Do You Need to Control Your Impulses?


Self-control is a vital skill to master when you are managing a group of people.

I know from my early practice-ownership days that certain situations would challenge me. Such as staff calling in sick, not checking lab work had arrived for an imminent insert appointment and staff not following a process that had already been explained. Despite priding myself on being a fair and caring boss with realistic expectations, my initial reaction to these occurrences was annoyance and frustration. These negative reactions came across in my facial expression, my tone of voice and, of course, in what I said at the time. And I was always assured to feel regret just moments after.

I reflected upon this characteristic of myself. I was not proud of it and if I truly wanted to master leadership, I had to change my behaviour.

I examined my current process and realised that these seemingly slight issues would spark a stronger reaction in me than the larger issues. I determined that my bad reaction was to those situations that had an immediate impact on the smooth running of the surgery for that moment or day. You usually have time to contemplate the larger issues that arise in a business, but the smaller ones interrupt you and demand immediate attention.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become you habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.”   

Mahatma Gandhi

I thought of the above quote from Mahatma Gandhi. I have always loved it and in fact use it as my ‘behaviour guide’. I determined that to be able to address my actions I needed to first address my beliefs. Did I honestly hold the belief that running a business would not have problems? That staff would never be sick? That every lab job would arrive on time? That every process I implemented would be instantly embraced by all staff? I have been working in dental surgeries for 28 years and these three events happen…ALL THE TIME! So I changed my belief to using Pareto’s 80:20 principle. Things run smoothly 80% of the time, and then 20% of the time, they don’t. I embraced this concept.

Then I chose what my reaction to problems was to be.

I know that our problem solving skills are sparked in to action when we feel good and powerful within ourselves, and that creative part of the brain shuts down when we feel low and ineffective. Not just in me, but in every staff member. So making anyone feel bad, or that they had let me down would work AGAINST achieving any resolution. I also wanted to appear in control and  to be respectful of those around me. I wanted my team to know that I could be relied upon to be a great leader not just during the cool times, but also when it heats up.

So, I made a commitment to myself that no matter what happened, I would be light-hearted and encouraging. I would not let the urge to ‘blame’ or be passive aggressive be a part of me or the management of the situation (by anybody).

The processes put in place to resolve these issues were the same. My self-management though was different and my team (and I) were happier because of it. The calmer, more effective approach to problem solving is also seen and adopted by others, making a smarter and more resilient team.

So SMILE in the face of these minor disruptions and I promise you will have a happier practice because of it!