Calling All Leaders: You Must Communicate

By Tawana Coleman

If you are the dentist or the office administrator, it’s imperative you communicate effectively with your team. You must be clear, concise, and compelling.

Several years ago I called home to ask my youngest son to take the clothes from the washer and put them into the dryer. When I arrived home that evening, I discovered the still-wet clothes. After I expressed my expectation that the clothes would be dry, he responded, “Mom, you told me to put them in the dryer; you didn’t say to turn the dryer on!” He felt justified, and I felt frustrated. It was then that I realized I needed to communicate better. My directions were not clear, concise, or compelling.


Communication must contain specific directions and expected results. You may believe that it’s a given that you expect your staff to work hard. But you may not be communicating what that means to you. It may not necessarily mean they should work longer, but instead it may mean that they should keep focused and be more productive.

One way to communicate clearly is to set office goals. Because goals demand direction, it’s important to establish clear objectives. These objectives should clearly recognize each team member’s capabilities and provide him or her with proper training to enhance job performance.

Clear communication is also required for your staff to understand that you are not against them, but rooting for them. Communicating this will create trust and enable your staff to follow your lead.


As a leader, you should also be concise—provide a lot of information in few words. When each team member’s role is clearly defined and each understands his or her own focus, concise communication is much easier.

Being concise also means that you must always be honest when talking with team members, even when it is tough. This will benefit the employee as well as the team. No one really wants to be a disappointment. As the leader, don’t leave work until you have personally thanked at least one person either verbally or by a hand-written note. A good friend and fellow employee at Arrowhead shared this quote with me: “Be the change you would like to see in others.” Being that example is the best way to concisely communicate.


Compel comes from the Latin words “com” (together) and “pellere” (drive). To be compelling in your communication, you must first find out what drives each of your team members. You should strive for that motivation to be much more than just a paycheck. Communicate that the focus is on helping the patient. When your staff truly embraces this mission, they will become immersed in what they are doing.

Also, be deliberate in helping team members know that their individual roles matter. Each appointment engineer, receptionist, chairside assistant, hygienist, financial coordinator, or other staff member needs to know that his or her particular job is worthwhile. It is your responsibility to compel your staff to see the value in what they do.

To be a great leader, you must not only like people, enjoy helping others, be sincere, be warm-hearted, and be considerate; you must also communicate those attributes. Your body language, gestures, eyes, and words will communicate your sincerity or lack thereof. If you feel that you have failed to be a good communicator, look to the past to learn. Then, look forward to become the best leader possible by communicating well with your team.

Then you can expect that “the best is yet to come.”


Tawana Coleman is a practice development trainer with the Dr. Dick Barnes Group.