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Worthless activities

This post is about leadership in dental practices.

It is aimed at dentists who want to practice dentistry in a less stressful- and more profitable way.

Hard work with no added value

I see it over and over again.

Stressed out practice owners with too many tasks.

They develop tunnel vision and forget to keep track of those activities that add value to the practice.

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Instead of taking a step back and exercising leadership, they spend more and more time on practical tasks in the dental office. Often without considering whether the tasks being performed add value or simply drain the energy of the practice- and the practice owner. In other words, they are running faster and faster in a hamster wheel that is not moving them forward and where several parts are close to falling apart.

The trouble is that it can be difficult to recognise for yourself whether you have got into such a hamster wheel and what you need to do to get out of it again.

Hamster hides in round cylinder and looks at camera

Important - not urgent

Many years ago, one of my coaches told me: "Work smarter not harder".

The expression has become a worn phrase since then, but the value remains.

The challenge for most dental practice owners is that they spend so much time being dentists - craftsmen, that they forget to look up from the mouths of patients and see what is going on in the practice.

A few colleagues may even find themselves using the work in the mouth of a patient as an escape from the problems of reality. The practice may be in flames without the owner noticing because reality is displaced by the activity that gives the dentist a sense of calm.... and control.

Different activities and their importance for the dental practice.

If you have not read the book "7 habits of highly effective people" by Stephen R Covey, I strongly recommend that you do so.

The book describes 4 different types of activities:

  1. Important - urgent

  2. Important - not urgent

  3. Not important - urgent

  4. Not important - not urgent

I'm not going to describe the tasks in numbers 3 and 4 - you'll have to read about them in the book😊

Type 1 contains those activities that require your immediate attention. Typically emergencies and important deadlines.

If you spend most of your time managing crises and problems, it’ll keep getting bigger and bigger until it consumes you. This leads to stress, burnout, and constantly putting out fires.

If we look at the tasks that are right in front of us and urgent that we get done, they tend to take up all our time and mental capacity.

This is where most dentists spend their time. Because important tasks that are urgent are nice to get "winged". We feel we are "doing something". It satisfies our creative urge. Unfortunately, this is also where we create the least value.

When we work this way, we work IN the practice. Working IN the practice is the same as being employed in the practice.

Instrument bridge from an XO4-6 dental chair with hand and angle pieces attached, ready to be used to treat patients


If you look at the days when you saw the most patients in the practice in a single day and then look at what your turnover looked like on that day. Then you will probably agree with me that it is almost frightening how small your monetary reward has been on a day that has demanded extremely high resources from you and your staff.

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Value-creating activities

If we instead take a step back and take a look at the activities that are important but not urgent. Then we will start to create more long-term value. Now we work ON the practice, as leaders.

Type 2 are not urgent right now but important tasks or activities. Things like strategic planning, relationship building, exercise, preparation, education and other personal development activities. All things we know we need to do but seldom get around to actually do, because they don’t feel urgent.

Type 2 activities are the ones that will really make a difference to your life and help you accomplish a lot more of what you want. This is where highly effective people focus the most.

For example, we are working on training our staff to take over some of the tasks that are urgent and important. This creates long-term value as it reduces stress levels and increases productivity. As well as creating a greater sense of ownership among staff, strengthening the brand of the practice, improving the ability to attract and retain talented team members, etc, etc.

Prerequisites for a better everyday life

If you're reading this and thinking: "I'd like some more satisfying results from my efforts" then it's important to remember the following:

If you keep doing what you're doing, you'll end up getting the same results you're used to.

It requires a certain self-awareness.

You have to recognise that the practice has a challenge and that you are not able to solve it yourself with the resources you currently have.

A paradox

When I started working as a consultant, I was convinced that I was going to help dental practices with the biggest challenges. I knew (and know) that I would be able to make a big difference for these practices and practice owners in a relatively short time.

Hand holding a marker, drawing a plan

To my great surprise, I was contacted by extremely well-run practices and not the distressed practices I thought I was going to help.

The owners of the well-run practices all have in common that they are aware of the need for external help. They have realised that in order for them to get to the next most efficiently they need to seek out help. Not because they are unable to read about- and learn the stuff they want to implement themselves. But because they have realised that they don't have the resources or the desire to do so. Besides of this it is often a far better leadership decision and investment getting external help from an expert.

Think about this for a moment:

Do you think it is more or less efficient for a general dentist to do the accounting, marketing, logo design, website programming, orthodontic treatment planning, instrument servicing, hands-on team training, etc. him- or herself. Or do you believe it might be more efficient and profitable having an expert with several years of education and experience helt the practice?.

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I fully understand the frustrations that can occur when an outside consultant successfully articulates and changes exactly what you have been trying to articulate in vain for perhaps years.

For me at least, it can feel a bit provocative to come into a dental practice, as a consultant, and inspire the staff to do something that I know the practice owner has tried to articulate in the past. When I come into the practice, suddenly the messages are taken more seriously.

Partly because it's not the boss who's communicating the messages.

Partly because I follow up in a different way than the staff is used to.

Even though in theory it is the same message and goal I bring (I have always clarified expectations with the practice owner before my visit), there are differences that put things in a new perspective. This can be measured by staff support, satisfaction, performance and most importantly: the financial performance of the practice.

A few tips:

Humans are fabulously adept at constantly overestimating their own abilities.

We think we can achieve much more in much less time with far less resources than we actually can. When we fail, we make all sorts of excuses for why it was ok to fail.

Instead of shooting too high and fail think about how you can:

  • Make things easy for yourself.

  • Lower your expectations.

  • Be less ambitious and accept that it takes much longer to learn and implement new knowledge.

  • Set written goals.

  • Share your goals with someone who can hold you accountable.

  • Make a written plan while you are top motivated and stick to the plan when alternatives to exercise tempt you.

  • If you follow this advice, you will find that you achieve far more goals and maintain motivation along the way.

If you need a coach along the way, you are always welcome to contact me (You will find my contact details at the bottom of this page)

More about leadership, sales and marketing

Follow the blog and avoid missing out on content that can be used in your dental practice.

Subscribe to the blog.

It's easy.

Click on "login" in the top right corner.

Follow the directions.

You'll receive an email with a link to the latest blog post when I post new content.

Jesper Hatt DDS in a blazer and white shirt. Smiling a dazzling white smile

I hope to see you in the next post

Many kind regards

Jesper Hatt DDS

Phone: +41 78 268 00 78


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