The Multiplying Power of Distributed Leadership
With virtually no warning and no opportunity to prepare, Captain David Marquet inherited the Santa Fe, the worst rated submarine in the entire US Navy. Yet in one year he turned it into the best rated sub in the whole fleet, and here’s the kicker, he did it with the same 134 people who had made it the worst for a few years in a row. In just one year, with the same people, the same sub, and the same organization surrounding the sub, they went from worst to first. Stephen Covey visited his sub and called it “the most empowering organization I’ve ever seen”.
What changed? One thing, the leader. And in reality, you wouldn’t have to switch leaders because the real difference here was not brought by a different leader, but by a different belief system, which is one that any leader can adopt. This had nothing to do with charisma, motivational speech, steely-eyed bravery, or brilliant solutions. It was simply about one thing; distributed decision-making, which comes through distributed leadership. Captain Marquet invited the other 134 people to participate in leading by both allowing and requiring them to share in the decision-making.
Managers make a living making decisions. Great leaders make an impact by asking questions. Marquet called it all “Intentional Leadership”. He taught people to only come to him with answers and plans for execution. And instead of telling them what to do, he would then ask questions to see if their plan would work, and if, as their sounding board, he couldn’t poke holes in it. When everyone agreed it was a sound plan, then they executed the plan. In just one year, he took the worst performing boat in the U.S. Navy and turned it into the best performing boat with one very simple practice; distributed decision-making, by formally and fully distributing the leadership.
You know you have distributed leadership when everyone is making decisions. Until then, there is still work left to do.
We call this the Leader-Leader Organization. By definition, a leader has followers, so on its face it seems absurd and naive that everyone could lead. I assure you it is neither. This is hard-core success strategy for businesses that want to thrive in the emerging work world.
There are at least four ways everyone can lead; being, doing, inspiring and relating. Our traditional view of leadership lifts up the “inspirer”, which is actually one of the rarest forms of leadership. Anyone can lead, and everyone should. But we have a truncated, one-dimensional view of leadership that makes it hard to get this idea cross without redescribing leadership.
What makes a Leader? Where Does Management Fit In? That’s a great question. If we say everyone can lead, how does that work, and where is the place for managers in a leader-leader organization, if they even have a place?
When Dr. Boulden left his apprenticeship, he was told bluntly, and simply that he would fail. This fueled him to become the “Marketer that happens to be a Dentist.” He became a student of business, learning marketing in the digital era, which has lead to the success he now enjoys. As Dr. Boulden shares his journey of mastering dental marketing, you are sure to hear some strategies that you could implement immediately!
Dr. Peter Boulden has been practicing dentistry for over 15 years and has built a very successful, FFS, 3-location enterprise
in Atlanta, GA where he was raised his entire life. He knows smiles have the power to change lives—he’s transformed more than 1,200 of them as one of the most credentialed cosmetic dentists in the world. Recognized in the greater Atlanta area as the “go-to” dentist for high-end cosmetic procedures, Dr. Boulden is the dental professional of choice for celebrities, athletes and prominent community leaders.
We’ll begin with a quick recap of the Seven Stages from the last two podcasts, then we need to talk about the outside influences that can get in the way of your journey through the seven stages of Practice Ownership.
First, there is no timeline for Practice Maturity. I’ve seen practice owners take their practice from Stage One Startup to Stage Six Significance in just a few years. I also know way too many who are stuck in Stage Four Stability, as hostages to their practices and chained to a treadmill, for twenty-five years. But the more intentional you are in getting through them, the faster it will happen.
Secondly, no practice is ever neatly all in one Stage. Life is messy and so is business. But you still get to choose what “Maturity” looks like to you. My business is intentionally strung out across Stages Five, Six and Seven, which is the way I like it. The difference is I can CHOOSE to do production versus having to do it.
Third, no practice owner ever “arrives” at a desired stage and just settles in. Again, life and business are messy, and as a result, every practice will cycle back and forth regularly through two or three stages (rarely four).
Practices in higher stages cycle less. A classic “American Dream” practice stuck in Stage Four Stability will cycle very regularly down and back up—Four, Three, Two, Three, Four, Three, etc. You will spend thirty years cycling between profitability and survival as Treadmill Doctor—another reason why Stage Four is so exhausting over the long haul.
Once we finally get to Stage Four Stability, we now have something to lose. We’re making money, in some cases a lot of it, and taking the risks required to get to Stage Five Success seems too daunting. Even though the voice of quiet desperation is whispering, “Is this all there is?” we weigh what we have with the possibility of losing it and come to the following conclusion: “The pain I know is better than the pain I have yet to experience.”
So we stay stuck in Stage Four for thirty years until, at the end, we sell the practice for its assets and patient list.
Stage Four is a mirage. It looks like a practice, but as we’ve seen, it’s at best a well-paying job. Some months or years are great, but outside influences create conditions that move the practice back into Stage Three, or even Stage Two. Then the owner has to do the long, hard climb back to profitability before the cycle repeats itself.
Do you know what your practice will look like at maturity? Do you know when you want to be there? Most of us have never thought about these things, but if you do, it could be the most motivating thing you’ve ever done. And each stage will seem shorter and less risky because you’ve got something so compelling in front of you. The Tyranny of the Urgent will lose its shrill voice as you focus on the Priority of the Important
We often get into the business of dentistry with the belief that if we are successful, that everything will take care of itself and we will be happy. We talked about this a little bit in our first interview with Dr. Spodak, with Hostage Doc and Freedom Doc, but that isn’t always how it goes. There are very real consequences to not designing your practice in a way that will give you fulfillment, happiness, and time.
The Way Off the Practice Treadmill
We talked about the first four stages of practice ownership in the last podcast. Check out that podcast if you haven’t yet. Today we’ll address Stage Five Success, Stage Six Significance, and Stage Seven Succession.
Maybe up to 95 percent of practice owners never experience anything beyond Stage Four, because we simply don’t intend to build a mature practice that gets to Stage Five and beyond. We never thought it was possible because being a hostage to your practice is just the price you pay for “success”. But you get what you intend, not what you hope for…. So, what intention is needed to get to Stage Five and beyond?
Stage Five is the beginning of a whole new way of doing dentistry, where you stop being a hostage to your practice and the practice starts serving you on your way to Freedom. For the first time, your practice is now regularly producing both time and money, not just money.
First, we’ve got to get The Big Mindset Shift right from making money, to building a practice that makes money. The overwhelming majority of practice owners never figure this out. Not because they can’t, but because they have a one-track mind for making money to pay this month’s bills. They are focused on short-term gain.
In Stage Six, the practice is thriving and the owner is now free to invest time in the things that make a practice truly great; the practice and the owner can begin to have a real impact in the community and world around them. Charities are benefiting, the stakeholders are involved in the community, and the owner is thinking about both their own legacy and the legacy of the practice: “What will I leave behind? What statement will this place make about me?”
You’ve finally made it to Stage Seven! You’ve invested the time to move from leadership in place (Stage Six) to leadership in charge, from giving both vision and guidance to only vision. The leader has the reins and can now also guide the ship, as long as you communicate clearly where you want to go. In Stage Six you were giving both vision and guidance (how to do it). Now all you have to do is communicate the vision, because the leader knows how to execute.
In Stage Seven, the practice owner has a number of options: They can stay on as a strategic leader, enjoying the fruits of years of labor, continuing to give vision for the future, and choosing how and when they get involved (in other words, Wealth). They can also decide to sell the practice, sell it to associates, or use it to start acquiring other practices.
I can’t think of any reason why you can’t get here, except for one—you really don’t intend to.
This is not a gifted person’s game; it’s an intentional person’s game. Ask the right question and you will figure out the answer. I’ll say it again: you get what you intend, not what you hope for.
The right question is, “How do I build a mature practice, and when do I want to get there?” This isn’t about building multimillion-dollar practices with dozens of Stakeholders, unless that is what you’re shooting for. This is about creating the lifestyle that you want for you and your family. You can do that with a practice of almost any size.
You use a GPS to get to where you are going right? Whether it is dinner reservations, a sporting event, or your kid’s state championship, understanding where you are going and where are, are monumental! What about with your practice?
Dr. Matthew Norton has been improving the quality of life of countless individuals as well as coaching business leaders and their teams to deep success breakthroughs for more than 35 years. He’s the co-founder of Mindfluence Revolution and the co-leader of the elite Dental Experts Network.
Over the years Dr. Norton created a highly successful practice and became a passionate speaker, thought leader, and author of the breakthrough book Where Does It Hurt?
Dr. Norton is professionally-trained as a Behavior Style, Motivators, Stress Quotient, and Emotional Intelligence analyst. He has evaluated the insights of thousands of assessment reports and applies this knowledge to expand the awareness, communication skills, and success capacity of practice owners and their teams.
Dr. Norton guides dental professionals to become stronger and more emotionally-intelligent leaders of their team, their patients, and their community so they can contribute at the highest level and achieve their most ambitious dreams.
Begin with the end in mind.”
Seven Stages of Practice Ownership
There are seven stages in the maturity cycle of practice ownership. Why seven? Okay, there might be five or twelve, but I’ve found seven that seem clearly different enough to call stages of a practice.
In this podcast, we take a good look at the first four stages, because these are the four that teach us how we got on the treadmill. Stages Five through Seven are the ones that get us off the treadmill, so we’ll walk through them in Part II of this podcast next week.
Stage One: Concept & Startup
This is the stage everyone dreams about. We envision the future with bustling streams of patients coming in and out of our practice, creating rosy spreadsheet projections. The operative emotion in Stage One is a sense of euphoria for having pushed your dream to reality: “What fun!” It’s a great stage and should be relished, but not for long. Startup isn’t something you want to drag out. Get through it as quickly as possible.
Stage Two: Survival
Why should you get moving fast in Stage One? To avoid as much of Stage Two as possible! The problem right out of the gate here is that Stage Two is where you begin to train yourself to spend thirty years on the treadmill as a hostage to your practice. Already at this early stage, your practice is training you in a very bad habit: making money. As you focus on patient acquisition, you get patients and money starts to come in. It’s working, or so you think.
In Stage Three, your accountant comes to you and says, “Good news – you’ve broken even for the last 3-4 months.” The first time this happens you slump in the chair and stare at the wall with a mixture of disbelief, exhaustion, and growing excitement. This practice might be viable after all. The euphoria you had in Stage One but lost in Stage Two is back!
But the euphoria doesn’t last long. Subsistence looks great having just emerged from the Survival stage. The practice is too fragile. It seems that if you even sneeze, you might lose patients.
So in Stage Three, your lifestyle is still on hold, but at least you’re breathing easier. It’s all about the basics, but the basics look great because they’re finally paid for.
Stage Four: Stability
Your marketing, your reputation and referrals finally start to kick in. For the first time you have money left over at the end of the month—actual profit. A new and wonderful question forms in the practice. What will you do with that “extra” $2500 this month?
Stage Four is the “American Dream”, isn’t it? But something is missing. You keep thinking about that one practice owner you know who seems to have a light heart and a quick step, who can get away from work regularly. And when she does, she seems to enjoy the time rather than spending it trying to recover from work. You keep dismissing her as an exception—that’s exactly what she is, but that doesn’t make her a freak. She’s actually quite normal, and the overwhelming majority of practice owners who have stalled in Stage Four are not normal at all. They are just average. She is normal.
Let’s become Freedom Doc. You can escape the Tyranny of your practice and become normal too, if you’ll just change the question in your head. That’s what the Part II of this podcast next week is all about.
We have separated work and personal life since the Industrial Age. How do we reintegrate them and USE our practice to build our Ideal Lifestyle in support of our Lifetime Goals?
Let’s dive in and figure this out!
Two Step Decision-making is this simple:
Step One – Whoever has to execute/carry out the decision should make it.
Step Two – Whoever is affected/impacted by the decision should have input.
Yes, it is utterly simple, but we have found that in many companies steeped in Factory System hierarchy it takes a few months for people to actually work it out in daily life at work.
Understanding why you are doing what you are doing, and how to allow it to pull you through adversity are both essential to establishing your culture, and thus grow your practice. Your BIG “why” needs to be something that can never be checked off as completed. Once something is checked off, you are done with it, something like “having a million dollars in the bank” simply isn’t strong enough to keep you going. The importance of this often gets over looked due to the chaos of the immediate.
Episodes featuring Chuck by himself (with no guest interviewed) will include the title along with, in the bottom of the episode image, the book that the content relates to:
MMIKYB (Making Money Is Killing Your Business)
WEAAABI (Why Employees Are ALWAYS A Bad Idea)