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B Y D O R O T H Y G A R L O U G H , R D H , M PA

he challenge of leading people is well known. It can

be taxing, discouraging, costly, and unsettling. Those
who are leaders will tell you that it is the most difficult part of their job, but also the most rewarding.
To lead well is a skill, and like most skills, it can be
learned. Dentists, office managers, and hygienists
who want success and smooth sailing are wise to invest in
collaborative innovation and their leadership skills.
A leader in the dental office needs to know how to satisfy
his or her efforts to promote the agenda in a way that wont
lead to compromising the organizational good.1 However,
the leader will need to do this in a diplomatic way. If the
leaders attitude is I win, you lose, the result will always
be damaging. This is considered to be a zero sums game,2

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11.2014 | DENTALECONOMICS.com | @dentalmagazine


whereby one party triumphs and the

other fails. In this example, no collaboration, inventiveness, or alternative
solutions are visited. The result is that
relationships are damaged when the
message sent is that the leader doesnt
care about anyone elses wishes. Hardball negotiations reduce trust and harm
an organization. Once trust has eroded,
its difficult to reestablish. The outcome
can be devastating to the dental office
or any business.
One example of eroding trust is this
story about Continental Airlines.3 In
1994, Continental Airlines was dead last
in every possible measurable performance metric. When Gordon Bethune,
the new CEO who was the 10th CEO in
10 years, came to the helm, he realized
that he needed to restore trust. He understood that regaining employee trust
would lead to trust in the marketplace.
Early on, he demonstrated an innovative and risky plan. He took stacks
of company policy manuals that were
filled with minutiae-controlling regulations out to the parking lot, and asked
his staff to burn them! The smoke from
the burning rules sent a signal to all staff
members. Bethune said that henceforth, employees were to use common
sense in solving problems, balancing
what was right for the customer with
what was right for the company.
The change was phenomenal. Almost
instantly, Continental was meeting its
budget forecasts, and it wasnt long
before the company was ranked No. 1
in two of the most vital airline industry measures time performance and
baggage handling. During the 10 years
Bethune led the company, Continental
went from worst airline to No. 1, winning more customer satisfaction awards
than any other airline in the world.
So how can the leader in a dental
practice build trust? One proven way is
for the leader to be a champion architect of negotiation. Trust is achieved by
shaping the nature of agreement.

By cultivating the following skills, a

dentist can effectively gain trust, smooth
relationships, and collaboratively
innovate for creative solutions.
RECOGNIZE THAT FAIRNESS MATTERS4 Economists often quote a game
whereby the first player is given a sum of money to be divided with a second player.
Both players must agree on the division in order for both to keep whatever sum of
money the first player decides to give. Studies consistently show that the second
person refuses any money unless the person feels there is a semblance of fairness.
Of course, most people happily accept a 50/50 split. The interesting finding is that
the second party will forgo any of the cash unless there is at least 15% of the money
offered. In this event, they both lose.

CULTIVATE OBJECTIVE CRITERIA Fundamentally, the criteria need to be objective. Are you looking at both sides of the equation? Is there unbiased input? Make
sure the standards are fair and the procedures consistent. Be open to reason, yet
take care not to yield to pressure.

FOCUS ON INTEREST, NOT POSITION Try to find a common ground. What
objective are all parties striving for? There are likely shared interests that can be
moved forward. Dont get stuck at driving only your agenda, because with collaboration it is likely that a better result can be created. By avoiding polarization, communication remains open and possibilities to a joint solution are promising.

SEPARATE PEOPLE FROM THE PROBLEM People can fixate on a problem, so change the game. Step into the others shoes and recognize that together a
solution can be found. Do not get personal. Look for ways to surprise the other party
in a pleasing way, and take care to never back the other party into a corner. Like wild
animals, people will come out fighting and communication will shut down. Find out
why they feel a certain way. Think about basic human needs their career, work/
life balance, and more. Make a list and keep people looking forward, not in the past.

INVENT OPTIONS FOR MUTUAL GAIN Try to figure out a win/win solution. Looks for ways to create a joint gain. Brainstorm together from the same side.
Broaden the options or bring in outside experts. Specialists can often direct resolutions that were not even thought of by the parties. Create novel solutions that meet
everyones needs. What are the shared interests? Can the scope of the agreement
be broadened, or can thinking about bundles of solutions provide an answer? The
more options the better. Offering choices will spark new ideas and open possibilities.

@dentalmagazine | DENTALECONOMICS.com | 11.2014


These principles can be applied to all negotiations in the

dental practice, whether a staff member is asking for a salary
increase, support to attend a conference, or flexibility of hours.
Even contentious issues should be dealt with through the process outlined here. When the adoption of negotiating skills is
implemented, confrontations and hard feelings will be avoided, and staff members will know they are valued.
In dealing with staff, the leader needs to be sure to actively
listen and demonstrate flexibility. To make no effort to move in
the staff s direction will likely shut them down. They will feel as
if they are not valued and will disengage. Disengaged employees cost a business tremendously monetarily, productively,
and in loyalty.5 The result is a disruption in the cohesiveness of
the team, which translates into an ineffective team. Even if the
resolution is not to the ultimate liking of employees, they will
recognize that genuine effort was made on the leaders part to
be open. This alone will nurture good relationships and build
valuable trust. Like Continental Airlines, with trust, the team
will be energized and success for the practice will follow.
1. The Art of Critical Decision Making: The Great Courses Professor
Michael A. Roberto Disk 5 Deciding How to Decide ISBN:

11.2014 | DENTALECONOMICS.com | @dentalmagazine

2. Transformational Leadership: How Leaders Change Teams,
Companies, and Organizations The Great Courses Professor
Michael A. Roberto Disc 8 Negotiating as a Way of Life ISBN:
3. Terry OReilly Under the Influence CBC Radio http://www.cbc.ca/
4. Transformational Leadership: How Leaders Change Teams,
Companies, and Organizations The Great Courses Professor
Michael A. Roberto Disc 8 Negotiating as a Way of Life ISBN:
5. Dale Carnegie What Drives Employment Engagement and
Why It Matters http://www.dalecarnegie.com/assets/1/7/

innovation architect, facilitating strategy

sessions and forums to orchestrate change in
dental offices. As an international speaker and
writer, Dorothy trains others to broaden their
skill set to include creativity and collaborative
innovation to build team mechanisms that
drive success in dental practices.

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