Stepping into the flow: Creative flow of ideas involves each dental staff member

Aug. 26, 2015
Creative flow of ideas involves each staff member

Creative flow of ideas involves each staff member

BY Dorothy Garlough, RDH, MPA

Our office is changing. Even the air is different. It feels lighter, safer, more professional, respectful, and fun! The process has been gradual, and slowly our disjointed staff has transformed into an effective team. For eight months, management formed its own team to direct the change.

The doctor, the office manager, a consultant, coaches, and mentors all had creative input to bring our team together. Everyone is grateful that the new owner recognized the need to break down the divisions that had become engrained over the years. Today the office environment is healthier, happier, and full of enthusiasm.

Fresh ideas are now emerging from our staff. A millennial assistant suggested that the office adopt a social cause to support. Before long, insight sparked, and autism became the cause. One team member has an adult autistic son living with her and everyone wants to learn of the challenges she and other families with autistic children face. With the rise in autism (and the growing number of people suffering with mental disorders), everyone recognizes the need as health professionals to learn about mental health. It's a win/win proposal, with everyone learning, and the mother feeling valued and understood.


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A Gen Xer suggested that the office staff partner with a local service club to hold a fundraiser for autism. She is a member of the club and plans to approach the directors to see if they would be interested in cohosting a trivia night. The evening might even have a theme, adding to the fun.

Another staff member is a first generation Polish woman. She recently immigrated to the city, and English is not her first language. The most senior staff member (a traditionalist) mentioned that a Polish documentary film is playing at the IMAX during the summer. The staff decided to go as a team to expand their knowledge and understanding of both the Polish culture and by extension, our team member.

The doctor added to the many ideas now pouring forth. He suggested that the staff could hold an office outing every nine months, focusing each nine months on a different staff member's interests. This could include a trip to a bowling alley, a lecture, an exhibit, an outdoor adventure, or a picnic.

The possibilities are endless and everyone is excited. The office manager will help schedule and cohost the outings, and she'll work with the team member whose month it is.

A senior staff member suggested that the format of staff meetings be changed to include a five- to 10-minute briefing given by staff members on a rotating basis. The subject will be of interest to the presenter. Topics can include a recent article, a new dance move, a current event, or stamp collecting. Whatever! Of course it can be related to dentistry, but it doesn't have to be.

The five-minute "air time" needs to be something that is of interest to the staff member. Everyone loves this idea, and we see it as a five-way win:

• We'll learn something new, expanding our knowledge and horizons.

• We'll learn more about team members, getting to know and appreciate them.

• Creative ideas often come from different sources.

• Each team member will feel valued, listened to, and respected, which is confirming and confidence-building.

• Professional skills will be enhanced. Skills in research, presentation, and idea generation will be exercised and adopted.

Adding to the possible initiatives, a baby boomer hygienist suggested that the doctor have a casual lunch with each staff member on a nine-month rotation. This lunch should be off the office premises, and because there are nine staff members, it will take nearly a year to have a lunch with each staff member. This is a perfect time for the doctor and team members to connect, get to know one another, exchange ideas, and build trust.

Some of the team has already enlisted a mentor to help them grow and are experiencing good results. An assistant mentioned that she has a friend who, instead of having a mentor, has a "mapper." She is not familiar with what it entails, but she committed to exploring and relaying the results to everyone at the next quarterly staff meeting.

The air in our office is now charged with possibility. The longstanding barriers are falling, and everyone recognizes that the same barriers that were built to keep others out also entrap us. A self-imposed trap is limiting, while a synergistic team is limitless.

We suggested experimentation. Although there will be failures, everyone is confident that we can learn from them and lead to successes. The office manager and doctor understand that the office is a living, organic entity. It is alive, has its own culture, and needs to be fed regularly. The fertilizer needs to be the right mix, delivered at the right time.

New habits need to be created that are open to the value of not only each generation, but of each individual on the team. We will all need to step into the creative flow, changing and massaging the office environment to actively create tomorrow today. One thing is for sure; we are on a progressive path, and it feels good! RDH

Dorothy Garlough, RDH, MPA, is an innovation architect, facilitating strategy sessions and forums to orchestrate change in both the dental and corporate worlds. As an international speaker and writer, Dorothy trains others to broaden their skill-set to include creativity, collaborative innovation and forward thinking. She recognizes that engagement is the outcome when the mechanisms are put in place to drive new innovations. Connect with her at [email protected] .