Powerful Questions in a Pre-Clinical Dental Conversation

June 20, 2018 Brad Weiss

As a maximizer, I’m always tweaking processes to try to make things a little better. A few years back on the advice of a wise mentor, I made a small change to the last question I ask of patients in my Pre-Clinical Conversation. This change required a dramatic difference in how I view my “job” for patients.  

A Powerful Pre-Clinical Conversation Question

For years, I thought I was so unique to finish my time in the consult room with the question: “Is there anything else I should know about you to take good care of you?” Patients genuinely seemed to appreciate that question. I felt great about the responses I got, almost always along the lines of, “Nobody has ever asked me these types of questions!”  

A few years back, I was diving deeper on Locus of Control of Oral Health with my small growth group, The Sinking Stones. I was hoping to help my patients increase ownership of their condition and shift the “locus of control” from the doctor/expert (tell me what to do, when, and how) toward a true partnership (I can be the expert of the technical pieces, but you are the expert of you).  

The elegance of this transfer relies on our ability to do so without the patient feeling abandoned and unguided. I was gently reminded by Dr. Rich Green that a small change to that question could help frame the relationship differently right off the bat.

My new question is: “Is there anything I should know about you to work well with you?” Rather than facilitating a dependent/top-down/expert doctor relationship, I now have a much better chance of a patient understanding how important it is for me to be in partnership with them.

I can look them in the eye and tell them my healthiest patients are those that view me as their partner. This is better than looking for “experts” to tell them when it is appropriate to take on a particular procedure or make a decision for them without knowing their temperament, circumstances, and objectives.  

Though I love taking care of people, a change in those four words has allowed me to do so in a partnership according to the context of the patient’s life.

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Brad Weiss

Following dental school, Brad practiced in Kenilworth and Winnetka and gained experience with Lasers and Computer Aided Design and Machined Dentistry. Brad continued his education and the L.D. Pankey Institute in Florida and is honored to be a part of the Visiting Faculty since 2008. Brad has also been co-facilitating a study group for dentists interested in developing relationship-based practices in Vancouver, B.C. since 2010. Brad practices in Evanston, IL.

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Blurring the Line Between Work and Play

May 25, 2018 Brad Weiss

When we love what we do, we do it better. This is a popular lesson in literature and in life. Tom Sawyer had an aha moment after convincing his friends to whitewash the fence his aunt had tasked him with by making it seem like play rather than work.

This quote from Mark Twain says it all: “If he had been a great and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.”

Obligations v. Choice: Loving Dentistry

While there was a time that I felt obliged to do dentistry (to pay off debt, to take care of family, etc.), I am now blessed to choose the vast majority of what I do and how I do it. I still have plenty of debt to pay off and am a long way from financial freedom, yet I find myself most days with a smile on my face.

This is because of the conscious choices I’ve made over the last 18 years after I first learned of Dr. Pankey’s Cross of Life. Many of those choices have helped blur the line between work and play for me.

When Work Becomes Play

When any of my mentors would talk about their work as any semblance of play, my initial response was one of significant skepticism. I had even seen my childhood dentist, Dr. Mark Stetzel, truly loving his work, his team, and his patients.

But early in my career, I had a difficult time envisioning that for myself. With the ‘Golden Age of Dentistry’ supposedly in the rearview mirror, I wasn’t sure my work could ever actually feel like play.

Today, I am so grateful to have a team around me that has chosen me and vice versa. They believe what I believe. We are pulling on the rope together because we get to do more of what we enjoy doing each day. We have learned about our own and each other’s strengths and we play to those strengths more and more.

So much of what we do on a daily basis has become play for us because we have realized we’re not obliged to do dentistry in a way that doesn’t align with our own values. We get to help people who want to be healthier make choices to do just that.

The choice to incorporate Dr. Rich Green and Don Clifton’s work on maximizing strengths in a dental office was such an important one for me. It created an aha moment much like Tom Sawyer’s. When people get to do what they are good at on a daily basis, they don’t feel obliged to go to work. Rather, most days can seem more like play!

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Brad Weiss

Following dental school, Brad practiced in Kenilworth and Winnetka and gained experience with Lasers and Computer Aided Design and Machined Dentistry. Brad continued his education and the L.D. Pankey Institute in Florida and is honored to be a part of the Visiting Faculty since 2008. Brad has also been co-facilitating a study group for dentists interested in developing relationship-based practices in Vancouver, B.C. since 2010. Brad practices in Evanston, IL.

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A Partnership Charter: Part 2

April 2, 2018 Brad Weiss

When a dental partnership fails, it’s natural to want to keep the truth quiet. The dissolution of relationships, especially business relationships, is often seen as shameful. In Part 1 of this series, I decided to openly discuss a partnership that ended. Here, I continue that story.

When Dental Partnerships Go Awry

After negotiation and mediation failed, our contract stated we would have our case settled by the American Arbitration Association. When the dust settled three-and-a-half years later and the final appeal ruling of the Arbitrator’s decision came down in my favor, it ended up on the front page of our local Daily Law Bulletin.  

I had multiple texts come in that morning from attorney friends and patients congratulating me on the victory. Even an arbitration victory can feel like a loss with the stomach lining and energy that it takes to go through the process.  

I know that some lessons will never be learned out of a book and need to be experienced, but please add this one phrase to your existing or upcoming contract: The loser of any appeal of binding arbitration shall pay the other party’s attorney fees. That alone would have prevented many years of stress, a whole lot of money spent on attorneys, and some gray hairs to boot.  

Creating a Partnership Charter

Recently, I was introduced to a book entitled ‘The Partnership Charter’ that has energized me around new possibilities for a partnership with my current associate. A partnership charter is a cooperative document meant to instill a spirit of collaboration into an agreement between parties.  

While not legally binding, it provides a framework for the partnership that is highly individualized and contains no boiler plate standard clauses. The process is the most important outcome and the document is secondary. It is meant to be reviewed and revised throughout the partnership, becoming a true living document that creates continued conversation over synergy and fairness.  

Though not every scenario can be planned for, I am confident that getting in and out of my next partnership will be spelled out much more clearly than my last. The charter will provide a process of collaboration that will guide us toward fairness for all concerned.

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Brad Weiss

Following dental school, Brad practiced in Kenilworth and Winnetka and gained experience with Lasers and Computer Aided Design and Machined Dentistry. Brad continued his education and the L.D. Pankey Institute in Florida and is honored to be a part of the Visiting Faculty since 2008. Brad has also been co-facilitating a study group for dentists interested in developing relationship-based practices in Vancouver, B.C. since 2010. Brad practices in Evanston, IL.

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A Partnership Charter: Part 1

March 30, 2018 Brad Weiss

In part 1 and 2 of this candid blog series, Dr. Brad Weiss discusses the dissolution of his partnership with an associate and how he believes others can avoid falling into similar situations.

In July, I finished my term as president of my rotary club. I termed it a “planned hardship,” much like a camping trip where you know you will be better for having experienced it.

Each week for the rotary club meetings, I ended them with Rotary’s Four Way Test: First, is it the truth? Second, is it fair to all concerned? Third, will it build goodwill and better friendships? Fourth, will it be beneficial to all concerned?  

My vision of what defines a successful partnership aligns with the rotary club mindset. I believe a partnership in the dental practice is where each of the four above criteria can be met. My patients are the ultimate beneficiaries of a well-functioning agreement.  

A Broken Dental Partnership

I am not a practice transitions expert, nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn last night, but I did go to the school of hard knocks. I have been an associate, worked as an employee for a corporate entity, shared space as my own S Corp, and eventually merged my small practice with a much larger one to become a 50-50 partner with an associate as our employee.  

There is shame attached to the failure of any relationship. As my partnership split after six-and-a-half years, mine is no exception. The more I tell my story, the more I hear such similar stories from other dentists. It is eerie and disappointing to know that more is not done to improve the odds of partnership success.  

My belief is that the shame attached keeps others from knowing how to avoid potential strife between two otherwise reasonable people.

To be continued…

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Brad Weiss

Following dental school, Brad practiced in Kenilworth and Winnetka and gained experience with Lasers and Computer Aided Design and Machined Dentistry. Brad continued his education and the L.D. Pankey Institute in Florida and is honored to be a part of the Visiting Faculty since 2008. Brad has also been co-facilitating a study group for dentists interested in developing relationship-based practices in Vancouver, B.C. since 2010. Brad practices in Evanston, IL.

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The Gift of Giving Back

January 5, 2018 Brad Weiss

One of my favorite bumper stickers is “Who rescued who?” I have a difficult time believing in pure altruism by the biologic definition that it is done at your own expense, as in my life I always receive as much or more then I give.

The Value of Giving Back

My experience time after time is that I’m always better for attempting to improve the well-being of another. Nine years ago, we hosted our first Pankey Dental Access Days with the guidance of Dr. Keith Phillips, from whom I have learned much about the beauty of giving back.

Keith took a small and mighty crew from North Carolina (with a 10 chair mobile clinic) to Evanston each year. We consistently provided comprehensive care over a two-day period of over $100,000. The tears of a patient who’d been given a flipper where he hadn’t had a tooth in 10 years (so that he could go confidently to an interview) changed me forever.

In 2010, I met an MD who had traveled with Doctors Without Borders to Haiti after the devastating earthquake that killed 230,000 people. He showed me a photograph of a 5-year-old Haitian boy with a big smile on his face and a sticker on his cheek.

At the time, my boys were 7, 5, and under 1. He asked if I knew why the boy had such a big smile on his face. I didn’t and he told me that it was his first sticker. When I brought that story home to my boys, they countered with, “He has other toys though, right?” When I informed them that it was his first anything, I knew I needed to experience Haiti with them.

Last January, I took my 12 year-old son on the trip of a lifetime. Braden and I joined a group of 18 medical professionals to help care for a tent community of Haitians displaced by the earthquake. On his first call back home to his mom, he recounted, “Mom, the kids here are so happy—and they don’t have anything!” My heart warmed and I felt my mission for him was already accomplished.

Our original plan was for him to work at a nearby orphanage and play with the kids, but the distance proved too dangerous for our trip director. Braden stepped up and assisted me amazingly for someone whose only previous work experience in my office was to pick out toys for the treasure chest.

On about the third patient, I asked, “I guess you’re OK with blood, huh?” “No problem, dad!” was his response. There is no way I could have treated the number of patients I did without his help.

There is no doubt in my mind that I would not have been able to experience such a trip without my Pankey experience. Having the financial freedom to give back and an expectation of quid pro quo has allowed me to answer the “Who rescued who?” bumper sticker question with a smile.

How do you give back? Please leave your thoughts in the comments! 

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Brad Weiss

Following dental school, Brad practiced in Kenilworth and Winnetka and gained experience with Lasers and Computer Aided Design and Machined Dentistry. Brad continued his education and the L.D. Pankey Institute in Florida and is honored to be a part of the Visiting Faculty since 2008. Brad has also been co-facilitating a study group for dentists interested in developing relationship-based practices in Vancouver, B.C. since 2010. Brad practices in Evanston, IL.

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