As you’re reading this, ask yourself this question: How do my patients and staff really view me and my practice? Before you ponder too long on this, I’ll save you a lot of undue effort because most of what you will come up with is probably inaccurate. There is an age-old quote that goes something like this: “The true gift in life is to be able to see oneself as others see you”. The follow up line to this quote should read something like, “sounds great, but the trouble is that isn’t so easy to do…” And here in lies one of the biggest practice dilemmas that may be unknowingly costing you more money, patients, and staff relationships than anything else in practice each day. It also happens to be the main area of practice development that my coaches and I initially spend most of our time doing our observation, enlightenment, and resolution with our clients when we first engage with them as a foundational must for future success. I call them your professional and personal “blind-spots”. I have observed time and time again that there hasn’t been a person that I have consulted and coached over my last 17 years in dentistry that doesn’t have them. Unfortunately you and everyone else in your practice are not immune to the detriments of this malady of self-obliviousness if you will. They are not unlike the blind-spots that you were first warned about in driver’s education. You were told that your car has them and so do the other cars on the road, and not to drive in them because even though you’re there, the other driver can’t see you. You’re essentially invisible to him, and that makes you dangerous, so position yourself there on the road at your own peril. Yet despite these warnings and our best intentions, how often do we unwittingly find ourselves swerving to avoid calamity on a semi-regular basis while on the roads (especially in this state!)? Now wouldn’t it be great if we could all just drive cars that would allow us have full spectrum vision and awareness of the road and all the other drivers, potential hazards, and obstacles that surrounded us at all times? Think of the money, stress, and lives alone that this would save.
Unfortunately, the technology and know-how to create such a vehicle may or may not become a reality someday, but realistically, the ability to achieve this same level of total transparency of self as human beings will probably elude us for an eternity. Holding up the mirror of self-analysis to yourself can be quite helpful and enlightening, but it is only through the outside, trusted and well-intentioned observations of others that you will truly begin to discover, improve on or correct what you cannot see, and what may be holding you back or dragging you down in practice and in life. This first takes an honest willingness and intention to want to look at yourself and your practice, and acknowledge that you don’t know what you don’t know, or in this case, you can’t see, and be open to changing it. This is the toughest challenge that my coaches and I face every day in our work, but there is no greater reward and practice gain when we are able to achieve this with a doctor and his or her team. There are many facets on which a successful and prosperous practice are built, and perhaps the most important of all that I have found is uncovering each individual’s costly and potentially dangerous blind-spots that are impeding his or her personal and business growth, and getting these resolved first and foremost prior to any major practice consulting or operational reform. Most practice management programs fail not due to faulty information or poor ideas, but from the lack of implementation or self-sabotage brought about by the individual being coached because of what they do not or refuse to see within themselves. These personal barriers have been stopping them long before me or anyone else has tried to help them, and will continue to do so until they first come to the realization that what they need to confront and resolve first comes from within themselves, and not with their practice, patients, or staff. Assigning blame and making other outside factors or people wrong (for example, your staff) for the less than optimum place you may feel you or your practice is in each day, is a symptom of practicing in your blind-spots. Look to first discover the source of these and identify them clearly as they are within you. You will then be able to get on a path to practice success that is effective, sustainable, and supported by your staff, your patients, and others who you may now as a result truly understand and better accept in life to help you continue to be better as a doctor and as a person.