You must be true to your word


Developing a set of principles that drive your leadership is one of the most important things you can do. But it can get tough…

I have found that with each and every principle I adopt, I am tested. This happens in every area of life. I don’t know whether it is a ‘universal law’ but it seems life delivers situations that challenge our commitment to our beliefs so we can see how we respond. To see how true we are to our word.

There was a situation quite early on in my practice-ownership career where I had the opportunity to learn this lesson.

I had just employed my first dental team – there were three of us. We were a happy trio. One of my leadership principles was to protect employee’s emotional safety at all times. This was easy to exhibit with the team of three because it was more talk than action on my part. I never had to act on it because the team was so harmonious.

However, the universe was to lay down a challenge.

I employed a dentist on a part-time basis. She was friendly and seemed to settle in well. That was until a large instrument order was processed immediately by her. As per my instructions, my wonderful nurse didn’t place large instrument purchase orders without first getting the okay from me. This was unacceptable to the dentist. The conversation between the two was such that by the time I entered the staff room the dentist was standing over the nurse and speaking very aggressively. My poor nurse was so taken aback; she didn’t know what to do.

I knew very well that my actions in this moment were crucial. I had professed for months that the employees of my practice were safe. That I would do what was needed to maintain that safety.

I asked my nurse to please excuse the dentist and I so we could talk. She left. I asked the dentist, who was still quite aggressive, to sit so I could explain something to her. It was my first confrontation and the adrenaline was making my hands shake.

I explained to the dentist that what I had just witnessed was not how we manage problems here. I explained the importance of all staff feeling protected and that aggression is not tolerated. I was mindful that I needed to be an example of the controlled and professional manner with which to handle disputes. I could not be aggressive in my request of her not to be aggressive.

The final result was that the dentist, still within her probation period, decided we were not the practice for her. I was happy with this as I knew the other staff would likely to never feel completely safe.

This experience was an incredibly important one for me. It revealed to me that it is all talk until there is action. That staying true to my commitments to those who worked with me was only powerful when I showed that I would do it when it was tough to do.

Many times I have reminded myself that “it’s nice to do the right thing when it’s easy.  But it MATTERS MORE when you do the right thing when it’s tough to do the right thing.”