Written by: Amanda Lindemuth
Amanda is a D1 who had the opportunity to attend the recent National Leadership Conference in Chicago.
When I was first trying to figure out what to write for this blog I started looking through my notes from all the breakout sessions I attended to try and pick one to highlight. Instead, I found a common thread (which makes sense, because the whole theme of the conference is leadership but still) -- “find your tribe”. This *exact* phrase wasn’t used in every context, but the idea was the same: your success depends on your team, and not everybody is going to be the right fit. Find your tribe. Find your tribe. Find YOUR tribe.
HOW? Unless you’re super lucky and find your perfect team at your first job right out of school, this part takes time. It requires interviews, and personality matching, and group vision, and working interviews, and ... you get the point. It requires a lot of moving parts, and for those of us that are puzzle solvers and high performers who expect a lot out of ourselves (*most dental students*) the process can be exhausting and frustrating and feel pointless after a certain amount of time. We have to know procedures and burs and anesthetics and all these “dentist” things, how are we also expected to keep a team together? The leadership side isn’t a part of most school curriculums, but it is a part of being a dentist.
**Sidenote: as I’m trying to write this blog article so many things are popping up in my head as tangents that I feel like I could sit down and write a leadership book with all the things we learned. It was seriously awesome and if you have the opportunity to go to any leadership conference in the future GO FOR IT !
A big part of finding your tribe is finding your vibe. This goes for you as an individual and your practice as a whole. What type of leader are you? What are your personal motivations? How self-aware are you of your own triggers (positive and negative)? What level of social skill are you currently at? (and yes, this is a skill you can build upon). In order to successfully lead you need to have emotional intelligence, which includes self-awareness -- the #1 thing at which leaders fail (check out What Makes a Leader by Daniel Goldman). After checking in with yourself, you have to think about your practice and its place in the community. What type of involvement will your practice have? How do you want your patients to feel when they come to your office? Will you provide a “typical” dental experience or do you want them to not feel like they’re at the dentist at all? How do you want to be known in your community? What size practice do you want to have? Do you want to own your own practice? How do you want people to feel when they leave your office? What is your vision and mission statement?
I know. Lots of questions and lots of things to think about. I certainly don’t want to be worrying about these things when I’m trying to pass a neuro exam or make sure my isthmus width isn’t too wide, but we’re going to have to figure it out sooner or later. And there are little things we can learn about ourselves and the people around us now. We’re under a lot of stress -- how do we react? Sure it’ll be a different kind of stress out in the real world, but being aware of how we react now can help guide and understand how we’ll react in the future -- understanding our triggers. We didn’t choose our classmates, but they’re our tribe. Try to get to know people and what personalities you work well with and others you need to work on understanding better. A successful team needs to be balanced - think of a soccer team, if everyone played forward, there wouldn’t be anyone guarding the goal, but if everyone played defense, the team never scores. We all have a place on a team and eventually we’ll be the coach, needing to find people to fill different spots. We will need to balance and interact with a wide range of personalities within our tribe, as well as with our patients.
As students, we can get stuck in the “school” mindset (especially the first couple years). I need to do my homework, pass my exams, study hard. Yes, this is true. But I also think it’s more than that. We aren’t just in school to learn material, we also need to take the time to learn about ourselves and take the time “study” what we want in the future. As a D1, I can think “oh, I’ll have more time for that later” but when you talk to upper-classmen or new dentists, they wish they had started thinking about it sooner. I think it’s never too early to start thinking about what you want your impact to be as a provider and community member. Your success depends on your team, so find your vibe and find your tribe. We got this.