After graduating from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, Dr. Lisa Knowles has practiced in Michigan for the past 18 years. She has the unique ability to see the whole picture and the whole patient. She spends much of her time speaking across the country to dental schools, clubs and associations. Dr. Knowles is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry, and she writes for several journals including Dental Economics, Dr. Bicuspid.com, Dental Products Report, and for her own blog at Beyond32Teeth.com.
In this episode we discuss:
– Not sweating the small stuff
– Managing stress and preventing burn out
– helping dentists learn to appreciate the business side of dentistry
What are some of the topics that you consult about?
I really hone in on the dentist. I do a lot of executive level coaching for dentists. I also work with teams for team building as needed and a lot of times thats what I identify that the practice needs and we work with the dentist to get some of the personal attributes and leadership qualities in alignment with what they want to do and their goals, and then we bring in the teams and try to get everyone on the same page, working together and looking at the business side of the practice. You really don’t get any of that in dental school and even if we did get some, I don’t think that we were really ready for it or understood it at that time.
How do you help people understand and strengthen leadership qualities?
First thing I look at is what kind of personalities do we have working in the practice and how are we going to understand each other better. In the beginning a lot of assessment is needed and then its just the awareness that this is how a certain person thinks and operates. Then I ask “What does the dentist (leader) want?” Is the leader going to be more of a quiet leader and then hire an office manager to do all the other work. What ever the model is, its about having systems in place and letting everybody know what those systems are. We dont always do great job of communicating what we are trying to do as dentists, we just kind of go in and do it, and the team is left wondering what the plan is and where is the practice going.
How do you recognize the symptoms of work burn out and stress? How do you deal with it?
If your not happy to go to work anymore, or its feeling overwhelming, or your not excited to jump out of bed. These are the signs that you might be getting a little burned out, or you are not taking care of yourself, or your not doing what you wanted to do. A lot of us feel that way and we do not have anyone to turn to or have any idea of what to do. That’s what spurred me to go into consulting because I wanted to be there for other dentists who were struggling and need someone to go to and ask “What can I do?” I try to do yoga and meditation, where I can just sit and let thoughts go away and make some space for thoughts to come in. And thats what gets me to the other side when I start feeling burned out or overwhelmed. That’s my go to now, and that doesnt mean that everyone has to do yoga or meditation. There are lots of other ways to get back that balance.
What is the best advice you have ever received and from whom?
One of my patients gave me a great piece of advice and kind of turned my thinking around. My patient had been diagnosed with cancer and we were in some final stages, so we talked about a lot of things that you usually dont with a doctor patient relationship. I have always been interested in St. Francis and his requests to God to be a peacekeeper and to bring more peace to the world, and when I told my patient that, he said to me “well than you are really asking for more storms. The only way you are going to get more peace is to go through those storms and conflicts.” That was probably some of the best advice I had ever received because it made me realize that every time you have that feeling of peace and a feeling that is good, its usually because you worked through a conflict that was really hard and because you have that sense of peace, that conflict was worth it.
Can you give us one management tip or pearl that we can take back to our practice?
Watch your patients closely. They often give so many clues to what they want and how they want it, but many of us miss those clues because we arent really paying attention or we are worried about the next patient, and so watching and observing our patients, listening to their tone of voice, noticing the nonverbal communication, because those things help us build our relationships with patients and allow us to understand them better.
Can you give us a app or internet resource that you think is truly awesome?
Seafood Watch – its an app that helps you eat sustainable seafood.
What is your one must read book right now?
If you had to start your practice all over again or you are talking to someone who is just about to start their practice, what advice would you recommend?
I would ask, how are they going to collaborate with other dentists. How are you going to start learning about the things that you dont know that you know? Get involved with study groups, make connections, find people in similar situations as you, or find a mentor. These sorts of things are really important.
How can we connect with you?