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Transitions Mean Change...Help!

In the world of dentistry, there are more private practices joining larger groups every day. Mostly due to the skyrocketing overhead costs and insurance complications. So, it’s time to make a change, right?! Dealing with change is very difficult for some. Changes affect our emotions, puts private practice in a state of inconsistency and can incur a large breakdown of otherwise good communication. As a Transitions Manager, I am fortunate to work for DecisionOne Dental where we have altruistic outlook about change. Our company plays the infinite game, changing the way we do dentistry to improve lives. Here are some ways to approach such change in an altruistic way.

Communicate relentlessly: Now is not the time to keep quiet. Leaders need to be able to communicate information, thoughts and ideas clearly and frequently in different media. Find many ways to share information; keep processes open and transparent. Communicate early and often.

Start with the WHY: Many people respond well to answering “why” am I doing this? A simple explanation or showing of how it directly affects them, addressing the purpose will remove the obstacle of negative behaviors. Clearly explaining why, how and when things need to happen will set expectations and create a healthy level of stress and pressure. It also establishes a mechanism for monitoring and addressing performance.

Listen to Understand, not Listen to reply: Good communicators are also good listeners. Allow people to air their gripes and complaints. Paraphrase and summarize, reflect on feelings. Understand not only what is said but also what is left unsaid. Taking a pause will help our minds focus on our vernacular removing any potential “what I meant was…”

Explain the change, honestly: People are often skeptical of change. Share your thinking and the trade-offs you’ve weighed – not just the final decision or strategy. Encourage your team to take your journey in thinking. A commitment to genuine change requires honesty, clarity and truth. An effective leader will ask the hard questions and foster an environment of honesty and open discussion(s).

Make an appeal: Draw on a sense of loyalty, courage, morality or other principles that tie the organization’s change strategy to what is important to people. Use symbols and emotion in your communication. Establish a climate that processes resistance rather than attempting to squash it. Don’t dismiss, write off or label employees too easily or too quickly.

Confront problems and conflict: Don’t postpone dealing with challenging issues or conflict. By avoiding the difficult people or difficult issues, you can do great harm to yourself, your co-workers and your organization. Talk about it NOW, raise your hand, say you don’t understand or agree, and then ACTION it!

Show respect: Treat people with genuine concern and sincere consideration. Spend time with them, ask them about the things they are interested in and consider their hopes as important as your own.

Don’t dismiss the old: Ignoring, demeaning or dismissing people and “the way things used to be” prevents them from moving on. Help people through transition by acknowledging their history and attachments. Also coupling with a positive behavior will overcome the need to return to the “old way”.

Be sincere and authentic: Communicate truthfully and honestly, follow through with what you say and avoid deception. Don’t try to bury or deny your own reactions to ongoing events. People pay close attention to their leaders in such times and are looking for indications that they are real people who can have human emotions like their own.

Demonstrate that you can handle the truth: People may not readily tell you the truth or give you feedback. You must set the tone and model the behavior that makes truth telling okay. Stay connected to a broad circle of people and make it clear that you want them to share their concerns and ideas with you.

Feedback: Being able to appropriately give and receive feedback is an important communication skill. Managers and supervisors should continuously look for ways to provide employees with constructive feedback, be it through email, phone calls, or weekly status updates. Giving feedback involves giving praise as well – something as simple as saying "good job" or "thanks for taking care of that" to an employee can greatly increase motivation.

My commitment to dentistry is one on a human level. To be a true advocate, we display altruism in all that we do, especially communicating. At the end, it’s the people who make the difference. We make a difference every day, changing dentistry to improve lives. I am happy to be a part of this vision.

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