Home Dental Episode #637: New Thinking on How to Grow and Keep Great Team Members, with Dr. Rebecca Bockow

Episode #637: New Thinking on How to Grow and Keep Great Team Members, with Dr. Rebecca Bockow

by adminjay


Your practice isn’t just your practice. It also belongs to the people who help you run it. Your team is the most valuable part of your business, and Kirk Behrendt brings back Dr. Rebecca Bockow, an instructor from Spear Education, to help make your practice the place they want to be. To learn how you can grow, nurture, and keep an amazing team, listen to Episode 637 of The Best Practices Show!

Episode Resources:

Links Mentioned in This Episode:

Register for Dr. Bockow and Dr. Michael Gunson’s Healthy Growth, Healthy Faces workshop (October 26-28, 2023)

Main Takeaways:

Provide an amazing workplace where your team can grow.

Make your team feel appreciated, fulfilled, and safe.

Use the morning huddle to create a great culture.

Value, encourage, and celebrate learning.

Focus on having a positive mindset.


“One of my goals as a business owner, a practice owner, is to not only provide great care for our patients and for our community, but also to provide this wonderful, amazing workplace for everybody that gives so much of their lives to helping our patients and our practice and creating a place where everyone can grow.” (3:50—4:12)

“We are very intentional with our culture, and we really want to create a place where people feel fulfilled, where people feel like they’re appreciated, like they’re constantly learning, and they’re constantly coming to a place where we’ve created safety.” (4:38—4:55)

“I love learning new things, and I’m constantly reevaluating what I do as a clinician every day. When I change the way I look at a patient, and when I change my patient processes, that changes clinic flow. It changes the way we schedule. It changes what we do chairside. And on top of that, especially in orthodontics but in all aspects of dentistry we do day to day, we might do a piece of something, but not any one person, except maybe the doctor, sees the whole thing. And so, we started incorporating a lot of CE, internally, everything from how to take a great impression, to how to take great photography, to big-picture stuff like why do we even consider jaw surgery and what is it doing, to what’s the most current literature about skeletal growth and development and sleep. And so, once a month at each office, we do a one-hour CE, and we have built-in training time into our weekly schedules.” (5:23—6:29)

“Part of [attracting and retaining great team members] comes from constantly learning. It’s learning big-picture stuff like, why does expansion help nasal breathing, and how does that help reduce airway collapsibility? But also, how do we incorporate text messaging into our systems? We now can offer 3D printed ceramic brackets that are computer designed. How does that work with our workflow? Do we have to change our bonding material? Do we have to change our protocols? How does that impact scheduling? And once we make those decisions, educating the team and helping that flow. So, we’ve introduced a lot of layers to help with personal growth, professional growth, and constantly looking for ways to not just train the team but celebrate learning. Value and celebrate learning.” (6:46—7:43)

“I’ve heard from our team that they enjoy being able to contribute to the bigger picture. They enjoy the opportunity to learn something new. They enjoy feeling like they’re part of something that encourages and celebrates growth, and so creating opportunities for team members to grow individually, but also creating safe spaces for people to contribute their thoughts and ideas to ensure that they’re heard and implemented — because it’s not my practice anymore. It’s our team’s practice. Everything from how we answer the phones, to how we schedule, to how we template the schedule, we’re constantly checking in on our systems and asking ourselves, ‘Do these systems still hold true? Do they need revision? How can we take what we’ve learned and implement it in a way that makes sense?’” (7:57—8:59)

“I want my team to feel safe to share with me anything that they’re struggling with, and also share with me any of their suggestions. They’re going to live a problem differently than I will, and I won’t know how to make things better if they don’t feel safe enough to come to me. Also, learning requires vulnerability, and the reality is we all make mistakes. I’d much rather any given mistake becomes a learning opportunity so that we all can grow from it. Because if one person makes a mistake, chances are three more people might make the same mistake. Is there something with our internal education or with our systems that maybe we need to refine? And so, that safety becomes really important because we all grow and benefit from learning from that.” (9:16—10:08)

“Once a week, we have designated admin time that we use for internal training. We also, on a daily basis, have different appointment types blocked off for different staff members who want to learn or improve different aspects of their clinical competencies. So, if someone says, ‘I’m not feeling comfortable with banding. Can we set aside some time so that I can sit with our clinic manager, and she can sit alongside me, and we can really delve into what does that entail to really find the right band fit, seat it, cement it’?” (10:30—11:09)

“[Onboarding is] something my team has taken upon themselves in the last two years. We had some gut-check moments where we said we don’t really have a great onboarding program. And so, many, many team members came together and created onboarding programs, everything from shadowing different team members, to watching online courses, to sitting alongside team members so that even the person answering the phones has sat in the clinic floor and watched an adjustment, and watched what happens at an emergency appointment so that everybody has an understanding of what everybody else is doing. It’s been phenomenal. But truly, truly, that was the team coming together to create this.” (12:06—12:54)

“Something else we’ve implemented — and Bent Ericksen was helpful. We work with Bent Erickson too — having 30, 60, 90-day check-ins and asking the team members, ‘How was your onboarding? How is your onboarding going? What areas do you feel like you still need some training and coaching in?’ We talk a lot about coaching. We have a lot of mentor/mentee roles within the practice. Any time someone is having a hard time with something, we look at it as a growth opportunity. How can we help you grow to a level where you feel more comfortable doing a procedure?” (13:27—14:08)

“Something we are piloting — this is new for us that we’ve thought a lot about for about six months to put into place. We’re going to go live next month — is scheduled one-on-one time with a mentor/mentee within the practice. And it’s the mentee that sets the goal with the help of the mentor. And then, we’re hoping for about a ten-minute check-in once a week. ‘Where are you at with your goals? What struggles are you up against to hit your goals?’” (14:39—15:08)

“One thing that I can’t imagine living without is our morning huddle. We’ve tried things over the years, and maybe many of the listeners have as well, everything from looking over every detail of the schedule, this and that. What we open with every day is, we call them shout-outs. It’s kind of like a Quaker meeting. You speak when you’re moved, so there’s no order, and someone says something great or wonderful about someone else, something that someone else did the day prior. On Monday mornings, it can be a moment of gratitude. Often, it’s a reflection on what happened the week prior, and these are the opportunities where we really get to celebrate someone’s learning and achievements. So, if someone did their very first bonding, someone else will often recognize that, ‘I’m really proud of so-and-so because she did her first bonding yesterday.’ Or someone that finishes ahead of their appointment time, or someone that took the time to set up somebody else’s chair, or ran someone’s instruments because someone was running late. These small opportunities where we can really celebrate one another really has brought us much closer and really help celebrate the team.” (15:54—17:11)

“I cannot practice without [a morning huddle]. Cannot. It unifies the team. It helps us get organized for the day. It helps set our mindset for the day. And importantly, it recognizes people for doing great things. Even small things, like I mentioned, ‘Great job. Someone helped jump into sterilization to help me because I couldn’t get it all done.’ How amazing is it that you’re recognized for that small extra moment that you took? And then, we go through the schedule very quickly and highlight anything that is important to know. Couldn’t imagine going through the day without it.” (17:30—18:11)

“Going back to mindset, I think if we focus on what we’re grateful for, it makes the day so much better. You can walk through the day and say, ‘Oh, the schedule is too busy. Everybody is showing up late. Everything is broken. Ten broken brackets on the schedule.’ You can make a day bad, or you can make a day good based on your mindset.” (20:10—20:32)

“How amazing that we’re in a profession where we can help people. And we have the power to create an office environment where people feel appreciated, and people feel good coming to work. That in and of itself is a privilege.” (21:06—21:19)

“I think that’s where the internal training comes in [for managing expectations], especially if we have a new process or something that we’re going to be introducing. Or take a big step back, ‘Does everyone understand the principles of bonding? Why do we place brackets while replacing them? How do we take great clinical photography?’ So, having those built-in systems allows for checkpoints for people who’ve been with us for a long time to really make sure they’re mastering. And to that extent, if you can teach it, you really have mastered it. And so, having our more experienced team members teaching our newer team members — it’s rewarding to be a teacher. It’s rewarding to learn something new. And so, creating time in the schedule for those learning opportunities helps build in opportunities so that when we gain new information, new ways of doing things, we can incorporate it into our day-to-day practice.” (24:35—25:40)

“We all want to attract the right people to the practice. And I think focusing our hiring on the right type of person — so, some people that would be a good fit for our practice would be people that are excited to learn, people that have an open mind, and people with this mindset that we’ve talked about because we are constantly changing. I’ve had staff tell me that, ‘Gosh, we’re never doing the same thing,’ and that might not be the right fit for everybody. Some people, that might drive them crazy that we’re always changing just a little bit. And so, looking for mindset, and then having a really strong onboarding process, and making sure that people have training opportunities, check-in opportunities, creating that safety network for people to feel safe to learn from their mistakes, and to have the vulnerability as a leader to recognize that maybe I’m not always right. Maybe I make a decision, ‘Hey, the schedule should be this way,’ and if the team comes to me and says, ‘This is not working. We’re feeling burnt out,’ or, ‘We can’t get our work done,’ or, ‘We can’t do a good job,’ then I need to listen, and I need to say, ‘Whoa. Okay, let’s talk about it. How can we make it better?’” (26:07—27:31)

“Having open communication and having opportunities for communication, growing leaders within the practice, that’s something I’m so proud of. We have tiers of leaders within the practice that have grown. I have a handful of people who have been with me for six years, which I am so humbled by, so proud of. People have grown with me, grown alongside me, and they are excited about these initiatives. They’re excited about creating onboarding manuals, and they’re excited about the one-on-ones. It’s not me meeting with everybody. It’s our tiers of leaders that get to take new leadership roles on, and they will grow from that.” (28:19—29:07)

“I’m not the best person to teach someone how to take an iTero scan. I’m not the best person to teach our new scheduling coordinator how to manage the front desk. I’m not the best person to take on a lot of these tasks. My team is better at it than I am. I might think I’m pretty good at it, but the reality is, they’re better. And to give them the trust, the psychological safety, the training, and the opportunities to grow, I get excited watching them grow, for sure — 100%.” (29:44—30:22)

“We focus so much on our patient care. But, at least for me, the mission and vision of our practice has evolved to create a wonderful place for our employees to come to work. Like we said at the beginning, I don’t even want to say “employees”. This is our team, and they’re family to me. I care so deeply about each person that’s on our team. I love celebrating everyone’s successes, and I love supporting learning and growth. That’s really powerful.” (30:53—31:23)


0:00 Introduction.

1:05 Dr. Bockow’s background.

2:15 Why this is important for your practice.

4:22 Value and celebrate learning.

9:00 Why safe spaces are important.

10:10 Set aside time for internal education.

14:09 Schedule one-on-one mentor/mentee time.

15:38 Why you need a morning huddle and how to do it.

19:55 Make your day better with your mindset.

21:20 How to incorporate the big picture.

23:54 Manage expectations as you grow.

25:42 How to find great team members.

27:32 What Dr. Bockow has learned about growing leaders.

30:39 Last thoughts.

31:42 About Dr. Bockow and Dr. Gunson’s workshop.

Dr. Rebecca Bockow Bio:

Dr. Rebecca Bockow is a dual-trained orthodontist and periodontist – the only dual-trained provider in Seattle and one of only a handful in the country.

She grew up in the Greater Seattle area and attended University Prep for high school. She received a B.S. in Biology with Honors at Haverford College, where she also played Soccer, Squash, Tennis, and ran Cross Country and Track. She completed her DDS training at the University of Washington Dental School in 2007. Dr. Bockow practiced as a general dentist in Seattle for two years while simultaneously teaching at the UW dental school.

Dr. Bockow completed a highly selective dual-specialty program combining Orthodontics and Periodontics at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a board-certified orthodontist and periodontist. While simultaneously enrolled in two residency programs, she also received a Master of Science in Oral Biology, focusing on intranasal ketorolac for postoperative implant pain management.

Dr. Bockow lectures nationally on periodontics, orthodontics, interdisciplinary orthodontics, airway, and skeletal growth and development. She contributes to multiple professional journals as an author and editor. Dr. Bockow is also a resident faculty member at Spear Education.

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