Coaching a Struggling Dental Team Member

How do you effectively coach someone who is making mistakes?  Consider when a dental procedure that is running behind, where everything is going wrong, and a new, struggling assistant misplaces yet another instrument.  How do you balance the emotions of the moment—the desire to hang a punching bag in your office—with the importance of motivating the employee?


Someone once said, “A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success.”

Nothing stops a series of errors like an encouraging word.  An encouraging word is an invitation to do the next thing right.  And then the next.  Until you build momentum and get back on track.  An encouraging word also paves the way for an effective teaching moment.  When we relax we learn, and when we learn we make fewer mistakes.

Hitting someone with a barrage of negative feedback is similar to dousing them with freezing water.  Everything contracts.  The mind shuts down.  And mistakes continue.


f you have a good team member who is struggling, coach that person with encouragement.  This does not imply minimizing the severity of errors.  Set aside non-patient time to meet and clearly outline what is expected, offer the appropriate training, and give the person the opportunity to improve.  Good people rise to the challenge.

If you want to develop a strong dental team, start with a word of encouragement especially when things are not going right.

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