What is co-leadership? Co-leadership is two or more people in charge of a team or group.
They share ownership of the goals of their team but divide the roles and
responsibilities. Co-leadership has many benefits when utilized correctly. The downside is
the more leaders the more complex it becomes.
Co-leadership in a dental office may include doctors, practice administrator, team leads or
any team member in a leadership position depending on the size of the practice.
Everything begins and ends with leadership. It is what leaders do, don’t do, or allow in their
culture that defines the practice culture. The more leaders the more difficult it becomes to
create and sustain a consistent message. Here are five principles to build an aligned and
cohesive co-leadership team.
- It is necessary to have an aligned vision for the future of the practice/company. I start the process by having the owner doctors choose 4 core value words and place them in order of priority. All future decisions are based on supporting those values. Everyone on the leadership team must live and lead those core
values in words, actions, and attitudes. Apply these core values when making decisions by using the following questions:
- What’s in the best interests of the patients, practice, and team that supports our core values? (Specialists also add referring doctors) It can never just benefit one individual.
- Is it practical based on time, money, and people that will still support the core values?
- Does the precedent we are setting support our core values?
- How passionate are we to implement change? It must be a value of 8 or above on a
scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being high.
The breakdown happens when a leader decides to opt out of something they don’t agree
with entirely. It can never be 100% our way unless we work by ourselves. It is healthy for
leaders to discuss and debate behind closed doors. However, they must come to an
agreement and support that agreement in front of the team. There will be times leaders
need to support decisions even without consensus. I often hear, “I am the doctor, I can do
what I want!” Yes, you can but not without consequences. If leaders do not support each
other, they will create division in the team and the leadership team. Division leads to
confusion, gossip, clicks and lack of accountability. The team will choose the path of least
resistance. The bottom line is that when you have a co-leader you no longer have autonomy to make decisions. On a side note, doctors supporting your practice administrator doesn’t mean saying do whatever you want. It means being involved in the
decision and solution process. Practice Administrators you will become very frustrated and
overwhelmed if you want more for the practice than the owner doctors. Which is why it is
so important that you are aligned with the owner doctors’ vision for the practice.
2. It is important to place people in the leadership role that shines the light on their strengths and dims their weakness. No one is perfect. We all have strengths as well as weaknesses. We are only as strong as our weakest link. Any weakness in your co-leaders will be a reflection on the entire leadership team. Define the specific tasks for each role. Leaders are responsible for the individual tasks of their role. Each task must be owned by that one person to create accountability. The more people responsible for the same task the less accountability due to assuming the other person is doing the task. Some leaders find it difficult to let go and to not be involved in all tasks. We must trust our co-leader to be accountable. Be open to renegotiating your roles based on changing circumstances, growth, and ambitions.
3. Owner doctors and practice administrator(s) must make time to meet on a weekly basis. (I refer to these specific leadership team members as the We Team) This allows for real time conversations to discuss and come to a resolution as a leadership team. All decisions must be discussed at this meeting before implementing except for direct patient care. Document discussion and agreements and save in a meeting journal. Review last week’s meeting notes and confirm if all assigned tasks have been completed. The meeting will create accountability as well as keep everyone in the loop. Schedule the weekly meeting the same time and day of each week. The time is reserved and is t be treated as sacred. I can hear all the excuses already. However, it is necessary to commit to a weekly meeting if you want to co-lead successfully to build and sustain a high performing practice. It’s time to put your ownership hat on. Once you make it a priority it will happen. If you don’t meet at least weekly, you will be spending extra time putting out unnecessary fires and fueling disorder, stress, and discord.
4. Don’t break the chain of communication. Here is a simple flow for chain of communication both up and down:
Team Leads and Associate
The practice administrator has a weekly meeting with all team leads where they share the outcome of their We Team meeting. Team leads are to bring any questions, suggestions, or concerns they have, or their team has for discussion and feedback at this meeting. The practice administrator will take this information to the We Team meeting to discuss and come to a resolution. Then back to the next lead team meeting for implementation. I know this slows things down. However, the end results are an informed, aligned, and cohesive team. Please email me at email@example.com for a multi-location practice communication flow chart!
5. Expect disagreements and differences of opinions. What many people refer to as conflict. If you never disagree chances are someone is not being honest with their opinion. Let go of ego. It’s not about you and what you want. Have a mindset of care and curiosity not judgment and criticism. We will need to make concessions at times to move forward. Utilize the questions in the first co-leadership principle to come to a decision that supports the core values. Start with what you can agree on and build from there. Define the end result desired. Discuss in specifics instead of concepts. Come to an agreement and write it down. Support the agreement in words, actions, and attitude. Implementing the five co-leadership principles will help you build an aligned and cohesive team!
You can have the Culture you desire!
Start setting goals and live your life based on the success YOU want to achieve!