Special Traits of a Good Manager in your Dental Practice


It is commonplace in the dental industry that team members become ‘managers’ by default.

They are promoted to Senior Dental Assistant, and are then required to manage other assistants. They are Receptionists, then required to manage the individuals in the team. They are dentists, then required to manage their own surgery. These ‘managers’ are not labelled as such, but they do, indeed, manage!

Rarely is any structured education offered to develop the needed skills to support their successful performance, and their effectiveness in the more challenging roles is not tracked or assessed.

If a team member then exhibits capable and effective management qualities, it is more a credit to that individual’s character than the result of any intention or training offered by the owners of the practice.

So, then, what are the traits that make a good manager?

The answer is: Anything that improves the performance of your team!

Here is a list of traits that my 30 years of dental experiences have proven make a good manager:

Understands everyone learns differently. Some learn by reading a guide, others need to perform a task themselves. Some learn in a group setting, and others need to study alone. An effective manager appreciates that we are all different and will modify their approach with each individual.

Leads by example. Team members will act in accordance with the behaviours they observe rather than what is told to them. A good manager will walk the talk of the practice, showing team members what the desired behaviours are.

Empathetic. Team members are humans, not robots. An awareness of other’s feelings and emotions help foster a caring environment for all team members. Scholar, author and public speaker, Brené Brown, states that empathy is the driver behind connection with others. She explains it is the “bonding agent that strengthens our relationships.”

Encourages autonomy. I have written in the past about the importance of autonomy. Autonomy is when we feel we have choice and control over what we do. A good manager asks for a result from team members without needing to control how this result is achieved. Guidance and support is provided without falling into micro-management.

Positive attitude. Team members will perform the tasks better and quicker if the manager and the environment is positive. Work becomes a pleasure rather than something to endure.

Trustworthy. Trust is the basis of all successful relationships, including workplace relationships. A breakdown in trust leaves team members on edge and stressed. Good managers understand the impact trust plays in their team members’ performance and happiness. They foster trust by behaving consistently, keeping their word, keeping confidences and being reliable.

What difference would it make to your practice if your ‘managers’ were all good? And if they are already ‘good’, what difference would it make if they became better?