Dentists have joined the ranks of leaders who are investing in Executive Coaching. That in itself is not surprising; Ivey Business Review calls this emerging profession a new paradigm and a concept whose time has come. What is surprising is why dentists are so keen to have a coach.
Dentists were my obvious first choice for clients after earning my Graduate Certificate in Executive Coaching from Royal Roads University in Victoria. I had been providing business services and training to dentists for 25 years; my dental clients agreed to be my first ‘coachees’. Gradually I began to coach other dentists as I received referrals. Over the course of time, an amazing thing happened. Dentists were discovering something that was missing from their professional lives – an ally, a confidant, someone truly invested in their success in ways that went far beyond profits.
Dentistry can be a lonely place. Most principle dentists are sole owners with heavy responsibility on their shoulders. They have all the challenges of other business owners; staff issues, financial worries, customer service concerns, marketing, performance, overhead and administrative headaches. They, too, must nurture relationships with their bankers and keep the tax man off their backs. The difference is that many have to do this with no business training, entrepreneurial acumen or even enthusiasm! They are what Michael Gerber (The E-Myth) calls ‘technicians’. The E-Myth or Entrepreneurial Myth is that “If you understand the technical work of a business, then you understand a business that does technical work”. With few exceptions, dentists find themselves at a loss to understand, manage, or get excited about the underlying business machinery that makes their practices go. “I just want to do dentistry!!!” Sound familiar?
That would be a difficult enough situation if it were not for the fact that they have few resources for the support and knowledge which they require. They often take their tough days home, or they talk to colleagues. Conversations with colleagues can become advice sessions, or mutual commiseration without specific solutions. Or, they become conversational poker games full of bluff and bluster, which only exacerbates the confusion. And then there is the maze of uncharted territory that new Associates must navigate as they are hurled head first into their profession. Enter the coach.
An Executive Coach is a thinking partner, provoking a path of thought through strategic questioning, feedback and challenge. It differs from consulting in that it is based on the concept that, with a little help, the client will arrive at their own solutions. A coach will then help to put those solutions into action in tangible, measurable ways and will hold their client accountable for attaining them. If that coach has dental background, all the better, as the relationship is based on mutual trust, respect, and understanding of the issues and unique challenges of the profession.
Of all the benefits of Executive Coaching, the one that I hear most often from my dental clients, is that they have someone to talk to who understand their work, to hash out solutions to their day-to-day business issues to help them become really clear and focused. They are not alone anymore – an ally is there to help them plan and set goals, grow their businesses, become better leaders and bosses and managers; to find balance between their work life and their home life; and to meet the challenges of their profession head on, without fear and with confidence. They have a champion who is there for them – to keep them on track and keep them moving forward.
Consider the following if you are a dentist seeking the services of an Executive Coach:
- Hire a coach with ICF (International Coach Federation) Certification. This is the regulating body for Executive Coaching and ensures adherence to a strict standard of expertise, confidentiality, and Code of Ethics. More info can be found at www.ICF.com.
- Although it is not essential, a coach with dental background is a bonus. Understanding your unique challenges and speaking your language adds value to the relationship and the work being accomplished.
- Every coach has a different structure to their professional contracts; some like to meet every 1-2 weeks, some offer a flexible schedule with a retainer. Find a coach who will be flexible around your schedule, knowing you are chair-side during the days.
- Ask your prospective coach for a free initial consultation. The relationship has to be a good fit. Remember, this coach will be your ally, your thinking partner and your challenger– you have to click.
In closing, the reward I experience coaching dentists pales in comparison to the growth and change that I see Executive Coaching bringing to the dental profession as a whole. Dentistry has much to gain from this emerging profession and the
Ivey Business Review might have been speaking directly to the dental industry when they called it an idea whose time has come.