Upstream Thinking in the Dental Practice

February 5, 2024 Leigh Ann Faight

Upstream Thinking in the Dental Practice 

Leigh Ann Faight, RDH 

In my years of working with dentists and teams, I have noticed that leaders tend to address what is directly in front of them. They are simply too busy to notice that the issues of today will likely be back tomorrow, and the next day and so on if they don’t find the root cause and build systems from there.  

My favorite book on this subject is Upstream by Dan Heath. I was so impressed by it that I named my dental coaching company Upstream Dental Practice Coaching. The idea of the book is to help us stop reacting to problems and instead look for ways to prevent them in the first place. 

In the book, Dan Heath recalls a quote from Paul Batalden: “Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.” I love this quote; it is as exact as it is simple and begs the follow-up question: Are your systems working to get you the results you want? 

I’m not writing this with just dentists in mind. I recommend that all dental team members appraise together how well your systems are working and think about where the lack of systems is causing stress. As you meet as a team and pull back the layers of your processes, do you discover barriers that get in the way of moving upstream? As a team, you can intentionally rebuild your systems to remove the barriers and prevent them from rolling back into your stream. 

Fixed thinking gets in the way.  

As I coach, I see three behaviors that get in the way of improving the many systems operating in dental practices. 

Problem Blindness 

This is the belief that negative outcomes are natural and inevitable. We treat these problems like we treat the weather, as something out of our control. We normalize problems and even stop seeing them. Teams tell me, “That’s just how it is here.” This finite thinking is one of the first challenges we uncover when I work with teams on intentionally “going upstream.” 

Lack of Ownership 

If an issue arises and no one claims ownership for fixing it, the problem will persist. To really develop upstream thinking you need someone who will say, “Even though I did not create this problem, I will lead us to find a solution.” 

To create a culture where teams have ownership over decisions, leaders must trust the team to make decisions on behalf of the group. On the flip side, the team must choose to take charge of issues as they see them.  

Tunneling 

Tunneling is exactly like it sounds. You focus on short-sighted problems and have reactive thinking. You get stuck in a routine of short-term decision-making and are unable to move forward. You think, “I can’t deal with that right now.” 

The more problems you are juggling at once, the harder it is to solve them all. If you can’t solve problems systematically you will stay in an endless cycle of reaction, because tunneling begets more tunneling. Compound tunneling with stress and scarcity, and you get stuck. 

“Getting Unstuck” is the name of the game. 

You might want to take your team offsite for a day to talk about what isn’t working in your dental practice. What are the big problems they and you see? Talk about the common human responses of problem blindness, lack of ownership, and tunneling. Talk about upstream thinking and proclaim, “Today is the day we become unstuck.” 

In helping teams find ways to make their systems more successful, I have often found that small changes can make a big difference. If you add target metrics to your systems, “the team” will more likely see and remove barriers that have gotten in the way, redesign systems, and work as a united group to improve the outcomes.  

In the Pankey course held February 2024 — The Pankey Hygienist: Where Clinical & Behavioral Science Unite – The Pankey Institute, we focused on “the flow” of the hygiene-restorative partnership, leading patients toward higher comprehensive care, and getting clarity around the why and how of optimal behavioral and clinical methods. We took a critical look at the habits and assumptions we have developed. We applied upstream systems thinking with the goal of collaboratively achieving with our patients greater oral and systemic health.

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Tips for Being More Present with Patients 

May 29, 2023 Kelley Brummett DMD

Tip 1: Develop the Habit of Clearing Your Mind as Your Move from Patient to Patient

One of the hardest challenges in dentistry is moving from room to room and being able to refocus and give each patient your full and undivided attention. Here’s a little trick I do to increase my presence as I move between rooms and patients.

As I move down the hall between operatories, I habitually self-talk. I silently say to myself, “The patient I just left will be fine with my dental assistant.” I intentionally turn off thoughts about the patient I left, and as I cross the threshold of the next operatory, I am interested in only that next patient. It is not easy, and the more intentional I am at bringing it into my consciousness, I believe the better my focus can become.

Interruptions of this type occur throughout the day as I need to stop what I am doing with one patient to check in on the patient in the Hygiene room. Fortunately, I have a long enough hall between my operatory and the Hygiene room to “practice” my little self-control meditation.

Tip 2: Identify an Analogy that Is Understandable for the Present Patient

I know I am not the only dentist who has patients who are not moving forward with the treatment I have recommended. Recently when interacting with a patient who was not moving forward with occlusal therapy I got to watch his understanding shift about the recommendation I had made. The difference was in explaining it in a language he understood. I credit Dr. Rich Green for mentoring me through this understanding. I related it to a real-life experience he already had.

The patient had been in my practice for a little while. We had identified that he had some occlusal disease. He had wear on teeth, some clinical attachment loss, abfractions, teeth that ran into each other, awareness that he brought his teeth together, and at times muscle tension.

One day I asked him, “Can you help me understand why you are not moving forward with occlusal therapy?”

He said, “You know, I just don’t know if it is going to benefit me.”

I happened to look down at his feet and notice he had good running shoes on. I said, “Those are fancy running shoes. They’re pretty cool. Do you wear them because you like how they look or because of another reason?”

He replied, “Actually I wear them because they are very supportive. I often have back muscle tension, and I need to wear really good shoes.”

I said, “You know, the dental orthotic that I’ve been calling an occlusal appliance is no different than wearing really good running shoes. Wearing a dental orthotic is like putting inserts in your shoes to create balance, decrease fatigue in the muscles, and provide me with the opportunity to learn what’s going on at the tooth level, the muscle level, and the joint level. Wearing the dental orthotic is likely to help you understand why you are experiencing discomfort at times, what those patterns are, and when they occur. And it just might be therapeutic in relieving muscle tension you have been experiencing and protect your teeth while we discover what is going on.”

He nodded and said, “Okay, I get it. I understand now. When can we start?”

Tip 3: Ask a Well-Crafted Question

Asking well-crafted questions allows us to better know the patient and get more complete information. Asking powerful questions also makes patients more aware that some of what they are experiencing is not healthy…is not normal.

For example, I often notice patients are not reporting pain as we do risk assessments on their muscles and joints. So, I ask the patient to rate the level of pain at which they take pain medication when they have a headache. “On a scale of 1 to 10, when would you pick up the bottle of Advil and take a pill to treat the pain?”

There are people who will take Advil when pain is at a 1 or 2 and others who will only take it when pain is at a 12. I’ve learned that there are people who have low pain tolerance who will call whenever they have pain in a tooth and other people who tolerate higher pain for months because they think it is normal.

By asking patients to rate their pain tolerance level, they become self-aware of symptoms they might be experiencing that align with the signs you observe and are discussing. They become more aware of what is normal and abnormal. If they have the tendency to not move forward with treatment until they are in acute pain, they become more aware that delaying treatment is not in their best interest. They realize the discomfort they have been experiencing is abnormal and they do not have to…should not tolerate it.

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Kelley Brummett DMD

Dr. Kelley D. Brummett was born and raised in Missouri. She attended the University of Kansas on a full-ride scholarship in springboard diving and received honors for being the Big Eight Diving Champion on the 1 meter springboard in 1988 and in 1992. Dr. Kelley received her BA in communication at the University of Kansas and went on to receive her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. After practicing nursing, Dr Kelley Brummett went on to earn a degree in Dentistry at the Medical College of Georgia. She has continued her education at the Pankey Institute to further her love of learning and her pursuit to provide quality individual care. Dr. Brummett is a Clinical Instructor at Georgia Regents University and is a member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. Dr. Brummett and her husband Darin have two children, Sarah and Sam. They have made Newnan their home for the past 9 years. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, reading and playing with her dogs. Dr. Brummett is an active member of the ADA, GDA, AGDA, and an alumni of the Pankey Institute.

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Want to Lead Your Patients & Team?  

January 16, 2023 Barry F. Polansky, DMD

Here’s how to become an instant leader.

A while back, I sat in on a Facebook Live interview with a dentist who was discussing practice management for young dentists. Like so many times, the interviewer asked the guests, “What’s the one piece of advice you would give to a dentist who is just starting out in his or her career?” And like so many “experts” the dentist replied, “Learn leadership.”

It was like asking for advice on how to live a long life and responding, “Keep breathing.”

Yes, leadership is the right answer, but have you ever looked at the number of books available on leadership? Today I looked on Amazon and found 60,000 leadership books.

Young dentists need better answers.

Young dentists need more practical answers—answers that allow them to apply what they know. Leadership comes in many styles and sizes. Leadership is a universal concept. Did the dentist mean the Leadership Lessons of Abe Lincoln…or the Navy Seals? There is a big difference.

A better question might have been: Where should I start regardless of style, personality or even mission?

What is the one thing that all leaders have in common?

The answer is followers. No one can be a leader without followers, and in a dental practice, followers are patients and staff. Not one of them will take one step forward if they don’t believe that you are the doctor that will take them where they want to go.

What is it that the followers in a dental practice want to know?

They have two silent questions in their mind. You must answer the two silent questions for them to trust you. And they must trust you to follow you.

The first question is: “Do you care about me?” So that is your starting point. Don’t take for granted that you are being perceived as someone who puts their patients and staff ahead of themselves. It takes lots of time to develop the mindset and habit set that leads to this perception. As a young dentist you need to start there and work on this.

The second question is: “Can you do the job?” or “Are you competent enough to do the job?” As a young dentist, understand that you are still in your apprenticeship stage of your career. That means there is plenty more to learn. In my career I remember taking many technical courses that were disconnected and I had to make sense of them. It was more like a self-directed apprenticeship.

Who can help you become a leader?

Mastering leadership, trust and technical dentistry is a combination you will find at The Pankey Institute. I tried numerous CE programs and read thousands, of books. But it was the inspiration and mentoring I received in the Pankey community, and the discipline of journaling (reflection) that I adopted mid-career that kept me on task towards mastery.

Today I would advise the young dentist to find a mentor or mentoring community, and when you find them, ask, “Do you care about me and can you do the job?”

That would be my advice to any young dentist looking to learn about leadership, trust and even mastery.

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Barry F. Polansky, DMD

Dr. Polansky has delivered comprehensive cosmetic dentistry, restorative dentistry, and implant dentistry for more than 35 years. He was born in the Bronx, New York in January 1948. The doctor graduated from Queens College in 1969 and received his DMD degree in 1973 from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. Following graduation, Dr. Polansky spent two years in the US Army Dental Corps, stationed at Fort. Dix, New Jersey. In 1975, Dr. Polansky entered private practice in Medford Lakes. Three years later, he built his second practice in the town in which he now lives, Cherry Hill. Dr. Polansky wrote his first article for Dental Economics in 1995 – it was the cover article. Since that time Dr. Polansky has earned a reputation as one of dentistry's best authors and dental philosophers. He has written for many industry publications, including Dental Economics, Dentistry Today, Dental Practice and Finance, and Independent Dentistry (a UK publication).

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Trusting Dental Patient Intuition

April 4, 2022 Lee Ann Brady DMD

I had a great reminder recently while I was working with a patient that listening to patients’ intuitions and beliefs about their own dental health and care can be valuable. I’ve had this experience with many of my patients. Sometimes that value is clinical, and sometimes it is in increased patient understanding and relationship development.

I treat a lot of patients who have chronic TMD…oral facial pain…occlusal muscle disorders. You have them, too, in your dental practice. We try to help them understand that there is no “treatment,” but we have management strategies. Even when patients know this, it is frustrating for them when they have flare ups.

My patient had been comfortable and symptom free for the better part of a year, which was a long period for her. Recently, though, she had started waking up with headaches and muscle tension in her masseters and temporalis. She came in to talk about “What now?” And the answer to “What now?” is always “What has worked in the past?” We walked back on our options.

She wondered, “Can you add some material to my appliance? I always feel better at a slightly open vertical.”

The question didn’t surprise me. She’s been a dental patient for a lot of years and knows the meaning of “open vertical.” My first gut reaction was to dismiss her suggestion because it ran counter to what I know about the science and my clinical experience with other patients. I honestly didn’t want to change her appliance. But I intentionally put a pause on that resistance and sought clarification from her about what she has experienced.

Over the years, it has amazed me how knowledgeable patients are about their own dental health. They are receiving physiological data that so often they don’t know how to describe. Assessing the validity of what patients describe can be a challenge, but I’ve learned the value of acknowledging the information and asking the patient to tell me more. I ask, “Why do you think that? What have you experienced in the past that has led you to that belief?” Often, I can access the data and understand the validity of the information to help the patient.

When I don’t have a really good idea of what to do next and the TMD patient has an intuitive idea, I’ve come to respect their intuition and do what they suggest. Many, many times I have no evidence to explain why it works but their intuition works. And when it doesn’t work, it’s still okay because the patient has been validated. We’ve demonstrated we’re in a partnership in their care, and we move on to try something else.

I’ve learned to stop and recognize there must be something behind intuitions patients share. Seeking to learn more about their intuitions has led to trying new types of care and always deeper relationships with patients.

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Lee Ann Brady DMD

Dr. Lee Ann Brady is passionate about dentistry, her family and making a difference. She is a general dentist and owns a practice in Glendale, AZ limited to restorative dentistry. Lee’s passion for dental education began as a CE junkie herself, pursuing lots of advanced continuing education focused on Restorative and Occlusion. In 2005, she became a full time resident faculty member for The Pankey Institute, and was promoted to Clinical Director in 2006. Lee joined Spear Education as Executive VP of Education in the fall of 2008 to teach and coordinate the educational curriculum. In June of 2011, she left Spear Education, founded leeannbrady.com and joined the dental practice she now owns as an associate. Today, she teaches at dental meetings and study clubs both nationally and internationally, continues to write for dental journals and her website, sits on the editorial board of the Journal of Cosmetic Dentistry, Inside Dentistry and DentalTown Magazines and is the Director of Education for The Pankey Institute.

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The Wonder of Relevant Examples – Part 2

March 21, 2022 Richard Green DDS MBA

One evening I was seated next to a new acquaintance at a dinner party. As we began the conversation, I learned Bob was a retired CFO of a manufacturing company with $250 million in sales. He had traveled extensively and had had many experiences in dental offices.

In our conversation, Bob discovered I was a dentist teaching at The Pankey Institute. I thought I would move the conversation off of dentistry and have the opportunity to climb into the mind of a CFO of a $250 million dollar company, so when he asked what I taught, I responded with “I teach Finance.” He looked surprised and a bit disinterested, but he said, “You know, the thing that impresses me most, about dentists, is how quickly they make decisions.”

Trying to find the compliment in the statement, he had just made and hoping he thought dentists to be of high intelligence, I queried, “Quick decisions?” He went on to tell me, and sometimes show me between bites of food, the crowns I had already noticed. He said, “It always impressed me, when I went into the dental office with a broken tooth, how the dentist would have a quick look around and then tell me I needed a crown. Sometimes he was ready to do it on the spot!”

Other things had come out in our conversation. He was an accomplished golfer with a six handicap. He had three homes, and each home had an identical set of golf clubs. All were recently updated, matched, swing-weighted custom sets. My mind was spinning as I thought about the gap between those matched sets of clubs and his unmatched set of teeth! How could I get his attention?

Doctor Pankey would often say to me, “Communicate with others by making your examples relevant to the other person’s experience or frame of reference.” The light bulb came on, and I said, “Tell me about how you made decisions as a CFO in your business.”

“Well, I take a good look at the short and long term impact of the decisions, the cost of capital necessary – both short and long term, and the risk/reward potential to the bottom line of the company.”

Now I was in full swing, “Sounds like you study the problem and/or opportunity with reflection and quite a bit of detail. You slow down and take the necessary time to uncover the best decision.”

“Well, yes, of course, they would be important decisions, and they would take time!” Bob replied.

“Quite honestly, Bob, that is exactly what I and others are attempting to teach dentists at The Pankey Institute. We are asking dentists to intentionally slow down and become more reflective, affective, and effective with their patients.” I could see he was thinking about this.

“Bob, let’s compare you and your teeth to your sets of golf clubs.” He was intently listening. “It’s as if, when you were a young man, God gave you a set of new golf clubs. We, as dentists, call them teeth. You used them through the years as you refined your golf game and in time you broke the 9-iron. You went to the pro shop and tried to get a new one. It was a 9-iron, of course, but the grip, the shaft and the swing weight were not quite the same as your original set. It was okay, because you knew how to adjust if you remembered to accommodate for the differences.

“As time went on, you had the same experience with your 7-iron, the 4-iron, the pitching wedge, and your favorite wood. In time, you were adjusting your swing and muscles every time you swung a club. You noticed there were times when certain muscles would get sore and even the soreness would get in the way of your swing chewing. Finally, you decided to get refitted with a whole new set of clubs. You went to a professional who put you through a whole series of tests and thorough evaluations to diagnose and plan the best solution, which fit your uniqueness. And, you not only got one completely new set of golf clubs, you got three.

“Many dentists would see you as a very busy man who wants to get out of the dental office with dispatch. They respond in a crisis mode to your crisis events. But, like clubs, teeth need to be customized and “matched” to work together so you aren’t constantly accommodating as teeth break and are restored. What we are encouraging dentists to do is to slow down and be as thorough as you would be in your decision making in your business. It’s better for you—actually better for all concerned.”

Bob’s face lit up, “So that’s what you teach?” “That’s what I teach,” I responded

With that “aha” smile, Bob said, “Would you be so kind as to give me your business card with the name of a dentist who thinks like you do? In fact, I’d like three – one for each of the locations of my golf clubs!”

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Richard Green DDS MBA

Rich Green, D.D.S., M.B.A. is the founder and Director Emeritus of The Pankey Institute Business Systems Development program. He retired from The Pankey Institute in 2004. He has created Evergreen Consulting Group, Inc. www.evergreenconsultinggroup.com, to continue his work encouraging and assisting dentists in making the personal choices that will shape their practices according to their personal vision of success to achieve their preferred future in dentistry. Rich Green received his dental degree from Northwestern University in 1966. He was a early colleague and student of Bob Barkley in Illinois. He had frequent contact with Bob Barkley because of his interest in the behavioral aspects of dentistry. Rich Green has been associated with The Pankey Institute since its inception, first as a student, then as a Visiting Faculty member beginning in 1974, and finally joining the Institute full time in 1994. While maintaining his practice in Hinsdale, IL, Rich Green became involved in the management aspects of dentistry and, in 1981, joined Selection Research Corporation (an affiliate of The Gallup Organization) as an associate. This relationship and his interest in management led to his graduation in 1992 with a Masters in Business Administration from the Keller Graduate School in Chicago.

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The Wonder of Relevant Examples – Part 1

March 18, 2022 Richard Green DDS MBA

Doctor L.D. Pankey would often say to me, “Communicate with others by making your examples relevant to the other person’s experience or frame of reference.”

Years ago, I had been asked by a young dentist to come to his office and help him with the implementation of his new learning with occlusion applied to bite splints and equilibration. I suggested he line up a few patients for us to work on together during my visit. When we arrived at his office early in the morning to talk about the patients we were going to see together over the next two days, I asked him to bring me up to speed on where he was in treatment with the patients and the conversations he had had with them. We also looked at full mouth models, models of bite splints, and radiographs. I asked him what he wanted me to do with the first patient who was coming in that morning.

He said, “I want to watch you sell him a bite splint!” A little surprised, I asked him to tell me about the patient. He said he was a new acquaintance. They played golf together and occasionally gambled as they played to keep their interest up in the game. They also gave each other a hard time about handicap ratings. He mentioned he felt a bit embarrassed because he thought he knew what was best for his new friend and had kind of hustled his friend on the golf course to be a patient. Now he was feeling a bit guilty about having his new friend come in as a patient, and he could not bring himself to a have conversation concerning the benefits of a bite splint.

Charlie (the friend) appeared, and the dentist introduced me. Charlie and I stood about the same height. We looked each other in the eye, and we smiled at each other – a good beginning. In my mind, I was repeating slowly to myself, “Find a relevant connection.”

I said, “Thanks for taking the time to come in and meet me on such a beautiful Spring day, as I pointed to a comfortable chair for him to sit in.”

He offered something about how golf could be a bit boring if you played it too much. Still looking for a relevant connection, since my “stated task” was to sell him a bite splint, I asked him about his work, and he said he was retired from directing filmed commercials. I asked him what he did with his new found time aside from golf. He smiled a big smile and said he ran about five to seven miles a day. I smiled as I remembered the years when I ran three to five miles a day during the week and seven to ten miles on weekends. A light bulb went on, in my head, and I knew a question I could ask to engage him and tweak his curiosity.

I asked, “How often do you buy new running shoes?” And without hesitation, he said, “Every four hundred miles.” I then asked, “How did you discover that interval?”

He reached down with his right hand and rubbed the lateral surface of his right leg from the mid-thigh, across the lateral surface of his knee, to the lateral surface of his calf, while telling me of the discomfort he would experience in his muscles when the bottoms of his running shoes became worn.

I made the statement, “You must run with the traffic!” Surprised, he asked, “How do you know that?”

I told him I experienced the same thing when I ran on a road with the traffic, especially when the road had a bit of a “crown” on its surface. I thought I had found a relevant connection, and I let it sink in a bit. Then, I told him his dentist friend wanted to offer him a new pair of shoes for the top of his teeth in the form of a removable bite splint. It would be like getting a new pair of running shoes. It would be professionally custom fitted to the tops of his teeth, which would please your chewing muscles and create greater comfort, just like a new pair of running shoes pleased his leg muscles and knee joint.

Charlie looked at his dentist friend and then at me before standing up. With a big smile he said, “I will make an appointment with the receptionist.” Hmmm… Isn’t that Interesting!

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Transform your experience of practicing dentistry, increase predictability, profitability and fulfillment. The Essentials Series is the Key, and Aesthetic and Functional Treatment Planning is where your journey begins.  Following a system of…

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About Author

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Richard Green DDS MBA

Rich Green, D.D.S., M.B.A. is the founder and Director Emeritus of The Pankey Institute Business Systems Development program. He retired from The Pankey Institute in 2004. He has created Evergreen Consulting Group, Inc. www.evergreenconsultinggroup.com, to continue his work encouraging and assisting dentists in making the personal choices that will shape their practices according to their personal vision of success to achieve their preferred future in dentistry. Rich Green received his dental degree from Northwestern University in 1966. He was a early colleague and student of Bob Barkley in Illinois. He had frequent contact with Bob Barkley because of his interest in the behavioral aspects of dentistry. Rich Green has been associated with The Pankey Institute since its inception, first as a student, then as a Visiting Faculty member beginning in 1974, and finally joining the Institute full time in 1994. While maintaining his practice in Hinsdale, IL, Rich Green became involved in the management aspects of dentistry and, in 1981, joined Selection Research Corporation (an affiliate of The Gallup Organization) as an associate. This relationship and his interest in management led to his graduation in 1992 with a Masters in Business Administration from the Keller Graduate School in Chicago.

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Working in Isolation vs. The Power of Shared Experiences

September 17, 2021 Edwin "Mac" McDonald DDS

Ancient wisdom has taught us that as “Iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

I love education and learning. As a long-time student and faculty member at The Pankey Institute, I am challenged by and learn from all of my colleagues every time that we gather for an educational event, whether in person or online.

Some of that learning is from the program. Much of it is from one another as we discuss and share what is pertinent in our practices and careers and how we apply what we are learning. In short, these experiences improve my performance as a dentist, leader, and practice owner.

The grid of improving performance according to Todd Herman, performance coach, looks like this:

  1. Observe & measure past action (Data from yourself & others)
  2. Reflect on that data and the feedback from other key trusted people
  3. Reflect / Visualize on the future, especially with key trusted people
  4. Design Future Action (Experiments) & Acclimate to this new behavior
  5. Repeat

This formula for change is almost always best done with other likeminded people who are on similar journeys. They can give you encouragement, feedback, perspective, resources, & connections.

Even more importantly, it can be very therapeutic to hear the stories and experiences of others to realize that you are not alone in your challenges and the ups and downs of attempting to do something difficult. It is simply reassuring to come face to face with the humanness of friends and colleagues that you respect. It makes our own human frailty much easier to accept and can give us the courage to try again and again.

Keep in mind that every thriving and durable organization has gone through countless failures in route to accomplishing their vision.

The highest performing individuals in any endeavor are working in a team of likeminded individuals who are seeking to accomplish similar things. Those individuals have a much-expanded capacity to understand one another’s challenges and needs. This expanded capacity is often the difference between success and failure.

Isolation is the enemy of progress. Don’t let it determine your possibilities.

Seek out ways to include shared experiences in your personal and professional development by joining like-minded groups like Pankey study groups, group masterminds, and group coaching programs. You even can create groups of your own to surround yourself with positive energy.

Once you have experienced the power of shared experiences like these, you will see the difference from working in isolation.

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Functional Esthetic Excellence Utilizing 100% Digital Workflow

DATE: June 13 2024 @ 8:00 am - June 15 2024 @ 2:00 pm

Location: The Pankey Institute

CE HOURS: 25

Regular Tuition: $ 2995

night with private bath: $ 290

This Course Is Sold Out! Embracing Digital Dentistry This course will introduce each participant to the possibilities of complex case planning utilizing 100% digital workflows. Special emphasis will be placed…

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Edwin "Mac" McDonald DDS

Dr. Edwin A. McDonald III received his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and Economics from Midwestern State University. He earned his DDS degree from the University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston. Dr. McDonald has completed extensive training in dental implant dentistry through the University of Florida Center for Implant Dentistry. He has also completed extensive aesthetic dentistry training through various programs including the Seattle Institute, The Pankey Institute and Spear Education. Mac is a general dentist in Plano Texas. His practice is focused on esthetic and restorative dentistry. He is a visiting faculty member at the Pankey Institute. Mac also lectures at meetings around the country and has been very active with both the Dallas County Dental Association and the Texas Dental Association. Currently, he is a student in the Naveen Jindal School of Business at the University of Texas at Dallas pursuing a graduate certificate in Executive and Professional Coaching. With Dr. Joel Small, he is co-founder of Line of Sight Coaching, dedicated to helping healthcare professionals develop leadership and coaching skills that improve the effectiveness, morale and productivity of their teams.

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Conversational Recall

June 4, 2021 Sheri Kay RDH

Over the past few months, I’ve had a series of coaching sessions with frustrated dentists due to many of their exchanges with team members not being as effective as they had hoped. The dentists were confident they had been clear about their expectations, and yet there was still lagging or even absent implementation of the anticipated behavioral and system changes.

“Maybe this is not the right team member! How can they not just do what I ask them to do?”

Of course, I appreciate how disconcerting this can be, AND I want to challenge the notion that a single conversation can lead to effective change.

I imagine we can agree that most of your patients are in the midst of their own developmental process, as dental offices have quality systems in place to support this idea. A patient comes in for a hygiene appointment and they are routinely scheduled to return in 3 or 6 months to follow up, monitor for changes, and (hopefully) celebrate new levels of health. We are used to the idea of having a return date, better known as a “recall appointment.” More often than not this system works. Over time, as the recall appointments continue, trust levels increase along with deepening relationships and even case acceptance.

The question I pose is this: How can you as a leader apply this same principle to coaching your team members? I like to call this system a Conversational Recall.

What if at the end of a coaching conversation, even a short one, you create an opportunity to revisit with the team member to assess progress, problem solve any obstacles, and set a time for yet another Conversational Recall? My own experience tells me that sustained change typically occurs by implementing small changes over time. Staying connected with a team member by offering ongoing feedback and support may very well be the difference between you being frustrated by unmet expectations and your ability to celebrate high performance and heightened levels of engagement.

One aspect of leadership is setting each team member up for success. You can do this by investing time and energy, walking alongside them, and committing to following up as a pathway to letting each person know that you care. One of the greatest ways to inspire change is to demonstrate to your team members that you both value what they have to bring and that you believe in them…sometimes even more than they believe in themselves.

Another aspect of quality leadership may just lie in your ability to be congruent in all areas of your practice; do for your team what you do for your patients—if not more. Care for your team like you care for your patients—if not more. The rewards for everyone involved could be incredible!

Related Course

Worn Dentition: Direct & Indirect Adhesive Management Through a Non-Invasive Approach

DATE: November 1 2024 @ 8:00 am - November 2 2024 @ 2:30 pm

Location: The Pankey Institute

CE HOURS: 15

Dentist Tuition: $ 2495

Single Occupancy with Ensuite Private Bath (per night): $ 290

Enhance Restorative Outcomes The main goal of this course is to provide, indications and protocols to diagnose and treat severe worn dentition through a new no prep approach increasing the…

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Sheri Kay RDH

Sheri Kay started her career in dentistry as a dental assistant for an “under one roof” practice in 1980. The years quickly flew by as Sheri worked her way from one position to the next learning everything possible about the different opportunities and roles available in an office. As much as she loved dentistry … something was always missing. In 1994, after Sheri graduated from hygiene school, her entire world changed when she was introduced to the Pankey Philosophy of Care. What came next for Sheri was an intense desire to help other dental professionals learn how they could positively influence the health and profitability of their own practices. By 2012, Sheri was working full time as a Dental Practice Coach and has since worked with over 300 practices across the country. Owning SKY Dental Practice Dental Coaching is more of a lifestyle than a job, as Sheri thrives on the strong relationships that she develops with her clients. She enjoys speaking at state meetings, facilitating with Study Clubs and of course, coaching with her practices.

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Slip Slidin’ Away

October 30, 2020 Barry F. Polansky, DMD

If you watch one episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, you will see a repeating theme. Previously great restaurants have come close to shutting their door, because the owners’ passion for maintaining high standards has waned. Diners have dropped them from their A list, their B list, maybe even their C list. Without a dramatic makeover and grand opening, diners are not going to come through the door.

Bring this forward to 2020 and the pandemic. Patrons… clients… customers… have legitimate concerns about moving forward with their lives. Dental teams are doubling down on conversations with patients, along with adopting and adapting to many changes in how they practice. And, then, there is another problem I am seeing in all businesses, not just dental practices. The government gave money to employees to “not work.” Now when they are needed (especially in dental practices and labs), employees want to stay out not only for more “free lunch” but also out of health concerns of their own. They don’t want to take coronavirus back to their family members at risk.

Some of this comes down to the history of the business and how they practiced before and the culture they created…that went way beyond “money.” I’m not saying this is true of all dental practices and less so in the relationship-based practices, The Pankey Institute and other thought leaders promote. But, practicing every day consistently at the quality level of the past takes tremendous commitment. The moral compass of the practice leader—the dentist, must continue to show courage, trust, respect, authenticity, integrity, communication, education and growth, excellence, resilience, purpose, and alignment. Whew! That’s a tall order when you are feeling stressed and exhausted.

It’s no wonder if some of your pre-pandemic passion for spending time with individual patients has waned. When I came out of dental school in 1973, Paul Simon had not yet written his monumental song Slip Slidin’ Away, but within my first decade of practice, I knew the song well and already sensed that life was not on the trajectory I wanted. My passion for dentistry had waned.

We work our jobs
Collect our pay
Believe we’re gliding down the highway
When in fact we’re slip slidin’ away

With inspiration at Pankey and Dawson, wide-wide reading, and encouraging colleagues, I found my way… my passion… my balance… my joie de vivre in dentistry. I discovered how to not only conserve my personal energy but also generate more energy through personal contemplation time and daily exercise. The greatest discovery I made was that my practice of dentistry actually centered around one specific system: the comprehensive patient examination and the meaningful conversations I had with patients during the exam.

The One Thing to look out for is the quality of your comprehensive patient exam. Is it at the highest level?

The comprehensive examination is the “one procedure” or process that gives the dentist the opportunity to express and display his or her leadership “virtues.” Don’t let it slip slide away.

Conversation is where the human side of health care takes place. Continue to spend extra minutes in conversation. The meaningful moments you share with your patients will energize you and help you get through current stressful days. Just remember that having a meaningful conversation, in many cases, requires us to let our guards down and become vulnerable. It means sharing our philosophy and showing our human side… maybe even how challenging dentistry is right now… and yet still so rewarding.

Related Course

E1: Aesthetic & Functional Treatment Planning

DATE: October 16 2025 @ 8:00 am - October 19 2025 @ 2:30 pm

Location: Ciao Restaurant

CE HOURS: 39

Dentist Tuition: $ 6800

Single Occupancy with Ensuite Private Bath (Per Night): $ 345

Transform your experience of practicing dentistry, increase predictability, profitability and fulfillment. The Essentials Series is the Key, and Aesthetic and Functional Treatment Planning is where your journey begins.  Following a system of…

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Barry F. Polansky, DMD

Dr. Polansky has delivered comprehensive cosmetic dentistry, restorative dentistry, and implant dentistry for more than 35 years. He was born in the Bronx, New York in January 1948. The doctor graduated from Queens College in 1969 and received his DMD degree in 1973 from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. Following graduation, Dr. Polansky spent two years in the US Army Dental Corps, stationed at Fort. Dix, New Jersey. In 1975, Dr. Polansky entered private practice in Medford Lakes. Three years later, he built his second practice in the town in which he now lives, Cherry Hill. Dr. Polansky wrote his first article for Dental Economics in 1995 – it was the cover article. Since that time Dr. Polansky has earned a reputation as one of dentistry's best authors and dental philosophers. He has written for many industry publications, including Dental Economics, Dentistry Today, Dental Practice and Finance, and Independent Dentistry (a UK publication).

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The Four Universal Promises of Leadership – Part 5

August 5, 2020 Edwin "Mac" McDonald DDS

In previous parts of this series, we looked at leadership, the commitment it requires, and the first three of four universal promises of leadership. The first promise was the promise to set a clear direction and create meaningful work for the organization you lead. The second was the promise to engage all stakeholders and hold them accountable for performance. The third was the promise to ensure your strategies, systems and processes facilitate focus and execution.

Now we will look at promise four.

The Fourth Universal Promise

You will lead effectively by maintaining relationships of trust to achieve and sustain results.

Why would someone want to follow you? The answer is trust. In order to keep the first three promises of leadership, you must value the priceless currency of relationships built upon trust.

Trust is one of the most difficult concepts for sociologists to describe and define. Two exceptional thought leaders on trust in our culture said this:

Steven M. R. Covey: “Trust lives at the intersection of character and competence.”

Rachel Botsman: “Trust is a confident relationship with the unknown.”

Becoming Trustworthy

Because trust builds confidence and frees up hearts and minds to commit, it forms the basis for a thriving practice culture and draws out the inherent potential of your team (their individual talents, energy and passion). Traditionally, I focused my energy on building trust.

Rachel Botsman proposed that in creating a culture built on trust, we would be served better by focusing on becoming more trustworthy. Rachel’s idea hit me hard. It was spot on. Trust demands the best that we have to offer. Perhaps, it demands all that we have to offer. It is the secret sauce of why people decide to surrender themselves to the great vision you offer.

If you take one thing away from this, take away a renewed devotion to becoming a more trustworthy person. You will likely find that your aspirational identity shows up with more clarity, courage, conviction and compassion.

And So, Back to Clarity

People follow leaders they trust by surrendering to a compelling vision that engages their hearts and minds. Others will trust your vision if you are clear, courageous, have conviction, and are compassionate. These are the building blocks of a shared (collective) style of operation and leadership in which each individual in the organization contributes, benefits and leads. This is relevant to your patients (clients) as well as the team you lead.

As I end this series, I leave you with my belief that developing and elevating your leadership competencies is the best investment you can make. Effective leaders who deliver on the four universal promises of leadership create strong cultures that outperform average cultures by multiples, not percentages, in every measurable dimension over time.

Related Course

Creating Financial Freedom

DATE: March 6 2025 @ 8:00 am - March 8 2025 @ 2:00 pm

Location: The Pankey Institute

CE HOURS: 16

Dentist Tuition: $ 2795

Single Occupancy with Ensuite Private Bath (per night): $ 345

Achieving Financial Freedom is Within Your Reach!   Would you like to have less fear, confusion and/or frustration around any aspect of working with money in your life, work, or when…

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About Author

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Edwin "Mac" McDonald DDS

Dr. Edwin A. McDonald III received his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and Economics from Midwestern State University. He earned his DDS degree from the University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston. Dr. McDonald has completed extensive training in dental implant dentistry through the University of Florida Center for Implant Dentistry. He has also completed extensive aesthetic dentistry training through various programs including the Seattle Institute, The Pankey Institute and Spear Education. Mac is a general dentist in Plano Texas. His practice is focused on esthetic and restorative dentistry. He is a visiting faculty member at the Pankey Institute. Mac also lectures at meetings around the country and has been very active with both the Dallas County Dental Association and the Texas Dental Association. Currently, he is a student in the Naveen Jindal School of Business at the University of Texas at Dallas pursuing a graduate certificate in Executive and Professional Coaching. With Dr. Joel Small, he is co-founder of Line of Sight Coaching, dedicated to helping healthcare professionals develop leadership and coaching skills that improve the effectiveness, morale and productivity of their teams.

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I AM INTERESTED IN

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