Cultivating a High-Performance Culture in Dentistry

The Foundations of a Principled Practice

In the world of dentistry, the key to building a successful, high-performing practice lies not just in technical expertise, but incultivating a culture that empowers and elevates the people who makeup your team. Dr. Matt VanderMolen, a highly decorated dentist with experience in both the military and civilian dental sectors, hashoned a philosophy he calls the "Principled Practice" - one that emphasizes personal growth, teamwork, and a relentless focus on superior patient care.

His journey into dentistry began at a young age, inspired by the lifestyle and success of the dentists he encountered growing up. However, he quickly learned that true fulfillment in this profession goes beyond the surface-level perks. "I had to learn a lot about dealing with people," he reflects. "It wasn't just about all the gains that you have as a dentist, but Dentistry is an incredible career."

Lessons from the Military: Embracing a Culture of Excellence

Dr. VanderMolen's experience in the U.S. Navy further shaped his understanding of what it takes to build a high-performing team.Serving as a dentist in the military, he was exposed to a culture of discipline, camaraderie, and a relentless drive for excellence. "The Navy has their all their post graduate things, and our boss made us do our program in addition to with all those other guys too. So it was alot of pushing," he recalls.

This immersive experience taught him the power of creating a cohesive, supportive culture - one where people not only perform at a high level, but genuinely care for and support one another. "There's just a sort of built-in culture, and you sort of take that for granted," he says. "Now I bought a practice in a little tiny Town 3,300 people, and I start up, and it's almost like I kind of forgot a lot of stuff."

From Micromanagement to Empowerment: Cultivating a People-Centric Mindset

When Dr. VanderMolen first took over his small-town dental practice, he admits to approaching his team with a rigid, micromanaging mindset. "I really initially thought about people that were working for me as sort of game pieces," he explains. "It's like I knew the game, they were the pieces, and you know, you do this, you do that, and you know, typical micromanager type of life."

However, he quickly realized that this approach was unsustainable if he wanted to truly grow and elevate his practice. "That can work for awhile, but if you want to grow and do anything significant, that's just not going to cut it," he says. Dr. VanderMolen began to shift his focus to building up his team, recognizing that his real "business" was not just providing dental services, but "building people."

The Power of Courtesy, Appreciation, and Edification

At the heart of his people-centric approach is a commitment to basic courtesies and genuine appreciation for his team. "The easiest thing is just saying please and thank you," he explains. "If you take someone who's smart, motivated, and a nice person, and you can train them to say please and thank you on with every conversation, you just have to have buy-in to do that."

But Dr. VanderMolen takes it a step further, emphasizing the importance of "edification" - the act of actively building up and recognizing the strengths and contributions of his team members. "Edification or building up people, I think that's underplayed alot," he says. "When you start edifying someone and building them up in front of other people, that's different than just straight praise or recognition."

Embracing an Abundant Mindset and Empowering Others to Succeed

As Dr. VanderMolen's practice grew, he had to confront the challenge of transitioning from a hands-on leader to one who empowers and trusts his team. "When I realized that I need to find people who really want to get better, and most people do, that was a big turning point for me," he says.

Rather than clinging to his "superstars," he actively seeks to elevate and empower his team members, asking them to "step up" and take on greater responsibilities. "It's almost as if that superstar has been holding them down," he observes. "Asking people to step up, on top of the edification, it's almost like a superpower."

Cultivating a High-Performance Culture: Lessons from Formula 1

Dr. VanderMolen draws inspiration from the world of Formula 1 racing, where he sees a powerful example of what a high-performance culture can look like. "There's a guy called a team principal, he must have okayed that, and what kind of confidence do you have to have?"

This level of trust, teamwork, and a relentless drive for excellence is what he aims to instill in his own practice. "That's the kind of culture I want to live in is pretty much proving the impossible, because impossible is just an opinion right until until you do it," he says.

Conclusion: Unleashing the Potential of Your Dental Team

At the heart of his approach is a fundamental belief that the true measure of success in dentistry lies not in technical prowess alone,but in the ability to build and empower a high-performing team. By fostering a culture of courtesy, appreciation, and edification, he has been able to unlock the full potential of his team, driving his practice to new heights of excellence and patient satisfaction.

Whether you're a seasoned dentist or just starting out, the lessons Dr.VanderMolen shares can be transformative for your practice. By embracing an abundant mindset, empowering your team, and relentlessly pursuing a culture of high performance, you too can build a thriving, people-centric dental practice that leaves a lasting impact on your community.

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