The Articulate Dentist - A Blog by the Metro Denver Dental Society

The Power of Being Decisive

Practice Management

By: David Maloley, DDS, FAGD

Professional development is an important part of our journey as dentists. We all want results; the big question is how to achieve them. Results come from taking action, and all action starts with a decision. There are a number of decisions that dentists are called on to make every day, from the clinical to the financial. Honing your decision-making powers is a vital component of any recipe for success. Like any skill, decisiveness can be practiced and learned. It applies to the myriad of situations that come with running a dental practice.

Clinical Decisions
Perhaps the easiest way to develop keen decision-making skills is in a clinical setting. It is here that your training and experience should kick in and you can approach the situation with a high degree of confidence.

Simply put, your patients don’t want to be the one to make decisions. They are out of their depth when it comes to dentistry. As a result, they want to be led by a skilled, educated professional. A professional that inspires confidence and lays out a clear diagnosis and treatment plan. There may be options for them to choose from, but in the end, most patients are looking for you to tell them what the correct course of action is. If you waver or do not appear confident in your recommendations, your patient may lose faith in you. Be there for them as an assertive and trusted advisor!

Growing and Running a Practice
The key to growing and running any successful business is to define your mission. Successful people all have one thing in common, and that is an obsession with their mission. What is yours? Once you clearly answer that question, the rest becomes much easier.

“Should I purchase this new technology?” Ask yourself how this purchase helps you move closer to fulfilling your mission.

The same goes for the uncomfortable process of helping or terminating underperforming team members. Ask yourself if this employee is contributing to the practice and helping it grow in the right direction? If the answer is no, you have your answer. Now is the time to be solution focused and move beyond the problem. Approach these tricky business situations as you would a clinical decision. You often know what the right course of action is – act on it.

Be a Leader
Your team, your patients and your community look to you for guidance and direction. You are the leader of the practice, the captain of the ship. If you waver on a decision, they will notice. You can lose their confidence, perhaps even respect, and this throws off the power and organizational balance of any office. Decisive action means having to make tough decisions as well as easy ones. It doesn’t come naturally for most of us. Remember a few key things:

  • The wrong decision is no decision. Most decisions are obvious. You already know what you want to do, you’re hesitating because you don’t want to be wrong. Trust your experience, training and instincts. If you make a decision, it’s true that you might be wrong. However, if you make no decision at all, you certainly will be.
  • A good plan today… Is better than a perfect plan tomorrow. Being decisive means taking charge of a situation and laying out a clear course of action. The direction is sometimes more important than the destination. Choose a course, not a conclusion.
  • Back up your decision. stats, data, analysis. These have their place. Whether it’s the percentage of patients who opt for a particular procedure, or the average return on investment of that new technology. Arm yourself with information and be prepared to defend your choice.

Like anything else, decision making is a skill that can be practiced and honed over time. If you’re a naturally indecisive person, try starting off slowly. Make small decisions quickly and get used to the idea. Make the commitment to be a decisive dentist and watch your practice take off!

Dr. David Maloley hosts the very popular podcast The Relentless Dentist Show. David grew up working on a family farm in Lexington, NE and he attended the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, where he earned his bachelor’s degree and later his DDS. In 2003, Dr. Maloley completed an Advanced Education in General Dentistry residency in Ft. Jackson, SC, then served as a Dental Officer in the U.S. Army for the next five years. While in the army, Dr. Maloley was stationed at dental clinics in Giebelstadt, Germany for two years and Vicenza, Italy for another two years, providing general dentistry services for the local military communities. After he returned to the U.S. in 2007, he worked at a private practice near Charlotte, NC for two years before relocating to open Vail Valley Dental Care


The Articulate Dentist is a blog by the Metro Denver Dental Society, providing members with insight into the dental industry, practice management tips, tech trends and best practices as well as Society news and updates.


The Metro Denver Dental Society is a not-for-profit component society of the American Dental Association and the Colorado Dental Association.

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