Mentoring a Young Dentist
Many dentists have been going through or will be going through the process of adding an associate to their practice. It is a complex and challenging process that includes a series of planning steps as the search begins.
The first thing the host dentist has to do is evaluate the practice’s readiness for the addition of another dentist. This involves looking at your practice financials, your current profitability, your current growth trend, your realistic ability to share patients with another orthodontist, the suitability of your suite to handle another provider, your staff’s readiness to support such a transition and your personal preparedness for the additional time that will be required of you in the mentoring process ahead.
The choice to add an associate to your practice sets off a series of ripple effects that you must be prepared for if you want the transition to be a resounding success. The purpose for bringing another dentist on board is to create an eventual partner or to have someone there who can eventually buy you out. The first ripple effect will be to spend the time planning with your advisors as to the mechanics involved in putting together the employment agreement, planning the compensation issues, working out a plan with your staff as to hours, staffing requirements, a formula for sharing patients and charting the pathway that will lead you all to the outcome you desire. That is, the eventual partnership or buyout that was always the goal.
Once the Practice Value is established and the contracts and commitments are in place, the work begins. The “make or break” factors are not usually financial or contractual, but behavioral. The real challenge is in making certain that you have a strong overlapping of personal values and core philosophies. Take the time to really get to know one another on a personal and professional basis before joining forces. Don’t make the mistake of saying to yourself that even though you are unsure of the other party, you can “work out all the issues during the associateship”.
There is plenty of room for different personal styles as long as you have congruent philosophies and values. Ask the associate candidate about their ideal five-year plans and measure whether or not they will be able to achieve their goals withing your setting at the same time you are accomplishing yours.
If the associate candidate is married or in a significant relationship, be sure to include that person in some of your discussions. It will give that person the direct information they require from someone other than their spouse, and it will give you insights into how they function together as a couple and what it will be like to deal with the two of them in the future. Remember, when you enter a committed relationship with an associate, you are also going into business with their spouse. Make your discoveries early and then keep them in the informational loop thereafter.
Behavioral issues are all intangible. They refer to how people treat others, how the associate will relate to your staff, patients and referral practices. They include how this person will generate confidence in patients and referring practices as they contribute to building the practice. You can’t teach people to be nice. You have to hire nice people.
Additionally, you must be aware of the impact the addition of the other dentist will have on your own life. You must be willing to complicate your life significantly in the early going so that you can accomplish your goals later. The time required in a quality mentoring process is very significant. Make sure you have one with you who will want your mentoring and coaching and sees the value in it. Then you efforts will be rewarded and you will grow the partner or buer you sought in your original plan.
You and your associate must sit down and agree on a plan for the mentoring process that works for both of you. I suggest you begin by outlining a number of categories that will be addressed during the mentor-mentee phase of your relationship. The categories can include the following:
PATIENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS
CONTINUING EDUCATION PATH
Take time to set goals in each of the categories. Specifically state your expectations and ask the associate to state his/hers as well. Talk about how the process will work and how you will want your relationship to be. You must have open, candid and encouraging conversations based on mutual respect and a shared desire for creating a productive WIN-WIN relationship.
Be clear about what the available resources will be for the associate’s personal development plan. For example, you will be able to personally provide for a significant portion of the coaching among the categories. However, you will certainly not be able to do it all and you must be clear from the start that you will involve other resources as necessary. You will want to have the associate attend specific continuing education courses, be open to coaching from designated team members (they are an important and often overlooked resource), consultants, study clubs, etc.
Let’s be clear about what a mentor is and what a mentor is not. Mentors are people who coach, help and encourage another person’s development and success.
- They listen
- They ask questions
- They help you further develop YOUR plan
- They influence but don’t create your plan
- They help you solve problems
- They expect you to use your own skills and potential
- They expect you to continually improve
- They expect you to use your best judgment
- They DO NOT expect you to be just like them
- They are expert resources on technical matters
- They challenge and prod you
- They trust and support you
- They hold you accountable to yourself adn your stated goals
The young dentist’s growth and development can be greatly accelerated and enhanced by a mentoring process. You can make an enormous difference on their outlook, their persistence and their ultimate success. Remember, young dentists do not want another professor, but they do want a mentor committed to their own success.
Commit yourselves to a process of open and candid communication that is focused on helping the young dentist see precisely what it will take to be successful in this environment. They have to own the responsibility.