May 2019 Volume LIV Number 3


Practice Management and Marketing

September 2018 Volume LIII Number 5

Six Easy Steps to Create a Healthy Practice Culture

Employees consider company culture to be just as important as salary and benefits. Many employees desire to be part of a greater purpose and feel valued and engaged. Many doctors are unaware of the importance of company culture and employee engagement. An employee may be regarded as expendable and this creates un-
necessary costs. Great company culture happens intentionally. A deliberate culture shift creates a more meaning- ful place to work and better patient and parent experiences. This leads to increased productivity and therefore, an increase in profits.


Poor management and leadership: A team member walks into your office. You al- ready know what she is going to say. She begins to discuss the team’s neglect of assisting with end-of-day closing. You have yet to address this recurring issue and frankly, you still don’t want to. This seems really unimportant compared
to your other priorities. Once again, you let her know that you will address it immediately, which never happens.

Lack of accountability: Your financial coordinator has been with your practice for 16 years. Her insurance knowledge and compre- hension is stronger than any other team mem- ber. As your practice grows, you add a new leadership position. A front office coordinator is hired to help oversee the front office systems. You learn that your long-standing financial coordinator disregarded your collection protocols. Instead of collecting at the time of service, she is sending a statement. You put emphasis on the importance of managing your accounts receivable and discussed this repeatedly. Your front office coordinator discusses expectations with her and reviews the expected collections protocol. Once again, the financial coordina- tor ignores this system. A lack of respect for leadership is now present after not being held accountable for many years.

Lack of appreciation: You created a bonus system to motivate your team and for the last six months, goals were met! Last month, pro- duction was slightly below goal and the team missed out on their accustomed bonus. During your team meeting, one of your clinical team members verbalizes her frustration. A front of- fice team member echoes this same frustration; however, blame is being put onto others. Your team seems visibly distressed. They state that without a bonus, their pay is less than expected. The team’s entitlement aggravates you, espe- cially after much effort to keep them motivated.

Careless approach: You notice that your team members start to pay less attention to details and are becoming more casual. You hear your team members using profanity in the sterilization area. This is not the ideal profes- sional atmosphere you want. How did it get this far? You begin to wonder what caused the tactless and inappropriate behavior.


  • How would you describe your practice culture?

  • What or who has allowed your culture to become this way?

  • What are your core values and vision as a practice?

  • How do you consistently communicate your vision to your team?

  • How do you support and motivate your team each day?

  • What are some of the ways that your practice celebrates its wins and successes?

  • What causes conflict, and how is conflict

  • resolved?

  • What would you like to see different with

  • your practice culture?

  • How does your practice culture affect your

  • patients and their parents?


  1. Define your practice vision. Start by being clear on who you are and what you desire for your practice. John Maxwell states "while culture is what gets you to your des- tination, vision determines the destination". You cannot achieve great company culture  if your team does not know where they are headed.

  2. Hold a  team meeting  and  agree  on your practice’s definition of culture. Have your team create their own Team Mission Statement that reflects their values and their vision. Involve your entire team and make a point to hear from each team member. Allow others to respond and give feedback. More input and involvement will make the definition clearer.

  3.  Identify 3-5 core values. Core values are the regulatory principles of your prac- tice. Define a small number of meaning- ful core values for your practice. This will ensure they can remember them and focus on living them each day.

  4.  Empower  and  encourage  your  team members. Many times, employees leave their jobs from lack of appreciation. Make a conscious effort to share your apprecia- tion and motivate them each day. Every personal and professional goal your team members reach also helps you to achieve your goals.

  5. Communicate efficiently and effec- tively. Be intentional about how informa- tion is communicated among your team. Each team member must feel that their input, positive or negative, is respected and valued. They want to be part of the process. Keep them in the loop.

  6. Hire  new  team  members  according to culture fit first, above all else. Use a hiring process that evaluates a potential team member’s core values and goals, in addition to experience and skill set. Hire them and then inspire them. We tend to look for team members that join us with minimum interruption to the culture. This is not realistic. We need a highly motivated team member. Keep in mind; however, that we can discourage a highly motivated team member by consistently focusing on their mistakes. Concentrate on structured

  7. training that guides your new team member to be successful. When we only share the negative, they will eventually stop listening.


Be specific with what you are imple- menting. Culture is not a concept. Set specific goals that are measurable, i.e., smile, avoid complaining about the difficult families that are coming in today or how challenging the day is going to be the way it is scheduled. Be purposeful about beginning each day with a positive message or quote.

Evaluate how you feel. Do you enjoy work more each day? Does serving your patients and parents increase your fulfillment?

Evaluate how your team feels. Ask your team how they feel at the end of each day. Is the team happy with each other? Are patients’ and parents’ experiences more enjoyable?

Your team culture reflects what your practice stands for. Strong cultured dental practices feel more genuine and stimulate and inspire employees. First, evaluate your current practice culture. Then, work on improvements by giving your team a sense of purpose. Work on encouraging them in their roles and creating a platform for clear and open communication. At your next team meeting, ask your employees to define your current practice culture. Do they think your practice culture is healthy or could it benefit from some attention and improvement?

Published four times a year, Practice Management and Marketing News is a featured column in Pediatric Dentistry Today.

Click here for a PDF version of this article.