The Economics of Great Communication — Part 2

June 3, 2019 Robert Maguire, DDS, MASCL

The steps I’m outlining here are not a list of transactional procedures. Rather, they are transformational life-changing concepts. My hope is that you will be as courageous and as excited to learn about how to be a better communicator as you are to learn about implants or smile design. If and when you do take the plunge, get ready to work hard and at the same time experience a more joyful and fulfilled life. Everyone in your life will benefit, and your practice will flourish. As I wrote in Part 1 of this blog, as a result of improved communication in my practice, an interesting thing happened regarding the practice income. Instead of “me chasing it, it chased me.”

Take a look at yourself with DISC Personality Assessment.

The first step to developing your communication skills is to take an up-front look at yourself. This can be a difficult step as you dive into investigating who you are and why you do the things that you do. One of the most beneficial things I did to help myself in this area was to take the DISC Personality Assessment. This detailed report helped me better understand myself, my personality style, and my motivation. Not only did it provide me with new information about myself, it gave me hope that yes, in fact, I could learn how to relate more effectively with others.

Gain insight into the personality styles of your team members.

Once I understood my personality style, I was then able to better connect with my team. I had each member of the team take the assessment to help them discover for themselves who they were and how they communicated with each other. This exercise proved to be an eye-opener for all of us.

This new personal insight was like an eyeglass prescription change. Instead of seeing each other’s faults, we were now able to more clearly see each other’s strengths and work together more harmoniously. Honesty, authenticity, and accountability became part of our daily lives. When conflict arose among us, instead of “burying it,” we resolved it.

As a team, we were able to see each other’s “uniqueness” rather than our “strangeness.” At this point, dentistry became more fun and productive; the practice income or “numbers” rose dramatically. Keep in mind that all this growth occurred before tackling the “transactional” details like appointment scheduling or collections.

Get to know and “connect” with your patients at a deeper level.

Next, we set out to better understand our patients: their needs, their wants, their fears, and their desires. We embraced the thoughts of Theodore Roosevelt who said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

A few things we did to better connect with our patients included: being aware of our posture, our tone of voice, and the words we shared. We had training and developed our listening skills, asking more questions and talking less. Other changes we made included doing a thorough new patient exam and always keep the conversations focused on the patient. As Dale Carnegie would say, we became “interested” instead of being “interesting.”

Collectively, we agreed that we would not talk about ourselves unless the patient asked us. Additionally, we embraced the use of positive language. The phrase “no problem” was banned from the office.

Continually develop your “co-discovery” skills.

As a team, we committed ourselves to continuing education, seeking excellence in both our technical and communication skills. Our desire was to better understand the individual needs of each of our patients with the goal of helping them achieve optimal dental health.

We valued “helping our patients see what we were seeing.” We embraced the idea of “co-discovery” by asking thoughtful questions and involving them more in their dental examinations and treatment discussions. For example, we used the phrase “gum health measurements” instead of gum disease or gum pocket probing.”

We took intentional steps to make sure that our patients felt well cared for and well informed. We worked within our shared values that included timeliness, cleanliness, politeness, and technical excellence. “Inform before perform” and “quality is not a variable” became an important part of our practice culture. And when situations didn’t go as well as we had planned, we talked about it using AARs or “After Action Reviews,” a system developed by the U.S. Army.

Fine-tune systems after learning how best to work together.

Once we figured out who we were as individuals and how we could best work together as a team to serve our patients, we then started to delve into and fine-tune our systems. A sampling of some of the areas we developed included–patient greeting and check-out, telephone skills, collections, scheduling, morning huddles, staff meetings, job descriptions, and a personnel policy manual, to name a few. As we became better communicators, our office became a fun and more productive workplace. And as a side benefit, at the end of our work day, we had energy left to share with our families.

Let everyone know how much you care.

I’m asking you to be contrarian in your thinking. Instead of looking solely at the transactions of your practice, focus first on how you communicate with yourself and with others. And when you do, your life will never be the same. When you become a great communicator, everyone wins–you, your staff, your patients, your family, and your friends. And remember the quote from Theodore Roosevelt, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

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About Author

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Robert Maguire, DDS, MASCL

Dr. Maguire is a Navy Veteran who got his D.D.S. degree from Georgetown University School of Dentistry in 1984. He completed Bachelor of Arts at the University of New Hampshire in 1980 and Master of Arts Degree in Strategic Communication and Leadership at Seton Hall University in 2009. He was a former president of the New Hampshire Dental Society from 2014 to 2015. Dr. Maguire is a fellow in the International College of Dentists and the American College of Dentists. He is also a member of the American Dental Association and the New Hampshire Dental Society. Early in his career, Dr. Maguire became an avid student of both the Dawson Center and the Pankey Institute, completing all of their week-long continuums. It was the "Pankey Philosophy" that inspired him to continually develop his technical and communication skills. In addition to these credentials, he is also a certified trainer for the DISC Personality Assessment Tool. Dr. Maguire specializes in teaching others to be effective communicators (www.dynamicdentalcomm.com). Dr. Maguire recently retired at age 60 after practicing for 28 years as a solo practitioner in Wolfeboro, NH. He attributes his success to the deep relationships he made with his patients and team. His practice thrived without the influence of PPOs or Premiere programs with set fees.

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The Economics of Great Communication – Part 1

May 31, 2019 Robert Maguire, DDS, MASCL

On October 1, 2018, I retired from my solo private practice of twenty-eight years in the rural town of Wolfeboro, NH. During my years of practice, I sought continuing dental education from organizations like The Dawson Academy and The Pankey Institute to advance my technical skills. At the same time, I was a student of communication reading numerous books by authors like Travis Bradberry, Dale Carnegie, Stephen Covey, Kerry Patterson, and John Maxwell. In 2009, I received a master’s degree in strategic communication and leadership from Seton Hall University. My story is one of joy, fulfillment, and financial success.

For twenty-eight years, I practiced dentistry without the influence of dental insurance, never participating with any PPO’s or Premiere programs with set fees. And in spite of that, my practice thrived. Was it because I was good at my craft? Maybe. I attribute my joy, my fulfillment, and my financial success to the deep relationships I fostered not only with my patients, but also with my staff.

An Unhappy Time in My Life

Early on in my career, I admit that I focused too much on the “numbers” or the financial side of my practice. My mood was often like a rollercoaster. When the numbers were “up,” I was “up.” When the numbers were “down,” I was “down.” In addition, patients frequently refused my treatment recommendations. It was an unhappy time in my life, and I was heading towards burnout. I was often angry and frustrated making everyone in my path miserable.

On occasion, my wife would tell me, “I know that in your heart you mean well, but sometimes your delivery stinks.”

I knew I couldn’t continue this way, and so with some trepidation, I set out to change. I knew this self-examination would be humbling as I took a hard look at myself, my poor communication, and my poor leadership. I knew that before I could lead my staff, I had to get myself straightened out.

A New Focus on “We”

In my searching, I learned that “you can’t give away what you don’t own.” Through lots of study and reflection on my less-than stellar communication skills, I was able to change my “me” focus into a “we” focus. Instead of my usual focus on money or “the golden eggs,” I started to focus on my staff and my patients, the “geese that laid the golden eggs.” And as a result, an interesting thing happened regarding the income of my practice. Instead of “me chasing it, it chased me.”

Lots of the practice management courses today emphasize the transactional or money aspects of running a dental practice: scheduling, collections, website design, marketing. There is no question that these areas are important and are necessary aspects of running a dental practice. However, in my opinion, lasting change and growth in a dental practice starts with the dentist’s thinking and his/her ability to communicate effectively.

In Part 2, I will outline some transformational life-changing concepts with the hope you, the dentist, and your team will experience the benefits of improved communication.

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About Author

User Image
Robert Maguire, DDS, MASCL

Dr. Maguire is a Navy Veteran who got his D.D.S. degree from Georgetown University School of Dentistry in 1984. He completed Bachelor of Arts at the University of New Hampshire in 1980 and Master of Arts Degree in Strategic Communication and Leadership at Seton Hall University in 2009. He was a former president of the New Hampshire Dental Society from 2014 to 2015. Dr. Maguire is a fellow in the International College of Dentists and the American College of Dentists. He is also a member of the American Dental Association and the New Hampshire Dental Society. Early in his career, Dr. Maguire became an avid student of both the Dawson Center and the Pankey Institute, completing all of their week-long continuums. It was the "Pankey Philosophy" that inspired him to continually develop his technical and communication skills. In addition to these credentials, he is also a certified trainer for the DISC Personality Assessment Tool. Dr. Maguire specializes in teaching others to be effective communicators (www.dynamicdentalcomm.com). Dr. Maguire recently retired at age 60 after practicing for 28 years as a solo practitioner in Wolfeboro, NH. He attributes his success to the deep relationships he made with his patients and team. His practice thrived without the influence of PPOs or Premiere programs with set fees.

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