make is; this tells me that you can turn it on for your patients even if you are a non-morning person. So if you can turn it on for your patients who may be strangers or are only acquaintances; why wouldn’t you respect your coworkers enough to turn it on for them? After all they are the people you work with day in and day out who have your back.

Did you notice that every response started with I. They were focused on how they feel versus how they made others feel. In most cases the team member had never equated their behavior to a lack of respect towards the other person.

Non-morning people have labeled themselves as non-morning and therefore have deemed their behaviors acceptable or appropriate for a non-morning person. Coworkers, doctors and managers often don’t address the poor behavior instead they excuse and accept it. I regularly hear the excuse they aren’t a morning person so we don’t take it personal. Even when the negative behavior makes them feel uncomfortable. We get what we accept. The bottom line is whether we are morning person or not it is always our choice how we will treat others. We have the ability to think and filter our reaction instead of just reacting on our emotions. Filtering is not fake behavior it is respectful behavior. Time to put back on the respect filter! Light-bulbs go off and mindsets are changed when we shine the light on the respect aspect.

Here is a very simple morning routine that can help you raise the level of positive energy in your morning work routine.

Establish the following morning work routine!

Smile, make eye contact and greet each other with a good morning in the morning. That includes even you doctors and non-morning people who believe you need your coffee first before you become human.

Leave your C.R.A.P. (acronym for criticism, rudeness, assumptions and problems) at the door. Many of the teams I have had the pleasure of working with have created an actual C.R.A.P. container. The science behind it is if we attach something physical to a thought the emotion will seem real. As you walk across the threshold lift your hand and physically drop your C.R.A.P. in the container! Ahhh now don’t you feel a whole lot better? Feel free to pick it up on your way out…or you can just leave it in the container. I am sure your family would be much happier if you didn’t bring it home. Which leads me to another thought.

Time to chase squirrels for a moment. This will make your home life much happier as well. Why spend your evening with your loved ones complaining about how rotten your day was today.   Share three positives about your day with your family instead of highlighting the negatives. Address negative concerns in a solution mode (creator) not a complaint mode (victim). Solution mode empowers you to be a creator whereas complaint mode causes you to be a victim your circumstances.

Never forget that what we bring to work affects the happiness and success of the entire team. It is important to be mindful and respect how we make others feel!

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ~ Maya Angelou

Everyone will feel happier resulting in a win for the patients, the practice and the team!

June 30, 2017

Positive Delegation – Positive Results!

Positive Delegation – Positive Results!

We want what we want! Yet we often don’t ask for what we want and get upset when we don’t get it. Instead we stew over it until we reach a level of frustration where we eventually blow up. We can stop this cycle of frustration by asking for what we want. However, asking does not mean just blurting out a demand. Positive delegation is much more effective in getting positive results.

Delegation takes place daily in our office. Synonyms for delegate are: assign, entrust and transfer. Which is not usually what I see happen when I am observing team members delegating to one another. Instead, I often see a lot of telling, ordering and just plain barking commands. The end results are neither positive nor effective. I teach the following positive delegation process.

Positive Delegation Process:

  • Start out clarifying what you would like to be done. Take the time to explain clearly by defining who, what, when, where, why, and how. We get so busy and in a hurry…we want to dump the information and run. It’s what I call a flyby. Avoid flybys! If you don’t have time to delegate clearly wait until you do.
  • Ask the receiver of the task what they already have on their plate. It may be necessary to re-prioritize the task list if timing is an issue.
  • Ask the receiver of the task if they have any questions about how to complete the task. Answer any questions they may have.
  • If it is more than one step the person delegating is to write it down in bullet point objectives.
  • If it is a longer project schedule check in times (no this does not mean you do not trust them…it allows you to assist with feedback if necessary).
  • Discuss and agree on a realistic time or date to complete the task. Setting a date and time clarifies performance expectations. Without a date it is not a goal only a dream.
  • Once the task is complete the receiver of the task is to confirm with the person delegating that the task has been completed with details



Detailed job descriptions are important as they create clarity in training and performance expectations. Have you ever asked someone for help only to hear, “it’s not my job”? That is a huge pet peeve of mine. You can avoid the phrase, “it’s not my job”, by adding the following statement to all job descriptions. Your job from the moment you clock in to the moment you clock out is whatever is Legal, Ethical & within your Licensure to help the practice thrive! I suggest reviewing the phrase whenever you are hiring someone new, performing a performance review, or whenever behavior or attitude deems it necessary.

Creating a priority hierarchy also clarifies delegation of performance expectations on when to do what. I utilize the rocks, pebbles and sand analogy. A rock is anything that is important and urgent (needs to be done that day) or there will be negative consequences for the practice. The biggest rock is always the patient right in front of us. Everyone helps everyone with their rocks (as long as it is legal, ethical and within their licensure) before going on to their own pebbles and sand. Once all rocks are completed the team member may move on to their pebbles.

Pebbles are also very important but not urgent. Pebbles are never delegated because they can be done another day without affecting the practice negatively. Everyone is responsible for their own pebbles. A pebble can eventually become a rock if left undone based on change in urgency. For example ordering supplies might become a rock if you must order that day or you will run out of necessary supplies before they arrive. Even washing uniforms may become a rock if there are none available for the next day and it is close to closing.

Sand is the filler to fill in open time with cleaning and organizing. Sand is also never delegated. Everyone is responsible for their own. This helps to prevent delegating the things that are less desirable.

Cross training raises the level of delegation of performance expectations by enabling team members to know how to support each other better. I have found having clinical and non-clinical team members observe each other goes a long way in raising job awareness.

Everyone will feel more empowered to support their co-workers resulting in a win for the patients, the practice and the team!

March 1, 2017

C.L.E.A.R. Leadership! (Part 2)

C.L.E.A.R. Leadership! (Part 2)

There are 5 leadership fundamentals that help to clarify leadership. The acronym C.L.E.A.R. exemplifies these 5 fundamentals. This month we will cover the final two C.L.E.A.R. Leadership fundamentals. Please refer to February’s message to review the first three fundamentals.

C – Core Standards

L – Live by Example

E – Empowerment

A – Accountability

R – Results


Accountability –   C.L.E.A.R. Leadership is dependent on leaders being responsible and accountable! It means consistently doing what they said, when they said, and how they said they would do it. It means holding everyone equally accountable. No exclusions no exceptions or you divide the team and lose trust. Also no deviations for team members regardless of longevity.  Accountability does not mean telling someone something once. It means delegating clear expectations and following up as needed until completion is confirmed. Accountability means never leaving anything up to assumptions. When we commit to something we hold ourselves accountable to delivering what we promised.

Here is how we often lose trust with accountability. Someone asks us to do a task for them. We take it on and promise to complete by a certain date and time. Usually we think of what is the fastest could we get it done (if everything went perfect) and we commit to that time frame. Walla…life gets in the way and we don’t get it done on time. When we don’t do what we said we would do when we said we would do it we instantly lose trust. I don’t know about you but very seldom does everything go perfect in my life.

I have found it works best to think of what would be the worst case scenario for timing. For example I am often asked to write articles for different Dental Publications. If I know I can have it done in a week if everything goes smooth I will ask if I can have two weeks. In most cases it doesn’t matter to the publisher. I finish and submit my article in 10 days and I look like a super star! The key is to under promise and over deliver. The problem is our society has become just the opposite…over promising and under delivering. Just think about the solicitation and advertising you hear.   How often do you hear ridiculous claims? Do you instantly trust…or have you gotten jaded by so many negative past experiences?

Life happens and sometimes even with our best efforts we can’t fulfill our promises. In order not to damage trust keep people in the loop by communicating in a timely manner what you can do.



Results – It is important to have an end goal in mind in order to get results. Otherwise, if you don’t know what you want to achieve how do you know when you’ve arrived? It’s very difficult to lead others when they are unsure of the results you desire. Clearly define the results you want to achieve. The more focused the result the clearer the strategy becomes to achieve success. What will make the biggest impact in achieving your desired results?

Establish the why behind the results desired. What are the benefits if the results are achieved and the consequences if they are not? Identifying the why is what gives us the purpose and the perseverance to keep going even when we hit obstacles and meet resistance. It is important for the why to be a value of eight or above on a scale of one to ten. Otherwise, you increase the risk of losing motivation and not succeeding.

Set trackable benchmarks that are challenging and yet achievable. Monitor your progress daily, weekly, monthly etc. depending on the benchmark. When you aren’t achieving a benchmark take time to uncover the specific area(s) of concern. Where do you need to focus more time and energy? What can you start doing or what can you stop doing to make the biggest impact? What specific action steps do you need to take to get the results you desire?

Practice C.L.E.A.R. Leadership and lead in life!

October 3, 2016

Constructive Conversation

The words Constructive Criticism always make me cringe. There just doesn’t seem to be anything constructive about criticism. The dictionary defines criticism as the act of passing judgment as to the merits of qualities, values and abilities. I have yet to see where judging someone has helped to promote their further development and advancement or improve outcome. Instead, criticism comes across as judging, condemning or blaming and has negative effects such as employee shut down, lack of confidence and decline in performance. Yet employers and managers continue to utilize constructive criticism to promote employee growth and change. They continue to do so because of misconceptions about effectiveness and not out of maliciousness.

It’s time to transform the criticism part into a constructive conversation. A constructive conversation includes the following fundamentals and has two role players. The two role players are the Approacher and Approachee. The Approacher is the person conveying and enquiring and the Approachee is the person receiving and responding.


June 30, 2016

Cultivating a Culture by Design

Cultivating a Culture by Design!

July 2016

From the moment we step across the office threshold we become a part of the culture!  The dictionary defines culture as a way of life of a group of people–the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and behaviors. Every office culture is unique based on the culture they designed or allowed to happen by default. What we do and even what we don’t do creates our culture. If we aren’t cultivating a culture by design we will reap a culture by default.

I chose to use the word cultivate because of my farm upbringing and because it is a great analogy for how I work with teams. Cultivators are designed to disrupt the soil in careful patterns, sparing the crop plants but disrupting the weeds. Similarly I help teams cultivate their culture by maintaining what is good and positive while weeding out the weeds (adverse and negative). I am a culture cultivator! The focus of this message is cultivating a culture by design and references an article, “Five Performance and Accountability Standards to Help Your Team Soar,” that I wrote for the ADA’s 2015 book, “The ADA Practical Guide to Leading and Managing the Dental Team”.

Take a moment and think about your current office culture. Is there any drama, disorder or performance decline? Do any of the following team members and behaviors sound familiar?

The Drama Lover

Kelly makes mountains out of mole hills. Any schedule changes result in meltdowns. If Kelly is missing an instrument from her cassette, instead of just going and replacing it, she wastes time complaining to everyone. She often gossips about one co-worker to another. Kelly believes life doesn’t just happen, it happens to her! She always complains, whines, and criticizes co-workers, patients, family and, for that matter, anyone who crosses her path. Her ongoing drama lowers team morale and distracts everyone from focusing on the patients and the practice.

The Chaos Creator

Sam’s life is always in disarray. He’s almost always late and has an excuse. He overslept because the alarm clock stopped working and he didn’t have time to replace it. Or he didn’t allow adequate drive time because he didn’t check the weather or traffic. Or he was late dropping off the kids at school. Sam’s desk is a disaster, and he can’t find any of the charts or paperwork he needs when he needs them. He’s never prepared for meetings, and is always rushing around, stressed from trying to catch up. The team can no longer rely on him to do his job, and have lost trust and respect for him.

The Checked-out Employee

Georgia has been with the practice for 25 plus years. She was an exceptional employee the first 15 years, but her performance has been in a steady decline for the past ten. Georgia challenges any new ideas and refuses to adopt any change in standards or services. She often has an attitude of entitlement where she feels she deserves special treatment because of her longevity with the practice. She proudly describes herself as direct which really means she lacks a kindness/respect filter. What I refer to as cutting off at the knees. (If you cut someone off at the knees, you humiliate them, bully or force them to do what you want.) This makes others afraid to approach her. She may refuse to attend team functions, morning huddles or team meetings, and refuses to put in extra time in a crunch or do what she considers menial tasks. Her attitude and behavior affects the entire team’s performance level. The team starts to question why they have to adhere to standards if Georgia doesn’t.

If you recognize any of these employees or their poor behaviors…BREATHE…you’re not alone. Many offices struggle with undesirable behaviors – they are often unsure of what to do and don’t comprehend the toxic impact these behaviors can have on a practice. They affect communication, treatment acceptance, team work, work day enjoyment, stress levels, happiness, and more. Patient experience, team performance and the practice bottom line plummet. These behaviors are triggered and escalate from unclear and inconsistent expectations due to lack of culture standards.

Culture standards help eliminate the drama of who is right or wrong and get everyone rowing at a higher level on the same boat. Culture standards create clarity and structure. When there is clarity and structure the drama and confusion that often divides a team disappears. The opposite is true when there aren’t clear culture standards, assumptions, false expectations and differences of opinions run rampant. Every team member comes from a different background with unique and individual experiences. What they believe to be true is shaped by their personal experiences. These experiences create their personal truths, which is how they judge what is right and wrong. Drama, disorder and declining performance surface when there are different expectations of right and wrong due to lack of culture standards.

Have a team meeting to discuss what culture standards the team would like in their work environment. In essence, what will be the code of conduct for the practice? Create the standards together. Creating standards to work by creates clarity and helps the team to be accountable to a specific level of attitude, behavior and communication; the ABC’s of teamwork and performance.

Here are questions to ask the team that will help them create culture standards for the practice pertaining to attitude, behavior, and communication:

  • What makes them happy that they want to see more of – list it as a to do
  • What stresses them that they would like to stop – list what you can do to stop it – for example instead of stop gossiping, use support a gossip free culture
  • What can they do to impact their co-workers and patients in a more positive manner
  • How do they want the team to show up for work every day
  • How can they support each other more
  • How can they communicate more clearly, timely and positively with the team and patients

Once you have completed the culture standards list, print it, frame it and put it on display in your meeting room or wherever the team will see it most often. Review it at your team huddles and meetings, whenever you hire someone new and whenever someone’s behavior deems it necessary. It is important and necessary for the entire team including the doctor(s)to make a commitment to live and maintain the culture standards even when it is difficult or they don’t feel like it. If a team member chooses to not support the culture standards they are choosing to no longer be a part of that culture.

Cultivating a culture by design takes a commitment from the entire team to support and hold each other accountable to the culture standards!

June 1, 2016

4 Steps to Nurture a No-Gossip Culture!

4 Steps to Nurture a No-gossip Culture!

Gossip is a destructive monster that runs rampant in many dental teams! It has become the accepted and even expected as just the norm for many dental cultures! I speak nationally and internationally to dental teams on how to nurture a no-gossip culture.  When I ask them who has gossip in their practice I usually see every hand raise. The reasons I most often receive are:

  • It just is a part of every culture
  • It is a natural thing that women just do
  • It is a form of entertainment
  • It is healthy to vent or blow off steam to relieve stress
  • It is a way to get feedback and support
  • It is a lack of what it really means to gossip

People who engage in workplace gossip often have a strong need to “fit in”, and feel that gossip will help them achieve this. Gossipers often suffer from low self-esteem, and think that talking negatively about others will make them look better. If we truly grasped the devastating fallout from gossip we would no longer accept it as the norm for any culture!

Gossip affects:

  • Patient care and experience
  • Team communication, performance and relationships
  • Practice performance
  • Morale
  • Trust
  • Respect

Needless to say, gossip tremendously impacts the bottom line. I refer to gossip as the Poison Triangle of Mistrust because it often involves two people talking about a third person. Nothing shreds trust and respect and divides a team faster than gossip. Haven’t we all overheard someone talking about us? Do you remember how you felt? How much did you trust the people who were talking about you? How much did you want to communicate or work with them? Gossip is the most divisive form of communication. Just think about the total cost in team and practice performance, team relationships, practice morale and patient experience.

How much more successful could your practice be if could stop gossip from happening? Nurturing a no-gossip culture raises trust and the morale instantly it also elevates communication, team performance and relationships, patient experience and the bottom line! This is big stuff and plenty of reasons to adopt a no-gossip culture! If we want to nurture a no-gossip culture we have to clearly define gossip; set standards to prevent and stop gossip; and establish consequences if gossip continues. So if you are ready to nurture a no-gossip culture continue reading!

Let’s start by dispelling the misconceptions and clearly defining what gossip really is! The sad truth is gossip happens because it is often thought of as fluff stuff and something women just do! “Women do not have to gossip!” BTW women aren’t the only ones who gossip…men gossip too. In fact research shows men outnumber women who gossip by two to one. Men just refer to gossip as venting or blowing off steam!

Which leads me to address the term venting and blowing off steam. Anytime we say something negative or very private about another person it is gossip. We have this false belief that venting or blowing off steam is helpful and healthy. It is neither. Venting or blowing off steam are just more acceptable labels for gossip. Whether you refer to it as venting, blowing off steam or gossip they are equally toxic. When we spew negative words about others we not only bring down the receiver (listener); the giver (spewer) is also affected negatively. Consistent negative thoughts, words or energy whether we are the giver or the receiver or even just in the vicinity changes electricity in our brain which changes the energy in our body and our organs that depend on that energy or no longer nourished and can get disease and sometimes even die. Gossip is just plain toxic to everyone!

Doctors and managers be mindful of sharing a short retort of frustration or discontent with a team member pertaining to another team member. It is gossip, regardless of how harmless it may seem at the moment. How would that person feel if they heard you say it? If you have a frustration or concern go to the source and no one else. Otherwise, you have done nothing to address the problem and it will only continue to grow. The only exception is when the doctor and manger discuss with each other (behind closed doors) how to resolve a behavior or performance concern regarding another employee.

Here are four steps to nurture a no-gossip culture!

Have a with a team meeting and ask the entire team attend. The first step is to define gossip. Establish the definition of gossip for the practice as anything that is negative about another person that would make us think less of them; or private that they do not want others to know. We may think venting or blowing off steam is okay and is not considered gossip. Good qualifiers to ask yourself are:

  • Is what I am about to say true?
  • Is it harmful or hurtful?
  • How would I feel if someone said something similar about me?
  • How am I going to feel later if I say this? (or listen to this)
  • Would it affect their level of trust and respect for me?
  • Does gossiping honor my own personal values?

Clearly define the giver and receiver roles in gossip. The receiver (listener) of gossip is just as responsible as the gossiper (giver). They play a fifty-fifty role. The receiver has the power to stop the gossiper from gossiping to them. In fact the receiver may even play a bigger role. The receiver is usually not at a heightened emotional state and therefore capable of thinking more clearly. Whereas the giver is usually at a heightened emotional state; the fight or flight zone, resulting in the cognitive part of the brain shutting down.

The second step is for the entire team to verbally commit to each other to support a no-gossip culture in words, attitude and actions. Which means they commit to stop gossiping and stop gossipers. Have the team agree on a word or a phrase that they will say if someone starts gossiping to them.   Some of my clients use the word peace (in other words keep the peace) or stop or please go to the source or even remember we said we weren’t going to gossip. It can be anything as long as everyone knows the specific words or phrases.

The third step is to actually take action! If you have a suggestion, question or concern go directly to the source instead of going to others. Say the word or phrase immediately when someone starts gossiping. It is also our responsibility to try to stop gossip even if we just happen to be in a location where several other people are gossiping. In a respectful manner ask them to stop by using the word or phrase and if necessary reinforce how toxic gossip is to the team and the practice. Old habits die hard so it will be necessary for the team to support each other with reminders that they committed to honor a no-gossip culture.

The fourth step is create clear consequences for gossip. I want to be very clear here regarding consequences. Consequences aren’t necessary if a simple reminder from a co-worker stops the gossip. It is only when the gossiper refuses to stop gossiping when they have been asked to stop that it leads to any consequences. It is important to have defined consequences for gossip just like any other culture standard. Spell out specific step-by-step process for number of verbal and written warnings before termination. Yes, gossip is a big enough reason to terminate! The bottom line is that when we support a no-gossip culture we raise the level of communication, team performance and relationships, patient experience and even the bottom line!

Contact Judy Kay at today if you would like to learn how she can help you build a cohesive team that support each other and the practice, become better leaders, and deliver service with more passion!

May 1, 2016

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do! 10 Decisions to Make before Transitioning into a Partnership

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do! 10 Decisions to Make before Transitioning into a Partnership

The divorce rate of dental partnerships is equal to or higher than marital divorce rates, and filled with similar emotions such as anger, resentment, loss, blame and financial pain. Breaking up is hard to do!

Whether you are the new dentist joining the practice or the established dentist the transition process is often extremely emotional. The retiring dentist often feels unappreciated and pushed out. The new dentist feels like they are on hold or in limbo just waiting to enact their plans.

A transition expert can help make the process flow much smoother. However, some experts focus primarily on the money side of the transition. There is more to a transition than just the money. Very seldom is money the cause for breakup. It is the disagreements on the day to day operations that lead to most breakups.

I have found partnerships to be a lot like a marriage. You have your dating phase where everything is just awesome. Then you become partners (marriage or work) you start to notice little things that you differ on that you just assumed you would be on the same page. In other words that they would agree with you and do it your way. The little things don’t stay little; they go from just bugging you to driving you crazy. Anger, stress, resentment and frustration build until someone blows up and eventually decides to break up. When I ask dentists what was their deal breaker…it is almost always different expectations pertaining to the day to day operations.

It’s important for partners to have a clear and united vision for how the practice will operate from the start in order to nurture a successful partnership. It starts by both partners clarifying their expectations during negotiations and being open and willing to compromise. We can no longer expect it to be done only our way. If partners have different visions and goals for the practice they will confuse and frustrate the team and each other. Creating a clear and united partnership will be an ongoing decision making process.

Discuss and agree on how you will actually work together and run the day to day operations during negotiations. Here are 10 key decisions to make prior to becoming partners and signing on the dotted line.

  1. Equipment
  • What is the budget and overhead percentages
  • Who decides what to purchase
  • Who pays for it
  • Who decides when to purchase
  • What happens if you don’t agree


  1. Team
  • Who makes decisions on recruitment and termination
  • Who decides which team member works with each doctor
  • Who trains the new employees
  • Who makes ongoing decisions relating to the team
  • Who is the go to person for the team (I suggest the practice administrator is the go to person who then meets with the doctors to discuss and make decisions.)
  • What happens if you don’t agree


  1. Leadership
  • Who sets systems and protocols
  • Who handles conflict resolution
  • What happens if it is the doctor’s attitude, communication or behavior that creates concerns with the team and or patients
  • What happens if you don’t agree


  1. Patient Care/Treatment
  • Will the services you offer be the same or different
  • What special amenities will you offer
  • What happens if you don’t agree


  1. Schedule
  • How are new patients distributed
  • Who sets procedure times and protocols
  • Who does hygiene exams and on which patients
  • What happens if you don’t agree


  1. Production/Performance
  • What is the expectation for working hours and time for each partner
  • What is expectation for PPH
  • How much time off
  • How far in advance is notice needed to request time off
  • How are emergencies handled and who covers them
  • How are hygiene exams compensated
  • Will you be fee for service provider or an insurance provider (if so which)
  • Will you offer 3rd party financing
  • What happens if you don’t agree


  1. Working Elsewhere
  • Non-compete expectations
  • Non-solicitation expectations
  • Teaching and CE engagement expectations
  • What happens if you don’t agree


  1. CE
  • Who pays for CE
  • Is there a cap on CE per partner
  • Who decides what CE is pertinent to the team
  • What happens if you don’t agree


  1. Unforeseen Circumstances
  • Disability
  • Death
  • Breach of partnership
  • Bankruptcy


  1. Exit Strategy
  • Establish a clear and specific exit strategy to avoid a negative/emotional ending
  • Clearly define the wind down process
  • Specify schedule (hours and days per week)
  • Agree on and set the final working date
  • What happens if you don’t agree


Prevent the breakdowns that lead to breakups by discussing and agreeing on the 10 key decisions before signing on the dotted line!

(If you would like to receive the white pages for United Leadership please email me at and write United Leadership in the subject line.)

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