When I purchased my dental practice in 2003, I quickly discovered that I was going to have to ‘step up to the plate’.
What I mean is that it would no longer be acceptable to back away from the difficult conversations that I knew I had to have.
I remember a situation early in my practice-ownership when I came upon a newly-employed dentist virtually barking into the face of my young dental assistant. The dentist wanted some instruments ordered and the DA said she would run the order by me first. The dentist saw this as an affront and stood over the sitting DA demanding placement of her order!
How was I going to handle this situation?
The behaviour of the dentist was aggressive. The DA was intimidated. I would have preferred to run than face this dentist in such an intense environment.
Despite wanting to take flight, I knew I had to stand and fight. It was my responsibility to protect my team members when they needed me. It was up to me to ensure that the workplace culture I constantly professed was strong in the face of opposition. I also knew that I could not put off this discussion. I had to act now if I wanted the best result.
I stood my ground.
I asked the DA to leave and I sat with the dentist and calmly, yet firmly, explained that this behaviour was not in line with our culture. I explained that intimidating behaviour such as this would not be tolerated. Because of the adrenaline (and fear?) running through me, I also had to explain to the dentist to ignore my shaking hands and not to see it as a sign that I doubted my stance in any way.
My DA knew she could have trust in me to protect her and her working environment. The dentist knew that there was a code of behaviour to be part of the practice and those who stepped out of line would be held accountable. I knew I had preserved the vision and values of my business.
Since this time, I have been emboldened to face up to many difficult and confronting conversations: Team members whose performances were suffering; Team members whose time to leave the practice had come, contrary to their wishes; Patients I had ejected from the practice; Sitting with two team members who were in conflict; Recovering debts owed to the practice; and many more situations than I care to now recall (lest I get too uncomfortable)!
What has been proven to me again and again is that the anxiety and trepidation felt in the build-up to these discussions reduces DRAMATICALLY with each occurrence. My confidence developed quickly, after only three or four difficult discussions. The increasing comfort I felt in initiating difficult discussions surprised me.
By embracing the difficult conversations you need to have, you will likely discover, like me, that after just a handful of times, you will start experiencing the following:
- You will approach these discussions calmly. Your mind will function well and you will think more creatively about solutions.
- You will not try and rush these discussions, but instead, deal with all the issues at the time, ensuring all sides of an issue are being heard and considered.
- You won’t feel that you have to come up with all the answers straight away, realising you are free to contemplate and come back together for a follow-up meeting.
The most important benefit, though, is that progress and achievement will no longer be compromised due to the avoidance of uncomfortable, difficult or confronting key issues.
And a second important benefit is the stress in your life is guaranteed to be reduced. Facing the issues that make you feel uncomfortable is truly the best way to stop feeling uncomfortable anymore.