Following dental school, we search high and low for the perfect fit. No matter the practice setting, chances are you’ll be working alongside another dentist. I’ve been blessed to work with an incredible mentor for the past 1.5 years.
From the moment I met him right before graduating dental school, he’s been there to support me clinically with complex cases, emotionally on the days when dentistry has kicked my butt and through leadership challenges when I’ve struggled with the team. We recently sat down for a meeting where he shared with me, “I’m happy where I am with dentistry. My greatest success will be when you succeed.” Cue the feels! It may feel like a rarity these days when I’ve seen so many failures, but a great partnership is what everyone should strive for. We recently attended a CE workshop presented by Drs. Mark Hodge and TJ Sprague called “It’s a Marriage: The Multi-Doctor Practice.” Here are my top three takeways of a successful partnership:
- Build trust and respect
For many young dentists, building leadership and clinical confidence can be a top priority. I recently heard about a multi-doctor practice where the senior doctor had his routine exam and fillings done by a new associate. Can you imagine the confidence booster this gave the new associate and the team? Think how powerful it is when the senior doctor could say to his patients, “Let me introduce you to my dentist.” For a young doctor to be successful, they must be fully embraced by the team. Doubts in leadership or clinical skills can cause team synergy to suffer. “A rising tide lifts all boats.”
- Present a unified leadership front
As the leaders of your practice, your team will turn to you time and time again as questions, concerns and difficult situations arise. Will you say one thing while your partner says another? This can become a recipe for disaster when a partnership falls out of alignment. Deciding how to manage conflict is an important skill to hone because every story is a half-story. Be intentional and carve time out of your schedule for just you and your partner. Think of it as setting aside time for date night. This is an absolute must. This gives you opportunities to address issues together, share your expectations and better understand how to help one another accomplish your goals.
- Communicate expectations
I had a very open and earnest conversation with my partner before I joined the practice. I shared with him my clinical strengths and weaknesses as well as my personal and professional goals. We had a great rapport and laid the foundation for a successful working relationship. A year and a half later, we still strive to better our communication and mutual engagement. Having one or two great conversations doesn’t equate to a lifetime of synergy. Talking to one another on a regular basis about what actions and behaviors build and/or detract from our partnership is imperative. Time becomes your worst enemy once you graduate. As your day goes by and your schedule gets busier, things fall by the wayside. Be different. Be intentional and know where you strive to be.
Having so many practice opportunities can feel overwhelming but always remember, finding a great partnership is absolutely possible. No matter what the practice setting, do your due diligence and find a great fit but maybe, more importantly, work to make sure it stays a great fit. Consistency and intention will become your greatest allies as you continue your journey within dentistry.
What do you feel makes a great partnership? Comment below!
~Dr. Daryn Lu, general dentist in Shawnee, Okla.