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T.E.A.M. Hurrah, team!

Regardless of why you are a dental hygienist, you are still part of a team

By Susan Clark, RDH, OM

Do you remember singing those words during a high school football game? Did you know that you were cheering for a group of people working toward a common goal and shared rewards? Having common goals and the same motivation, loyalty, dependability, and capability is the most important component of teamwork. A sense of purpose leads to the willingness to work together, which creates a climate of trust and a deepening harmony.

Even in those earlier days we recognized that no man is an island, and individuals cannot go it alone and survive forever. Unfortunately, today's cultural values have shifted too far toward isolation, overriding our natural tendency to be social beings. Personal demands, family obligations, not wanting to get involved, or allowing status quo to dominate our lives cuts us off from one another.

Think about why you wanted to be a dental hygienist. Was it to find a good paying job, where at the end of two weeks you would bring home a paycheck? Or did you decide that being a dental hygienist would be your long-term professional career? This decision sets the tone for your disposition toward the role you play as a hygienist, and the attitude you have toward your employer, coworkers, and patients.

When people love what they do, they care about what happens and they recognize that there is more power in unity than in self. Creating a cohesive dental team comes in the diversity of its members. By pooling mental resources from team members' different fields of expertise and experiences, everyone on the team gains from one another's skills. A successful team involves a trusting environment, open communication, motivation, and a great attitude.

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Trust involves integrity, honesty, promise-keeping, and loyalty. These are essential characteristics for a team player. Relationships are solidified by trust. Respect is something that is earned and not given freely. When you conduct yourself with integrity and treat others with dignity, you will earn their respect.

A second key ingredient is open communication between the doctor and team members. When everyone knows that he or she has a voice, an unbreakable sense of inclusion will prevail. This helps to build confidence and allows all members of the team to generate good rapport. When honest communication breaks down, efficiency falters, morale slips, and standards fall. The whole tone of the office is affected. Patients can sense an uncomfortable vibe and will not want to return or refer others to the practice.

Maintain clear lines of communication at all times. Be sincere and say positive things about others whenever possible. When you are optimistic, people want to be around you and are more likely to respect you. If you want to grow as a cohesive dental team, sharpening up your workplace communication is essential. This is why many businesses initiate team-building activities that enable everyone to get to know one another outside of the work environment.

What team members want to be

  • Appreicated
  • Respected
  • Treated fairly
  • Have a no-gossip workplace
  • Able to voice their opinions
  • Opportunities to grow and learn
  • Friendly, professional atmosphere
  • Materials and equipment to do their work effectively

Do you have people on your team who just cannot seem to get along, or struggle to communicate with others? There are many personality profile tests available to help recognize interpersonal communication styles. The purpose of these is to gain insight into yourself and others, and to reduce stress and improve interoffice relationships. This provides a unique framework for understanding how values motivate human behavior. If you know your personality type, it can lead to some interesting insights as to why you do things a certain way, or why you do them at all. Recognizing your colleagues' types may improve your understanding of one another's differences. It can also show you how to get along better with one another.

Some special qualities of a teammate

  • Outgoing personality
  • Wanting to be a team player
  • Professional image
  • Ability to multitask
  • Positive attitude
  • Self-motivator
  • Confidence
  • Dependable
  • Punctuality
  • Intelligent
  • Wanting dentistry as a career choice and not just a job

Raise the bar. Set up a team meeting, take a personality profile test, and become an incredibly powerful team with a common mission, values, and goals. When you become aware of who you are, and how to best communicate and value the differences in one another, you can create a positive work environment and a happy and successful long-term career.

Third, a successful team is one in which everyone is motivated to share the same passion and focus to achieve desired goals. This can happen only when everyone is aware that each individual is important for the success of the team. Team members in a successful practice are motivated. They like themselves and the people in the work environment. They approach their work with enthusiasm. They do not view their work as drudgery or just a job, but as a career choice. They seek solutions and answers and do not allow barriers to prevent them from being the best they can be. Motivation comes from within. It cannot be given to us or taken away from us. It can, however, be practiced, fine tuned, and perfected until it becomes a way of life, our life. If motivation is not there, morale and productivity suffer, patients leave the practice, team members quit, and those left behind wonder if there are greener pastures elsewhere.

What team members want to be Appreciated Respected Treated fairly Have a no-gossip workplace Able to voice their opinions Opportunities to grow and learn Friendly, professional atmosphere Materials and equipment to do their work effectively Some special qualities of a teammate Outgoing personality Wanting to be a team player Professional image Ability to multitask Positive attitude Self-motivato Confidence Dependable Punctuality Intelligent Wanting dentistry as a career choice and not just a job

Part of the motivation equation is attitude. It's your thoughts behind your words that create your attitude. It's not what happens to you; it is what you do with what happens to you. Change your attitude and watch how your life, your environment, and the people around you change as well. Once you create your positive attitude, you will become more fulfilled and happier. "Happiness depends more on the inward disposition of mind than on outward circumstances." Benjamin Franklin

Make sure you acknowledge your team members who support you and help you succeed. Connect with people as a way of life, and incorporate them into your professional and personal lives. It is a sense of belonging that brings happiness. When you fill your day with things you love to do and people you like to be with, you will find happiness and balance in your life. "If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life." Confucius

A starting point for all achievement is desire. "Weak desire brings weak results, just as a small amount of fire makes a small amount of heat." Napoleon HiIl

So what is your burning desire? Are you going to create a small amount of fire and settle for a small amount of heat? Or are you going to ignite those flames of creativity to reward yourself and others with a more empowering, rewarding career? Think outside the box, take some risks, and find your professional success, personal happiness, and financial freedom. Remember, the only limitations are the ones you place on yourself.

"T.E.A.M. = Together Everyone Achieves More!"
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SUSAN CLARK, RDH, OM, is a registered dental hygienist, orofacial myologist, key opinion leader, public speaker, and self-published author of "Exploring Dental Hygiene, Finding the Hidden Rewards." She is in her second term as president of the San Diego County Dental Hygienists' Society, California delegate to the House of Delegates, and an alternate delegate to the ADHA House of Delegates. She is a 2013 Sunstar/RDH Award of Distinction recipient. Susan conducts lunch-and-learn presentations as an Independent professional educator on behalf of Water Pik, Inc. You can contact Susan at sgc31@verizon.net for further details.

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