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a blog by Chris Barrow

From demoralised to encouraged - one Principal’s journey to becoming a Great Boss

I’m frequently contacted by people who have products and services of relevance to my clients. For over 25+ years I have maintained a policy that I do not accept introducers fees or commissions – I simply broadcast and comment on good ideas.

Ever since she could remember, Kate wanted to be a dentist. And own her own practice, of course. Freedom to set the tone, be the boss, create the kind of environment she wanted. Not the most common ambition on a typical child’s list of ‘what I’ll do when I grow up’, but for Kate, it was.

But now that the dream had become a reality, it was a regular nightmare.

Dental school had been a blast. Hard work, but a blast. At graduation, she and her friends talked excitedly about their careers ahead. For Kate, she would learn the ropes during VT, get more post grad qualifications under her belt, and eventually - her very own place.

Owning a practice was the ultimate goal. Surely it was the next natural step? With enthusiasm and perhaps some naivety, she took on her first practice.

The first problem was the team she’d inherited. “That’s not how ‘so and so’ used to do it” “That won’t work with our patients” - the list of ‘Yeah but…’ excuses grew each day.

Why was it so hard to get people to behave in the way she wanted?

Why did they not think for themselves?

Why did she always back away from the conversations she knew she needed to have?

Becoming a dictator or a doormat seemed to be the only options open to her.

Owning became a chore. She just wasn't doing dentistry she loved. There was payroll, CQC, rent, contracts and a myriad of other challenges that demanded attention.

Before long she felt exhausted, compounded by the fact that she felt inadequate and ill equipped to lead.

And then along came the pandemic.

The impact on people in leadership positions - bosses - was stark. Stress levels soared, uncertainty and fear gripped many. Soon many Principals, including Kate, were feeling deflated, lacking self belief, and facing the internal demons - “Am I up to this challenge?”

When Kate wrote to me, she said;

“I am rubbish at “people” stuff and I need to sort this out to improve and grow my business. In the past I’ve shied away from leading the team and I have been left with other people's vision of a practice.”

Since January 2021, I’ve worked with almost 50 bosses, taking them through a systematic, practical and immediately implementable programme to give them confidence and effectiveness as the boss.

For many of them, Kate’s experience resonates. Some have other challenges on top. The common denominator - they are Dentists who became the Boss without any preparation, support, or development. But they also know they want to be a Great Boss, for their teams, their patients, and their own wellbeing.

Over the weeks we met online for an hour, and those that couldn't make it watched the replay. They worked on their assignments, all designed to help them improve as bosses immediately and deal with the gnarly problems they were facing. They had support through their reflective journals and the encouragement and solidarity of their peers.

For everyone the outcomes were the same - greater confidence, belief, and the knowledge and tools they need to start becoming a Great Boss:

“This is a must for any practice owner or manager. I just wish there was something like this available when I bought my dental practice 5 years ago!”

“I now know leadership can be learnt and everyone can improve their skills even though not all of us are born to be leaders.”

“I have just had my CQC inspection and was delighted that the inspectors commented on how there was strong leadership in my practice and how this fed through to the staff. This is largely down to having worked with Mark for the past year.”

As someone who has faced these sorts of challenges myself in the past, I understand what it feels like to be the Boss and be under pressure. But I also know a way out.

As I have continued to support, talk with and observe bosses through this year, I’ve recognised that the longer term challenges of leading a team and staying sane are not going away any time soon.

And that’s why I am starting the Great Boss Academy in January 2022.

The Academy overcomes the challenges of becoming a Great Boss by providing three critical ingredients for growth - consistency, curated content, and community.

Consistency - you must have a consistent and continual approach to learning. The time and mental bandwidth required for significant study is going to be hard to find in the coming year, and so small, consistent action over time is what will generate momentum.

Curated Content - you’re busy. So you need content which has been carefully selected to help you with the challenges you’ll face today and tomorrow whilst continuing to build your future. You need a framework that makes sense, and through which you can immediately see what your areas for development are, and what you need to do to get there.

Community - as bosses, we’re often isolated. Even if our teams are great, no-one else can understand and relate to the pressures of running a business. That’s where peer support and input is invaluable. For many of us, simply knowing that we are not alone, and it’s not just us that experiences these challenges can be a life saver.

The Great Boss Academy is a continuous development community for people who recognise the importance of being a Great Boss. It is built around the ‘Great Boss 100’ - a free scorecard with one hundred qualities of a great boss and a great business.

It comprises a monthly online training session (or replay), guided attribute impacts chosen by you, a 3 week development period to make micro-improvements each day, and a whole range of support. It will steadily and consistently help you to become a Great Boss.

I believe that you want to feel less stressed and out of control as a boss. You’re more than tired of putting up with and tolerating poor attitudes and performance and having to coax and motivate your team the whole time.

So I want you to achieve the fulfilment, calm sense of control and success that come from being a Great Boss. I want you to be a continuous learner with a growth mindset. I believe the Great Boss Academy will help you get there.

The pathway to becoming a Great Boss is simple:

  1. Take the GB100 and assess how you are doing right now. The scorecard will provide you with tailored advice on where you are strong, and where you need development.

  2. Join the GB Academy - an online learning community that meets monthly to study an aspect of being a great boss, followed by a 3 week development period to embed your learning and make progress as a Great Boss.

  3. Decide on whether you need the GB Bootcamp - an online, self learning course with 20 hours VCPD which will establish firm foundations for the leadership of your business.

It takes 5-10 minutes to complete the free scorecard, but it could be a game changer for you, your team, and your business. The results are confidential and available instantly.

Stop feeling like you aren’t cut out to be a Great Boss. Because you can learn to be one.

Kate did, and it has transformed her team. ‘Revolutionary’ was a word she used to describe the impact that working with us had on the business.

Equally importantly, she is now well and truly on the way to becoming a Great Boss.

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