One Dental Billing

How to Motivate and Show Appreciation for Your Dental Team

Having the dental practice run like a well-oiled machine hinges on having a strong staff. With staffing crises and the “Great Resignation” looming, it may feel like there are no solutions to retain good staff members in the dental practice. But there are effective ways to keep good employees on board, starting with showing everyday appreciation and recognizing good work. Here are just a few ways to being that appreciation journey which will, in time, lead to a happier staff that wants to stick around.


Feeling appreciated is more than a mere pat on the back with a quick “thank you” thrown in. What your team members want (and deserve) from you is not all that different from how you want to be treated on the heels of work accomplished.

For example, you’re probably accustomed to being thanked by a patient following a dental procedure. Conscientious patients share their pain, lack of confidence, or fear and how your caring treatment brought relief to them, whether in person or through online reviews.

How that makes you feel ,and how those who assisted you in the process should feel, are one in the same. In essence, feeling appreciated energizes performance, especially when motivation wanes. It works for you AND for your team too!

So how do you motivate your team? Here are some easy ways:

Find out what motivates them— Are they seeking money, competition, or status? Or, maybe they’re driven by family and work-life balance. Whatever motivates them, you must find out what it is and make it important to you as well. We have one client who said that for one of his dental assistants, family is the number one motivating factor. With this in mind the client set up a bonus plan strictly for the assistant to contribute a little bit of money every quarter toward college for her children. The dental assistant was ecstatic.

Explain what you want them to do— Don’t tell them that you’re trying to motivate them. Tell them what you want them to do. The reality is that many people don’t understand their jobs or the results that are expected of them. Many people focus on their duties and not the final objective.

Show your appreciation for a job well done— When someone is motivated to do something, they usually want to be recognized for their efforts. Just watch how professional coaches treat their players after they’ve done something spectacular. They hug them, they high five, and their players appreciate it. These are the most elite athletes in the world and yet they still get excited about great recognition from their coaches. If elite athletes respond this way, so will your team.

Create a “whiteboard” culture — Whiteboards are good for writing unfiltered ideas. Create a team atmosphere where the free sharing of ideas can occur without judgment. This causes employees to feel like stakeholders. The freedom to contribute something of value via a simple idea can produce the feeling of being appreciated. And when team members share something – implemented or not – give them verbal high-fives for their willingness and courage to share.

Also, asking for input from a team member shows that you appreciate their role and insight. Schedule an in-office lunch with a random selection of employees and ask their input on how to reach new patients, reactivate current patients, or any of a variety of problem-solution situations. These appreciations go a level or two deeper than the expected “thanks” or “I appreciate you.” Each taps into the transforming nature of work.

Dentists don’t have to spend years studying leadership. And they don’t have to turn being a leader into a miserable and complex process that they’ll never be able to implement or follow. They can make it easy. They can simply motivate people to do their jobs and do them well.

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