Always Hire People Smarter than You

  • by Eric G. Jackson, DDS, MAGD, FICOI, FICD, FADI
  • Aug 9, 2019, 10:37 AM
Practicing dentistry in today’s fast-moving, technologically driven landscape is more complicated than ever. The modern dentist is expected to be not only a master clinician but also a master in the areas of business management, marketing/advertising, human resources, IT and many more. To succeed, we must hire outstanding professionals in each of these additional avenues as part of our teams. We need to delegate responsibilities and depend on the knowledge and performance of our coworkers. However, that does not mean the dentist gets to be completely ignorant of the concepts and ideas of each of these fields. To be an effective manager and thrive as the owner and central hub within the office, a dentist must strive to be a master of all things dental and a jack-of-all-trades in everything else within his or her practice.

I’ve always believed in the following business concept: Always hire people smarter than you. This can be a difficult and sobering thought for dentists. Traditionally, we are used to being the apex authority within our own offices. We aren’t used to having our ideas challenged. Dentistry has evolved, and we dentists need to as well. Hiring people smarter than you will create a forward-thinking and ever-learning team that will bring your practice to new heights. Let’s review a few examples how this hiring philosophy can help.

Remember that you are only one person, and even the most talented dentist has a finite impact on the operation as a whole. Your dental practice will grow and thrive faster if you have intelligent employees involved in every aspect. Hiring people who are smarter than you allows for additional skilled eyes to be surveying the office. Great hires are not only more skilled in different backgrounds than you, but they also bring new and unique perspectives to the practice. This allows for growth opportunities to be identified that you may have otherwise never seen. Years ago, I adopted the concept of “freedom within a framework” as one of my primary management styles, and I have never regretted it. As dentists and business owners, it is our responsibility to construct and maintain the desired framework within which our employees can freely operate. Incidentally, I feel this is also true for associate or non-owner dentists as well.

One of the best examples of a framework is an official, written systems manual for the practice. Every dental practice has an unofficial, verbal systems manual, but do you have a hard copy? Composing a written systems manual is a lot of work, but it will absolutely pay off in the end as it provides clear guidelines within which your employees can operate. Another quick example of a framework is a detailed job description. Like systems manuals, job descriptions within a dental practice traditionally have been verbal and unofficial. This is not the case in most other fields, and dentistry needs to evolve. A detailed job description provides employees a clear understanding of their duties and what is expected of them. This creates positive ripples throughout the office environment, and both employees and employers will benefit from it. Remember, systems manuals and job descriptions are ever changing and always evolving. Set a creation due date, get them implemented as soon as possible, and do not wait until the documents are perfect before unveiling them to the staff. No matter how perfect your first draft is, I promise you the documents will need to be edited numerous times once they are made official. Creating and unveiling a high-quality first-draft framework sets the new course for the practice and allows for employee feedback and edits, which only make the documents stronger and more of an asset to the practice.

Hiring people who are smarter than you incorporates skilled independent thinkers into your team. These independent thinkers need both a framework and trusting leadership in order to flourish. It does not make sense to hire intelligent people and then micromanage them — this will crush not only their creative spirit but also their desire to remain under your employment. Dentists have traditionally struggled with micromanagement. Perhaps it is because we are detail oriented, or perhaps it is because we have traditionally been the experts on everything that occurs within our office. But no more — you hired people smarter than you for a reason. Let them do their jobs. Micromanagement is not an effective strategy for employer or employee, and it will inevitably lead to frustration, conflict and burnout. 

By hiring people smarter than you and allowing them the freedom to thrive within your constructed framework, you will set the stage for amazing professional and personal happiness. 
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