Freedom to Fail for Dental Teams

When you consider what goes into the development of your dental team, you may think of classes they attend, newsletters they read, and staff meetings they go to each month. Each of those resources helps teach new skills and align the team’s efforts with the overall vision of the practice. One element for team development, however, that is often overlooked is the freedom to fail.

Failure and team development may seem incongruent. How can you have a successful dental team if they are consistently making mistakes? Well, you can’t. Just as you can’t have a high achieving team if everyone is fearful of a misstep.

Consider what C.S. Lewis had to say about failure. “Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success.” High performing teams also “fail” forward on the way to delivering memorable patient care and customer service.


Assuming the missteps do not compromise the health or safety of patients and staff, then each mistake provides an opportunity for personal growth. How do you use errors as coaching opportunities for your team?

Consider how the freedom to fail can spark innovation in your practice by encouraging new ideas and ways of doing things. Also, think about how important it is for new team members to know they have some room to make mistakes or to offer up suggestions that may or may not be a good fit for the practice.

How can you modify your leadership style to provide your team more freedom to fail (without, of course, compromising patient care)? To keep this in perspective, remember what the legendary basketball coach John Wooden had to say on the subject. “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”shutterstock_309272132

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