How to Lead Effective Dental Team Meetings

By Karen Burnett, RDH, MA

It is common for dental practices to experience challenges when conducting team meetings. They struggle with staff participation and the tendency to focus on problems. While the reputation of meetings, in general, might be that they are unpopular and unproductive, a new structure may improve participation and outcome. Dental teams can look to meetings as an environment for learning, training and practice growth.

Here are a few ways to improve your staff meetings:

1. Establish the meeting agenda in advance.

Post an agenda one week ahead of time so that team members can contribute current interests or issues to the discussion. The leader of the practice should choose up to three topics to address during the meeting. More topics can be included as time allows, but it is more productive and satisfying to completely resolve a topic before moving ahead to the next. While topics that don’t include the whole team can be delegated to specific department meetings, consider that some topics may be better resolved with the entire team’s input during the meeting and collaboration afterward. Setting the agenda ahead of time allows introverted employees the opportunity to prepare their thoughts in advance and contribute more readily during the meeting.

2. Create an environment for group discussion.

Engage the team as participants rather than spectators. Allowing team members to contribute topics to the agenda is one example of such participation. Another way to encourage participation is to have team members write their problem-solving ideas per topic on sticky notes. The meeting leader can then work through these possible solutions with the team. This also gives introverted team members the opportunity to contribute without speaking up in front of the entire team. Unresolved issues can be shelved until the next team or department meeting.

3. Assign note-taking to a new team member every meeting.

Establishing a note-taking role engages employees in a different way and keeps the meeting moving toward goal resolution. The note-taker should not only keep track of specific measurable goals, action items, responsible person(s) and due dates but also make sure all topics on the agenda are addressed.


4. Set specific goals and action items.

Examples of goals may include reducing the number of no-shows and cancellations, increasing the number of new patient referrals, or increasing restorative case acceptance. Action items should include the specific tasks team members can do to contribute to a goal in their role. For example, a clinical team member can help increase restorative case acceptance by answering patient clinical questions prior to transitioning the patient to the front office for scheduling.

5. Add team training components to staff meetings.

Consider outside resources for team member training, such as communication skills for productive conversations with patients. Such a training could result in a highly productive team meeting that continues to benefit the practice for years to come.

6. Reward practice progress.

Reward team members for their elevated and goal-focused performance to sustain behavior and encourage steady practice growth. A reward is only a reward when the team member sees value in it, so ask individually and collectively for incentive suggestions. Sometimes, a lower-value reward given with greater frequency, such as a coffee run, can be appropriate for progress towards a goal. Soft incentives such as recognition and appreciation are often overlooked as valuable ways to incentivize team members. Incentives for sustained goal achievement over time might include taking the team out to lunch or a sporting event, a Costco membership or spa day.

Open communication about the goals of the practice helps promote long-term team members who are enrolled in the practice more than their roles would traditionally command. Common goals help unify the team to work together to out-produce what anyone would be able to accomplish individually.

Meet Karen

Karen’s enthusiasm for dentistry includes over 30 years of experience ranging from dental assisting and dental hygiene to more than 12 years of experience in dental practice coaching. She takes pride in providing results-oriented business solutions, using a tailored approach for the growth of individuals and teams.

Connect with Karen here.