Dr. Scott MacLean doesn’t just hire team members for his Nova Scotia-based practice. He hand selects them. And while skill level is important, that’s not top on his list when looking for new employees. He focuses on finding people with the right personality—and doing so has helped him create what he describes as one of the best dental teams in the world.
His team is made up of 14 people including two associate doctors. They all look out for each other, love working with people and have a positive attitude toward life and their jobs. They’re wonderful people with integrity; Dr. MacLean knows he can trust them if he needs to be out of the office for a few days.
“They’re hired to be leaders within the office,” Dr. MacLean said. “And they all do the right thing when no one is watching. They help me stay positive and keep each other in good moods.”
The team follows the Ritz-Carlton code of conduct, Dr. MacLean said, which means they’re ladies and gentlemen treating ladies and gentlemen. They’re respectful and helpful to both each other and patients who visit the practice. To make sure they’re all on the same page, they meet once a week to check in and see how things are going. They communicate about challenges they’re facing and work together to find solutions. Rather than focusing on what can’t be done when a problem arises, team members immediately go into solution mode, and that leads to better results.
“This also helps them feel like owners in the practice because they can make decisions and follow through,” Dr. MacLean said. “Sure, we have problems and speed bumps and objectives not being met at times, but for the most part we can pick each other up and say let’s make this better.”
Team members arrive at work with pressed uniforms, ready to take on the day. They greet each other every morning with a friendly smile and do nice things for each other, whether that means decorating for someone’s birthday or staying late to help get work done—without complaining. And, of course, they’re all committed to providing patients with excellent care.
“Our goal is to improve every patient’s quality of life,” Dr. MacLean said. “We’re all on the same page and understand that commitment to excellence. When a patient walks through the front door, we try to make them feel welcome and let them know they are in a special place.”
Dr. MacLean’s role in keeping his team strong
Dr. MacLean understands he must lead by example. If he comes in late every day with a grumpy attitude, how can he expect everyone else to show up on time with a smile on their face? He lives by the same rules and code of conduct that he expects his employees to live by.
It’s also important for him to create a positive work environment for his employees, he said. He might give them half a day off on a random Friday for a job well done, for example. If they need to be out of the office for any reason, such as to attend a wedding or visit a sick relative, Dr. MacLean encourages them to take the time. He assures them someone else can handle their duties while they’re away, and that the practice will be just fine.
It takes time and effort to find the right people for his practice, and once he does, Dr. MacLean wants to keep them happy and loyal. That’s why he pays them well and is committed to creating a stable work environment where team members have the opportunity to grow professionally. This approach has worked well, as some of his employees have been with the practice for 20 years. They have plenty of support from other team members as well as weekly training. He encourages team members to constantly learn and to become better leaders, and it shows in their performance.
Positive reinforcement also plays a huge role in his team’s success. If Dr. MacLean sees team members excelling in their role, he doesn’t hesitate to tell them he’s noticed—and he’s happy to do so in front of patients. This motivates them to repeat the behavior. He never tells team members they’re doing something wrong in front of others. Instead, he takes them aside when necessary and works with them to find ways to improve their performance.
The team always has a say
Hiring the right people is key to developing a strong team full of people who support and like each other—which is why he makes his current employees part of the process. When he’s considering bringing someone new on board, his team members take that person to lunch. If they don’t like the candidate, that candidate isn’t hired.
“I’ve passed on people because they weren’t nice to the other team members,” Dr. MacLean said. “The people who work in my practice have just as much stake in who comes onto the team as I do. It’s like a family. My work family really.”
Passing the test
Every now and then, Dr. MacLean asks himself a very important question: If I had to do it all over again, would I still hire my team members? The answer is always yes. If it ever wasn’t, he’d know it was time to make some changes.