Building a Culture of Agreement

July 10, 2019 Denison E. Byrne, DDS, MAGD

Enabling Your Team to Bring Their Best to Collaborative Problem Solving

One day, several years ago, our dental practice was facing an imminent snowstorm. We could see that the storm would play havoc with our professional and personal schedules. Decisions had to be made about our response. Should our plan be the same as the last time the office had been closed by weather? People were beginning to get nervous about how this was going to play out. A clear decision and well thought out plan were called for, but there was no one right answer. We needed to quickly make a collaborative plan (an agreement) to distribute power and communicate with our patients.

Planning for Contingencies

As in the case of the imminent snowstorm, I believe there are frequently practice decisions to be made for which there is no one right answer – no one strict plan that we can establish ahead of time and not expect to modify. Many variables need to be considered each time as the circumstances of owners, team members and patients change.

Collaborative planning takes “high engagement,” insight and practice. If you have preplanned team agreement on how to handle special events, you are ahead of the curve, but you will find it helpful to visit these agreements periodically, and you can anticipate you may need to collaborate “on your feet” when contingencies arise.

Role-Playing

Last year, at “Inspired Team Facilitation” with Joan Unterschuetz, we did role-playing that helped the team develop a collaborative plan for which every member of the team had buy-in and agreement. Role-playing has helped our team huddle in an emergency to clarify what needs to be done, who can best take the lead on each task, and acknowledge the compelling reasons why we are doing this as a team. It also has been helpful to prepare each department leader to motivate team members who will help them make sure we effectively communicate with patients, assure patients, and shut down if we need to do this swiftly; then in reverse, open up the practice and zero in on what needs to be done to open the schedule and reschedule patients as priority dictates.

Agreeing to Agree

From the earliest time possible, work on building a culture of agreement around:

  • Team meetings with high-engagement of all stakeholders
  • Understanding problems to be solved and why they must be solved
  • Respecting all team members who would be affected by giving them a voice in the planning
  • Understanding that department team leaders will be accountable for execution
  • Coming to joint agreement and celebrating that fact at the time the agreement is made

The goal of these “coming to agreement” exercises (even about the small stuff) is to set a standard of collaboration that is in alignment with your practice philosophy. When an emergency arises, the team knows from experience that they can quickly collaborate and come to agreement on a plan of action…even when there is no one right answer and you need to kick start action immediately. If your collaborative meeting goes off track, the dentist as practice leader needs to remind everyone of the compelling reasons why they need to come to agreement now.

Can’t Involve Everyone?

Sometimes involving everyone is not possible in a crisis, but the goal is still the same. The goal is to be on the same page and united in decisions. All team members need to be informed of decisions, so if you and your department leads need to quickly create an agreement, the leaders will report back to other team members for implementation and keep them in the loop. Keeping everyone in the loop honors them and combats the human response of making false assumptions and experiencing energy-consuming emotions. In a culture of agreement, there is less opportunity for negative energy to accumulate—less “drama.”

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About Author

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Denison E. Byrne, DDS, MAGD

Dr. “Denny” Byrne graduated from the University of Maryland Dental School and has been in restorative practice in Baltimore for 40 years. He is a member of the Pankey Faculty and Co-Director of Pankey Learning Groups. In addition to being the husband of a dentist, father of a dentist, and grandfather, he is keenly interested in facilitating small group learning, golfing and sailing. He enjoys cooking and is a fan of C.S. Lewis.

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What’s the Benefit of Small Group Learning?

August 15, 2018 Denison E. Byrne, DDS, MAGD

Small group learning is the linchpin of lifelong professional satisfaction. 

My partner Nancy and I are excited to be the co-directors of Pankey Learning Groups (PLGs) at this time in the history of the Pankey Institute. Small group learning has always been one of our greatest joys.

It was in small groups that we really cemented our learning together. We had a chance to ask the professional and personal questions we might not have in other less safe environments without people who “understood.” We shared in good feedback with mentors and peers. Discussions were honest and helped us see others and ourselves more clearly. And we made dear friends for a lifetime.

So when we were asked to do this job three years ago, it was easy to accept the challenge. We did our best to build upon the program that Mark Murphy had initiated for us. With lots of hard work from PLG hosts, facilitators, our alumni that donated cases and workshop material, and especially a stellar in-house team, we feel good about where we are today. 

Pankey Learning Groups: Providing Support & Education Opportunities

We are really excited about what the future holds. With Dr. Lee Ann Brady on board contributing her vast experience in educational development, we all have a better sense of how PLGs can support the other components of the Pankey Institute. PLGs will now support the Essentials series, focus courses, and on-the-road courses like Worn Dentition and Pankey On the Podium.

We have a fantastic line-up of new modules. Treating doctors are interviewed and provide additional insight and understanding. We are also developing a selection of mini-modules. These topics include sleep medicine, practice management issues, and behavior.

In response to PLG requests, we are getting increasingly clear about how we can support our independent model (eight three-hour modules) and our facilitated model (two sixteen-hour weekend workshops) as well as how we can combine them with other educational offerings from Pankey. We feel this is consistent with the Pankey Philosophy to individualize our offerings for each PLG within our overall educational framework.

We are planning opportunities to support our hosts, facilitators, and ambassadors by developing resources and training to optimize the PLG educational experience. There has never been a better or more exciting time to supplement your professional growth by participating in a Pankey Learning Group!

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About Author

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Denison E. Byrne, DDS, MAGD

Dr. “Denny” Byrne graduated from the University of Maryland Dental School and has been in restorative practice in Baltimore for 40 years. He is a member of the Pankey Faculty and Co-Director of Pankey Learning Groups. In addition to being the husband of a dentist, father of a dentist, and grandfather, he is keenly interested in facilitating small group learning, golfing and sailing. He enjoys cooking and is a fan of C.S. Lewis.

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Developing a Shared Path of Learning

July 25, 2018 Denison E. Byrne, DDS, MAGD

The phrase, “You can do this!” when offered by a trusted friend at the ideal time can help us put thoughts into actions around our learning. 

My partner Nancy and I always aggressively pursued dental continuing education for many reasons. We were racking up hours, techniques, ideas, travel, and expenses way beyond the norm.

As we went along, I started to notice a disjointedness to my learning. While I was in charge of my path, I missed discussing the journey with others.

Learning How to Learn With Likeminded People

One afternoon, while sitting in a study club meeting with two of my mentors, Rich Green and Jay Anderson, we were discussing our schedule and next meeting. Jay looked at me, winked, and said, “You can do this!” He meant that he thought I could organize a similar study group.

That was an interesting thought. The idea of gathering people in my network and developing a shared path of learning was attractive to me. Here were my next steps: 

  • I spent some time clarifying in my mind exactly what I was looking for.
  • I had coffee, lunch, or a drink with about a dozen of my peers to see what they were interested in and whether our goals meshed.
  • I gathered interested people together to “meet and greet” and develop a shared vision, direction, responsibilities, and tentative schedules.
  • I lined up facilitators and we were off.

The benefit to me was a local community of likeminded peers bolstered by the significant input they gave about the program. I learned more not only about dentistry but also about working with small groups. There was plenty of downtime with many of my dental heroes.

Of course, there are always nitty gritty aspects of creating a new study club. But those of us on the Pankey Learning Group team stand ready to help you with the process because, “You can do it too!”

How do you make sure your CE learning is deep rather than surface? 

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About Author

User Image
Denison E. Byrne, DDS, MAGD

Dr. “Denny” Byrne graduated from the University of Maryland Dental School and has been in restorative practice in Baltimore for 40 years. He is a member of the Pankey Faculty and Co-Director of Pankey Learning Groups. In addition to being the husband of a dentist, father of a dentist, and grandfather, he is keenly interested in facilitating small group learning, golfing and sailing. He enjoys cooking and is a fan of C.S. Lewis.

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I AM INTERESTED IN

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