Everyone makes mistakes. It’s an inevitable part of being human. In my experience as a dentist business coach (and in my personal clinical experience), I know that most dentists are perfectionists. We have to be. Our efforts toward perfectionism is what ensures successful outcomes for our patients. It is what keeps our practices running smoothly. Perfectionism is what helps us manage our teams and see dental practice growth. When dentists make mistakes, they often beat themselves up about it. Rather than demeaning themselves, I encourage my clients to make mistakes with style. When they own their mistakes and take the necessary steps to rectify them, these errors can actually be of enormous benefit to my clients and their practices.
The Trap of Mistakes
Like many dentists (and everyone else) you may make mistakes, and you feel trapped by them. You may recognize that something is wrong, but you don’t know how to fix it. Instead of making a decision, you continue to deal with the daily effects of the error. It is this inability to choose that makes a mistake truly problematic. Making mistakes with style means recognizing the blunder, determining your various solutions to deal with the slip-up, and choosing the best option for you and your practice.
Mistakes Can Be Your Best Friends
The benefit of mistakes lies in the choice you make. For instance, let’s say you’ve lost a significant number of patients because of consistently long wait times at your practice. You could simply complain about this with your friends and continue treating the patients who remain. In this case, you’ve fallen into the death trap of mistakes. Alternatively, you could figure out two or three ways to deal with the misstep. Perhaps you ultimately determine that ordering scheduling software and implementing a block scheduling system is best. Now you’ve got an extremely efficient practice. It may even run more smoothly than it would have if you had never made the scheduling errors in the first place. Your patients notice and start telling their friends. Suddenly, your number of patients starts to rise beyond your previous number. Thank goodness for mistakes with style.
5 Tips for Dealing with Mistakes
Of course, as with any skill, making mistakes with style takes practice. Here are five ways to start your new attitude towards missteps.
- Take an honest look at your practice and identify all areas where you or your team may have slipped up. Look for a common theme running through all of them. For example, time management or lack of communication may be at the heart of all your practice errors.
- Decide which errors need to be addressed first.
- Acknowledge mistakes at a team meeting. You may be afraid to lose your staff’s respect. In reality, they have probably noticed the blunders. When you take ownership, it will actually deepen their regard for your leadership. Then ask your staff for ways that you can work together to rectify errors (both your own and your team’s). Do this in an open, non-judgmental way.
- Develop a plan of action. Be as specific as possible. Include a time frame, accountability, and follow-up assessment in your plan.
- Work with a dental coach. Often the issue you are dealing with may actually be the symptom of a larger problem. A coach can help you assess your practice and identify all errors. Then he can assist you as you create a specific plan of action. He can also help you learn the skills you need to make mistakes with style for life.