Are you leading or side-stepping?


The day came.  Conflict in the office has spiraled out of control. Tempers flare. Doors slam.   Employees leave.

How did we get so far off track? Perhaps is was the “small” issue you thought would blow over,  blew up instead? Or, maybe it was that “big” problem that you left up to the team to sort out.

The reality is that its rarely the “one situation”.  The answer is in leadership. The hard truth  is that the office manager or the doctor have not been the leaders the practice needs or deserves. In the absence of leadership, conflict will arise.

What are you doing to sharpen your leadership skills?

Let me share an example…

My first job was in a dental office at the age of 17, in a small town in the deep backwoods of Maine. I was the dentist’s babysitter and one day he asked if I could come into his office to help out there as well.

Sure I could!

I was full of youthful enthusiasm but it didn’t take me long to realize this office was in complete turmoil. The doctor was an avid follower of the leading management ‘gurus’ of the time, but that knowledge was not being put into action.

For instance, there was the time the front desk person burst into tears and just walked out – forever.

My way of coping with this dysfunction was to keep my head down and work harder. I did my job and any other jobs that weren’t being done. I was the office peacekeeper.

In other words, I was side-stepping the problems and hoping they would somehow disappear. I thought I could continue this cycle – side-step, ignore, side-step, ignore – and everything would eventually work itself out.

What do you think eventually happened?

The opposite of what I hoped.  Conflict grew. It did not magically disappear.  The conflict raged until the conscientious team members were tip-toeing around to appease the bullies.

Q: What did all my side-stepping get me?

A: It got me exactly what I tolerated.

Managers and Doctors – never forget that if you tolerate a bad process, you deserve the bad result. End of story. True solutions will only ever be achieved if you point the finger in the right direction, and that is AT THE LEADER – not at the problem.

The next time we see conflict brewing in our practice, let’s take a moment to look at our processes, systems and what we, as leaders, tolerate. The solution isn’t always to just fire an offending employee. Perhaps, the team just needs clearer leadership.

Our finest moments occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy or unfulfilled. It is only in such moments − propelled by discomfort − that we step out of our ruts and search for different ways or truer answers. M. Scott Peck