A lot of you come to me because you’ve hired leadership consultants, you’ve gone to trainings, you’ve studied materials and you tell me that even with all of that you’re still struggling. While there is a ton of value in leadership training, there’s a distinction between the training (and conceptually understanding something) and the adoption of it (the belief system that accompanies you becoming the leader you want to be).
Whenever we set out to do something we’ve never done before we know upfront that we’ve never done it before. That’s important to point out because you seem to forget that A LOT, as you’re trying to do the new things you’re trying to do. My clients will tell me things like, “I don’t know how to direct my team effectively,” “I wasn’t taught x-y-z in dental school…”
Those types of thoughts create loops that will never get you any closer to becoming the type of leader you want to be. They’ll repeat themselves, they’ll disguise themselves as similar more believable thoughts. They’ll perpetuate your current level of leadership. It is highly inefficient for you to continue thinking those types of thoughts and it is extremely detrimental to believe them.
What you need to do is get really clear on the type of leader you want to be. If you were already five years down the road and you’re looking at the leader that you’re currently aspiring to be, how would you feel? What would that look like? How would you act? What are some ways you’d lead your team? How would you handle difficult situations? Get really specific. Make a list. Image yourself in the role you want to be in. Start owning your leadership.
Please don’t brush over this, because the magic is in the details. I want you to take the time to really know what you look like when you’re the type of dentist you’re wanting to be. Imagine everything! How are you dressed? Do you arrive right on time, or are you early? How do you speak when you’re delivering news – consider new incentive plans, a new system, addressing a problem. OH, here’s a big one! How do you follow up with someone on something you’ve asked them to implement, especially when it still isn’t right? Do you smile a lot? Do you laugh? How often do you drink? Are you taking regular lunch breaks in five years? Where do you eat? Think of everything you can to make your image crystal clear. It’s your dream, so dream vividly!!
And then apply your list. Right now. Start acting like the experienced, accomplished dentist that you envision yourself being in five years…right now. A lot of you are doing it backwards. You’ll tell me things like, “When I’ve been practicing for x number of years…” “When I’ve obtained some ownership…” “Or when I’ve bought my next practice…” then I’ll be more confident / more qualified / more able to present with the leadership essence that I’m aiming for. But for now…I’m this other version of myself.
You are only ever going to be you. You’re the person that decided to go to dental school years ago. You’re the person that made it through your teenage years. You’ll be you when you get five years further down the road and are (hopefully) doing things exactly as you’re planning to today. But it’s you. So waiting to reach some milestone that you’ve decided is the point where you’ll allow yourself to come out of your shell while holding back on being the type of dentist who leads his or her practice the way he or she really wants to until some arbitrary attainment has been met is needlessly uncomfortable and out of alignment with what you truly want.
Your brain is finding all of these excuses why right now isn’t the time to implement new ways of directing more confident ways of interacting, more efficient ways of leading your team, more productive ways of owning your leadership. And that’s not a surprise, because our brains are wired to notice anything new and unfamiliar. And when it finds those things or picks up on you purposely considering new things it sends off warning signals that those could be signs of danger! It freaks out! It revolts!
But you’re not in danger. Quite the opposite, actually. You’re on the brink of making your professional life better. So notice your thoughts and know that they’re coming from a brain trying to protect you from newness. A brain that likes consistency so much that it would rather direct you to keep running your practice on a lower, less efficient level of leadership. If that’s been the pattern for you then take the risk of trying new things and exert the energy to envision the type of doctor that you know you want to be. The type of doctor that a team can be built around. The type of doctor that you’re excited about!
And it’s going to take some practice, but it starts here and now. I promise you that if you wait until you get to whatever checkpoint you’ve picked to start showing up with more confidence, that when you get to that checkpoint, you’ll have a new assortment of reasons why you’re not quite there yet. You’ll have a new assortment of excuses for holding yourself back. Because you’re never really “there.”
Once you get whenever you’re going, you’re onto the next thing. Onto the next plan. Onto the next goal. know I am! So saying that once you’ve been practicing for a certain number of years is your benchmark for when you can lead with authority is ludicrous! There’s no better time to start practicing and becoming the type of leader that you want to be than right now.
I remember my first few live webinars. It took hours preparing them! I perfected my slides, I cross-referenced my data, I practiced, prayed, and guess what? Nobody showed. Not one person! And my second webinar? Same thing! I had some confirmations and when it was showtime nobody showed!! And do you know what I did? I still held those webinars. Went through every slide. I even answered the questions that had been emailed in advance. I answered the questions!! For an audience of none!
Why? Because I knew who I was and I knew who I was becoming. I was clear on exactly what that looked like. Part of that was showing up to engagements, (in this example webinars), prepared and enthusiastic, whether there were an auditorium of hundreds of people, a table of 10, or a virtual audience of ZERO. My vision of who I wanted to become was exclusive to anyone outside of me. I didn’t say, “I’m going to host a really great webinar as long as there are over 100 people in attendance,” or “I’m going to deliver a power-packed speech at the offsite retreat as long as there are at least 50 doctors in each session.” Why would I do that? Why would I limit myself and the pace of me stepping into the shoes I want to wear based on other people?
I want you to think about that. Think about how often and in what ways you limit yourself based on other people.
Because I’ll tell you what, those first few webinars, even the ones with people on them, weren’t fantastic. But I got to get my footing and perfect my style in front of a lot fewer people than the webinars I host today. And I don’t know if you’ve ever hosted a webinar before, but I’d rather stumble in front of nobody or just a few people than in front of a hundred people any day of the week!
So it doesn’t make sense to me when I hear things like that. Recently a dentist told me that he wants to work on his confidence and owning his leadership, but isn’t concerned with it now, because he still only has one practice. What? So I asked him, “You’re telling me you’d rather practice being a good leader when you have twice as many employees, twice as many patients, with twice as much at stake?”
I hope that he and all of you are able to retain every staff member that you want to for as long as you want to. But whether you do or you don’t it is to your benefit and the benefit of everyone around you to start stepping into your next-level shoes now. Practice being the more confident leader that you want to become, in your office, with your current team, right now.
Chances are, you’re going to experience some turnover in the next five years. And when you replace those positions with new people, you’ll be more advanced in the ways that you guide and direct your practice. If you experience no turnover over the next five years, your team will have grown right alongside you. Either way, everyone outside of you is outside of you. Do not use them as your excuse to stunt your growth. Do not use them as your reason for holding yourself back. You, your team, your practice, your patients, and your community only stand to benefit as you take the steps to improve each day in the ways that are most important to you.
Each day take steps to become more of the type of leader that you see yourself being in five years so that when five years have passed, and your five years older self has another goal, a further goal, that you’re at least part of the way there because you’ve been working toward it since now.
And when you get there in five years, you’ll be so grateful for yourself that you chose today to be willing to see through the muck, to be willing to try new things, to be willing to become who you want to be.
Start practicing now. Today. With each interaction ask yourself, “How would the accomplished leader “me” in five years handle this?” “How would the more experienced “me” in five years talk to my team?” “How would the more confident “me” in five years offer redirection?”
Keep your eye on your vision for yourself, for your life. Keep adjusting, keep stretching, keep advancing yourself until you personify your personal definition of a “leader.”
And under no circumstances is it useful to entertain ideas that are contrary.
You’re going to amaze yourself! You’re on you way to owning your leadership. You’ve got this.