Take Command: Charting a New Course


Celebrating 40 Years at the 2016 Arrowhead World Symposium!
Are you in command of your dental practice? Do you feel like the captain of your practice, steering your crew towards success? Or are you drifting along without any specific port or course plotted? The 2016 Arrowhead World Symposium, held in Park City, UT, over two days in July, addressed the topic of leadership in today’s dental practices. The symposium sought to instruct and inspire the attendees, who navigate the changing and sometimes challenging waters of the dental industry.

Peggy Nelson, Arrowhead Dental Lab’s Director of Sales, organized the symposium as part of a celebration for Arrowhead’s 40th anniversary. Participants included dentists who have used Arrowhead for more than 30 years. screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-3-51-50-pmOne participant, Dr. Johnny Øverby (see image, above), traveled as far as 4,414 miles (from Tromsø, Norway) for the celebration and continuing education (CE) at the Canyons Village resort.

The theme of the symposium was “Take Command: Charting a New Course.” Arrowhead’s founder, Dr. Dick Barnes, often quotes the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881), who said, “A person without a goal is a like a ship without a rudder.” Dr. Barnes said he likes the quote because all dentists face a choice—they can definitively lead their practices, or they can just let the current pull them along.

In keeping with the nautical theme, speakers at the symposium discussed different aspects of leadership—all of which were designed to help participants steer their practices toward a more productive and successful future.

In addition to the CE, Arrowhead planned plenty of fun activities at the resort. Several participants played golf and enjoyed hiking in the mountains, and everyone rode the gondola to the evening events at the Red Pine Lodge at the Canyons Village. Changing Lanes Experience, a band of talented musicians, helped everyone celebrate late into the evening with a repertoire that got just about everyone onto the dance floor.
For those dentists and their families who couldn’t attend the symposium, we missed you! The symposium included such speakers as D. Michael Abrashoff, The Passing Zone, Dr. Dick Barnes, and many others. There was simply too much great information to mention everything in our limited space, so we’ve selected a few of the symposium highlights, as follows.

The Captain
After a welcome reception, the symposium kicked off with the keynote speaker, D. Michael Abrashoff. Abrashoff is the former commander of the USS Benfold, a U.S. naval destroyer. Abrashoff started his address by stating, “We are all leaders and we are all captains of our own ships. It’s important to ask, ‘How are we showing up for the people we are trying to influence?’”
Abrashoff was only 36 years old when the U.S. Navy selected him as commander of the USS Benfold. At the time, the USS Benfold was the worst performing ship in the Pacific Fleet. When he took command, the ship had cost United States taxpayers $1.2 billion. It was a relatively new ship, so it should have been a top performer, but instead, it was one of the worst performing ships in the Navy.

At a ceremony to change command of the ship, Abrashoff watched in silent dismay as the crew did something unprecedented—they booed his predecessor as he left. Determined not to repeat the fate of the previous captain, Abrashoff decided to make some powerful changes. He had assumed command of a ship with one of the highest turnover rates in the Navy—the retention rate for sailors on the Benfold was only 8 percent (the average retention rate in the fleet was 32 percent). The turnover rate was a serious indicator of a ship’s overall success or failure.

Training a new sailor cost taxpayers approximately $55,000. Abrashoff knew that if he could retain sailors instead of training new ones, he could potentially save a lot of money and lead the ship to performing at or near the top of the fleet.

Although his goals were lofty, Abrashoff decided to start small—by focusing on one sailor at a time. He started by conducting one-on-one interviews with each of the sailors. During one particular interview, a sailor told Abrashoff that he would not be extending his service once his commitment to the Navy was over. When Abrashoff asked the sailor why he wanted to get out of the Navy, the sailor responded, “Because no one asked me to stay.”

Changing Direction
After conducting the interviews, Abrashoff learned what could be improved on the ship. He also discovered what motivated the sailors. Abrashoff identified seven key motivators that govern all human behavior: money, time, security, achievement (or a challenge), making a difference (altruism), image and reputation (individual motivation), and enjoyment.

Abrashoff decided that if he could find out what motivated the sailors, he could match their skills to their motivations and potentially increase productivity and satisfaction.

Abrashoff also validated the sailors when things went well. He gave out 115 medals of validation in 15 months (as opposed to 15 medals of validation given out during the year before he assumed command).

The overriding philosophy behind Abrashoff’s changes was clear and open communication. With open communication, the sailors felt comfortable sharing their ideas as well as their concerns. Additionally, Abrashoff’s leadership style required that sailors take ownership and pride in their work.

In 12 months, the USS Benfold completely transformed. The ship went from being one of the worst-performing ships in the Navy to being a top performer. The turnover rate for sailors decreased to almost 1 percent. Overall operating costs were slashed by almost 25 percent.

However, Abrashoff doesn’t take credit for the dramatic change. He said, “My crew did that. What I did was reinvent my leadership style and create an environment where the sailors felt safe, empowered, and supported. When they came to me with a problem, I’d say ‘It’s your ship—how would you fix it?’”

Abrashoff’s leadership style and management principles can transform any organization. After his speech, Dr. Gary Nankin of Nankin Dental Associates said, “His [Abrashoff’s] experiences in the military have a direct correlation to dentistry and how we need to build collaboration with our teams.”

Abrashoff’s speech similarly resonated with Dr. Ryan L. Brittingham of Legends Dental in Lawrence, KS. Dr. Brittingham said, “In listening to the ship captain, I was reminded how my business and the daily operations of running it is not so different from what so many of us go through in our lives. Of course, what we all actually do is different from each other but the challenges with our teams, with our clients, and with ourselves are common challenges that we all share. To set a plan, to stay motivated in the activation of that plan, to engage with our teams, and to stay the course are all incredibly strong lessons that I was reminded of and encouraged to bring to reality.”

Think about your organization and ask yourself, “How can I engage my staff to take more ownership of their responsibilities? What processes can I put in place to enact change and empower staff members?” The only limit to what you can achieve are the limits you set on yourself and your team. Start thinking today of how you can make changes for the better.

Constellations: Guiding Your Team Members to Success
During the symposium, Tawana Coleman, a practice management trainer with the Dr. Dick Barnes Group, spoke about developing strong dental office teams. During the past 20 years, thousands of dental teams have attended the Total Team Training course with Tawana and experienced her expertise in building productive dental teams.
When she started her career, Tawana worked in a dental office in Fort Smith, AR. After consulting with offices around the country for Total Team Training seminars and coachings, Tawana has visited 49 of the 50 states, and she has traveled to Europe several times.

In her address, Tawana emphasized some of the most effective tips for working with dental practice teams. She said, “The words you use with your patients and your team members matter. Learn how to use them to your best advantage.”

The symposium officially marked Tawana’s last trip with the Dr. Dick Barnes Group and Arrowhead Dental Laboratory, because she announced her retirement during the event. Tawana said, “To love what you do and know that it matters . . . what could be better?”

After Tawana’s speech, Dr. Anthony R. Corral of Jax Beaches Family Dentistry in Jacksonville Beach, FL, sent her his best wishes. He said, “Her compassion, fearlessness, and openness have taught my staff and I how to deliver quality dentistry and to be passionate and have empathy toward our patients.” Arrowhead also wishes Tawana every happiness in her retirement.

The Crew: Effective Communications
The Passing Zone, a comedy juggling team with Owen Morse and Jon Wee (see photos, below), started the second day of the symposium off right! They used their talents and skills to illustrate the importance of communication among team members. The Passing Zone provided entertainment while at the same time educating everyone on important concepts. It’s easy to see how miscommunication can have tragic consequences when you’re juggling with chainsaws! They performed flawlessly and everything worked out for the best.
Horizons: Looking to the Future
Dr. George Tysowsky, Vice President of Technology at Ivoclar Vivadent, addressed the participants on the topic of dentistry’s future. What’s on the horizon? Change! As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus (c. 535–475 BC) noted, “the only constant is change.” In terms of dentistry, technology has revolutionized the field and more changes are coming. Dr. Tysowsky highlighted several dental trends, including:
• All-ceramic restorations
• Geriatric dentistry: a boom in aging populations
• High-technology: cone beam imaging, in-office scanning
• The growth of cosmetic and appearance-based dentistry

Dentists should become leaders in their field to differentiate themselves in an ever-changing landscape. Dr. Tysowsky said that with the proliferation of treatment-planning choices, aesthetics-based options, continuing education, and enhanced clinical outcomes, today’s dentists can offer better results for their patients than ever before.

Explorer: Pushing the Boundaries
Dr. Mark Durham, (at right in photo below, with Dr. Justin Kiggins) head of prosthodontics at the University of Utah Dental School, continued the theme of the future of dentistry by talking about exploring dentistry’s potential. Dr. Durham said, “Being human is to want to chase the unknown—to explore. We are all explorers—innovative, collaborative explorers.” With additional exploration to advance dentistry, more and more patients will benefit, and the quality and demand for good dentistry will increase.
Dr. Durham examined past dental explorers and discussed their contributions to the field of dentistry. Among others, he particularly mentioned the contributions of the Swedish physician and research pioneer Per-Ingvar Brånemark (1929–2014), the “father of modern dental implantology.” Brånemark pioneered the process of osseointegration. According to L.B. Shulman and T.D. Driskell in “Dental Implants: A Historical Perspective,” Brånemark’s research yielded “one of the most significant scientific breakthroughs in dentistry since the late 1970s.”

Dr. Durham also discussed the current status of hybrid prosthetics and how to advance exploration and bring costs down for patients, thereby making prosthetics increasingly affordable and beneficial to more people.

A Safe Harbor
Looking back on 40 years for Arrowhead Dental Lab, Dr. Dick Barnes said he couldn’t have imagined that when he started the lab with one technician in Rialto, CA, it would grow to the size it is today. When asked about his success, Dr. Barnes said, “I honestly didn’t aspire to it. It has just evolved. The only thing I ever aspired to in my life was to be a dentist and then to be the best dentist that I can. The rest of this just kind of happened along the way.”

Listening to the speakers at the symposium and connecting with outstanding dental
professionals was an inspiring experience for many attendees. After the symposium, Dr. Nankin said, “You always pick something up at a symposium like this you never expected to learn. Interestingly enough, something as simple as making an implant confirmation jig intraorally and confirming fit on a model, rather than the other way around.  Sometimes you look at a clinical situation from a different perspective and a light goes off, and you think, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’”

Dr. Brittingham also enjoyed the symposium and said, “Arrowhead and the Dr. Dick Barnes Group has completely transformed me as a dentist and my life as a dental professional by giving me the guidance and support to do some truly amazing things with my dentistry and with my patients. To be able to support them in celebrating Arrowhead’s 40th anniversary and to see and hear from the doctors and instructors who have transformed my life was a great honor.”

Arrowhead thanks all the dentists and their teams who have made the past 40 years remarkable. We’re looking forward to the next 40!


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