What does it mean to be authentic and why does authenticity matter? The key to being authentic is figuring out who you are, what is import to you – and expressing it. Dentistry is more competitive than ever and patients have no problem leaving your practice to go across the street for the new patient special if they view your services as a commodity. There are many thoughts that you may be having that do not fall under the category of being your authentic self. Some examples are having a team that you don’t like, dreading going into the office, and worrying about how little you are being reimbursed by insurance. You are aware of all of the issues but you are either pretending they aren’t real or you aren’t making any moves to fix them. On the other side of the coin is striving for fulfillment and truly making your practice yours.

We want to encourage you to stay connected to your why and your heart and to what matters. If you are practicing in a way that doesn’t make you feel good take a step back and look inside because the problem always lies within you. Realign with the passion of why you got into dentistry and what your values are – this is where the fulfillment lies.

Full Transcript Below

Shawn: (00:01)
Hey guys, this is Shawn and Allison with the authentic dentist. And today we are super excited to share, um, probably like the core message that, that we care most about, which is authenticity. And when we started this podcast a year ago, um, congratulations, Allison, a year, a year, we were grappling even then with, well, what is, what does it actually mean to be an authentic dentist? Like what does that mean? And it’s something we’ve been wrestling with and refining and exploring over the last year. So we’re excited today to go deeper into that. But first we just want to start with why authenticity matters.

Allison: (00:45)
And I think being authentic is, is figuring out who you are and what is important to you and then expressing it. And you and I were talking a little bit about that, um, that opportunity to, to be vulnerable and be honest with your patients and still be professional. And it’s a balance of course, but when you put on that white coat, you don’t disappear behind it,

Shawn: (01:15)
You know, and right now, if you’re not being authentic now, I feel like there’s a continuum. And I think you’ve mentioned this. So if you’re not anywhere close to being as authentic as you could be, what happens is you run the risk and the danger of kind of being, providing a service as great as it is. They could come across like a commodity. And when your patients have a chance to check out a new special from someone else, instead of evaluating that decision of I’m part of a family that I’m connected to, that knows me that there’s this strong loyalty and bond and engagement. It’s like, um, yeah, you know, I pay a certain price and I get a good service, but it’s a commodity and bonds from commodities are really easy to break and buying behavior to switch from something like that. It’s simple. So right now, because of how competitive the marketplace is. And because of, if you’re listening to this, we know you want to build an amazing practice. That’s going to be fulfilling having it set up so that you have, um, just your practice that comes across like a commodity is not going to set you up for that. So that’s why right now authenticity is, has never been more important, not just for your own fulfillment, but for the health of your practice.

Allison: (02:39)
So when we’re talking about authenticity, I think we need to talk about what it doesn’t look like. So what it doesn’t look like is on Sunday, when you’re dreading going to work on Monday, when, um, all you can think about is your contracts with insurance companies and how little you’re being, when you have a team that you don’t care for, that you don’t like, and you just dread spending the day across from this one assistant. Those are, those are when you’re practicing authentically because you know, there’s issues and you’re not addressing them. You’re just pretending, or maybe not in pretending. Maybe you’re just completely honest, this stinks. That’s not fulfilling. That’s not, that’s not being authentic. Authentic is when you address the issues and you make, you make your practice yours

Shawn: (03:33)
And, and you mentioned it twice. Um, so I think it bears repeating dread really is like a signpost. If there’s dread in your life surrounding any part of your dentistry, that’s, that is definitely a sign that, um, I don’t know, there’s some area of hopelessness and helplessness. That’s a sign that you’re, again, if you don’t have hope in your heart for everything you’re pursuing right now, it means that you’re not living in that place of being aligned and wholehearted, which is that, that authentic expression. So it’s like when you know, you’re being authentic, it’s when the dreams on your heart you’re connected to them. And it doesn’t mean you’re not going to have struggles. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to face difficult times, but you stay connected to what you care about and you stay connected to what’s at the heart. Instead of again, the opposite of that would be, um, I don’t like disconnecting from what matters, um, kind of just becoming more robotic and just going through the motions

Allison: (04:40)
And that doesn’t fulfill people and you’re right. It doesn’t bond you to your patients either. And that doesn’t mean that we’re all alike. There’s we all have different values that are important to us, and we express them differently. If you’re a relationship, that’s your highest value. Then having that relationship with patients, if beauty is your highest value, then maybe you’re much more of a cosmetic dentist. And you’re seeing the beauty in everyone’s smile. Maybe it’s shipment is your highest. And so you need to build this practice where you do really complex dentistry, and you’re at the top of your field. All of those are acceptable and there are good practices, but they’re different. If you’re practicing in a way that doesn’t make you feel good, you need to step back and figure out, well, what is it? Cause it’s you, it’s always you.

Shawn: (05:28)
And I love that because what you’re saying is like, what it looks like for every dentist is completely different. We don’t know why you got into dentistry. We don’t know what that passion of your heart is and what that contribution is. You were so excited to make. Um, but whatever it is, you need to discover that and stay true to that. Because if it is all about achievement and being the best clinical dentist than you, you can’t try to just be like the dentist down the street that, you know, it’s okay. Just kind of playing by the rules, uh, going through the motions and like meeting, you need to pursue that excellence. You need to just continue to get more CE than is expected and keep pushing the bounds because that’s the only thing that’s going to be fulfilling for you. So, yeah, I love that.

Shawn: (06:22)
Alison, like even now, I just feel like it’s such a challenge. Like just take a little self audit and think like, what is it that like, why did I get into dentistry and what kind of dentistry do I want to practice? And if you have a hard time answering those questions, um, again, there’s always things that are inauthentic that try to keep people trapped. You know? So if you feel like you don’t have permission to practice the way you want to, um, like that’s a sign that one of the mindsets you have is, is actually not authentic

Allison: (06:57)
When we graduate. We’re given this set of rules. And I think we always feel like we have to follow the rules and you still have to be professional. It’s true. But you also have to, to follow what’s important to you. When I first graduated and started my own practice, I thought this was about, there was a boundary between me and my patients and there is, but I wanted, I had a patient that was getting married and I wanted to send her a card for her wedding. And I didn’t feel like I could do that because it wasn’t a professional thing to do. And I had a child that was graduating from high school. And again, I wanted to just reach out and congratulate them and I felt awkward about it. So at this point, I know that’s who I am and I want to reach out. And so I do, and I, I don’t think that makes me less professional. I feel like that that’s how I bond with my patients because our relationship is really important to me. It’s one of my highest values.

Shawn: (07:56)
See, I okay. Everything about what you just said, I absolutely love it. You said you didn’t feel like you could, but it’s who you are. And that is the tension of, um, what I think a lot of people find themselves in is, well, I’ve been told that this is what a dentist does, and these are the rules and this is how you practice dentistry. So I should be doing this. I can’t be doing that. I need to do this. And then if I think of, well, what’s the best way to grow my practice or what’s the best way to brand my practice. My very first thought is I’m looking to someone that knows the answer, the right answer. Cause there’s gotta be a right answer. When the right answer actually comes. When you look in the mirror and you realize what comes up inside of you, when you think about your patient and giving them great care, what comes up inside of you? When you think of how you want to lead your team in a way that’s true, according to your leadership style, you can’t fake it and try to be something that you’re not, or else that 70,000 hours in your profession is going to be described as contrived and filled with anxiety and performance. That’s not what you want. That’s not what you want.

Allison: (09:17)
So that branding piece is really important. And we are going to have a course on that. That’s probably gonna take us a year, cause we’ve got a couple other things to do first. But that branding is really important because it, it shows who you are. And when you brand yourself out there, people are looking for you. They’re looking for what you value, who you are. And then you get patients that want you, if you brand yourself with something that’s fake or that somebody else came up with, you’re going to get patients that don’t, that are unhappy with you because you aren’t who you said you were.

Shawn: (09:50)
And that is it’s so true. It’s like when I frequent brands, you know, there’s a lot of brands. I have such crazy faithfulness to, you know, and as we’re talking about, like, I love it. And now I love Chick-fil-A. I don’t feel the same about Arby’s. I don’t feel the same about Jack in the box. And it’s not, it’s not like a scientific evaluation. Well, it’s because of the beef that they serve. If you look at it, it’s, it’s that much healthier and it’s the actual ingredients and it’s a spectrum of the way that they price their items. It’s not some scientific evaluation. It’s that? I like the connection that I have, because I feel like in and out is true to who they are and they’ve remained that way. And it was different Chick-fil-A Oh yeah. It’s a great business strategy close on Sunday.

Shawn: (10:40)
Okay. Why would we close on Sunday? Um, because we’ll, we’ll be more profitable that way. No, it wasn’t about profitability. It was about what they believed in and people don’t have to agree with them, but somehow they’re who they are. It resonates with me. And there’s that connection. So right now, if a patient is going into your practice, you don’t want to be like Arby’s what does RP stand for? I don’t know. They just have, I don’t know why I would go to Arby’s over some other place. I just personally that’s me. You don’t want to just be the vanilla dentists. That’s trying to be like that typical dentist that you feel like you need to be you. If you love fishing, you absolutely love fishing. That’s all you think about when you’re not doing dentistry. You know, maybe there’s a way that you’re able to attract other people that might also have a similar hobby. And they love talking to you about fishing while you’re doing great dentistry on them. And there’s just that there’s that resonance, you know? Um, so yeah, it’s just like, it’s about getting to have that authentic expression of who are so that when people get attracted to that, you can’t fake authenticity. You can’t fake connection. You can’t fake real engagement with people. And that’s what we want for you. And your practice is to have that with every patient.

Allison: (12:08)
So you said the engagement and talking to patients, and if you have all kinds of stuff in the back of your mind, financial pressure, you don’t like your assistance. Um, you don’t feel like you’re a good dentist, all this stuff in the back of your mind, when you’re sitting in front of a patient, they see it, they see that that’s, you’re not listening to them. You’re not open and paying attention to what they’re telling you, because you got all this other stuff run in the back of your mind. It’s a part of being authentic is that you’ve dealt with your stuff, whatever that stuff is. So that when you sit in front of a patient, you can listen. And that’s really how you become a great dentist is you listen and you give your patients what they’re asking for rather than making decisions for them, because that’s, that’s what people want. They want someone to listen and they want great dentistry. So having that script in the back of your mind of I’m running, I’m running behind, I’m running behind. I don’t have enough money this month, whatever it’s distracting you from, from what you’re really wanting to do. And what would make you feel fulfilled and what would solve all those other issues.

Shawn: (13:16)
You know, when we were prepping, one of the things you said to me, Alison, which was so profound was, you know, I asked like, well, what is authenticity? And you’re like, it’s getting out of your own way. And I was thinking, man, when you say it that way, it’s like, well, there’s so many, like you’re saying scripts, mindsets, uh, thoughts, demons, whatever. Like you want to call it that people are fighting, that I fight all the time. And those are the things that are keeping me from just getting to fully own who I am own my strengths, own my passions, own what I really care about because when I can own that, then I’m free to be others focused. So, you know, we’re going over this, like, what is authenticity? Well, what is the opposite? What does that look like to be inauthentic? And to be inauthentic is when you’re really just self-focused, it’s still all about your issues, whether you’re enough, whether you can do this, where when you arrive in a further state of maturity in being authentic and being free to be yourself, you are freed up to see other people and to be more other focused.

Shawn: (14:34)

Allison: (14:35)
And that attracts people. It attracts people when you can be others focused when you’re all in your own stuff, it doesn’t, it doesn’t bring life in. It. Doesn’t bring patients in it. It doesn’t serve you.

Shawn: (14:47)
And that’s why, what you were just describing with the patient. Oh man, that is such to be able to be in a place where you can be so present to actually hear and provide excellent care because you’re not struggling with your own stuff. You’re not hearing the whole, I can’t mention that because it’s too expensive or my services aren’t worth that when you’re stuck in your head with all those things, you’re not able to serve your patient the best,

Allison: (15:15)
And you’re not able to listen to your team either. And the, and that is a crucial piece. You know, when you’re sitting there frustrated with the person across from you, you have to step back and think, why am I frustrated? I don’t want to live here. And this frustration, because that’s not authentic. Either the patient could feel it. The assistant can feel it you’re frustrated. So what is it that the assistant is doing that you want them to do? Or is it actually about you? And you’re feeling like not enough as something’s happening and you’re blaming it on your assistant. And we all do this, as I said, it’s you said it’s a spectrum. Some days are better than others. Some days I can get out of my own way. And some days I’m just caught up in my own stuff. So it’s a conscious decision to get out of my own way all the time.

Shawn: (16:01)
It’s funny that you said, I said it, I was actually quoting you for saying, I quoted you. Then you quoted me. That’s hilarious. Well, so I know early on in business, it was a very similar thing here I am. And I’m trying to figure out how to integrate myself and be myself, but I’m in this there’s rules and there’s best practices. And you have to go by a lot of those things, but as you become more mature and not as afraid to express who you are, one of the things we did at the office that just was a game changer is we took one of our family traditions, which is during birthdays. What we do is we go around and everybody just gets to bless the person whose birthday it is by saying what it is that they love about them. And this is typically 60 to 90 seconds per person.

Shawn: (16:44)
And it’s incredibly vulnerable and powerful. And we’re like, you know what? We’re going to do this with our team. We don’t have a massive team. You know, whether it’s seven or eight people on their birthdays, we’re going to take a family tradition and bring it in. And it has made such a difference, but it wasn’t a management technique that I read about in a book that says do this. It was something that was true to who I was to my family culture. And if I was more inauthentic, I wouldn’t have felt permission to be able to do that, but we did it and it has made such a difference.

Allison: (17:23)
So a couple of years ago, I felt like I, wasn’t a very good coach. I wasn’t doing a great job with my team and I needed to change their emotional maturity because that’s what I really wanted from them. I wanted them to take some of that emotional off of me and be able to listen to patients. So we bought this book called Habitudes and I don’t own Habitudes. I have no stock in Habitudes. We’ve got a book for every single person, and we do these at team meetings. And we have two team meetings a month and they’re kind of vulnerable, but they’re their leadership stories about communicating, communicating, leading, and I’m shocked at how much it’s done for my practice and for my team. I mean, they have matured and grown. They’re amazing. And they really get what patients are telling them now, but it was because I allowed myself to be vulnerable, do something that, you know, wasn’t scripted by dentistry, but it changed us. And so that doesn’t mean that it should, that’s what you should do, but I bet you there things that you think, wow, if I did this for my practice, it would change it. Think about it. Maybe you have to run it by somebody, but really think about what is it that you want from this practice and how could you implement it? And maybe it isn’t typical 10 things you can do to better your practice.

Shawn: (18:43)
Well, and the reality is we’ve talked about this a lot, but they’re the greatest tension that people have to struggle with is the fact that we actually have freedom to do what we want to do most of the time, like true freedom should be terrifying because it’s like, no, you actually have the freedom to change everything that irritates you and your practice. And then there’s those lists of excuses. No, I don’t. Because you do,

Allison: (19:05)
You have total freedom to change all those net. You can’t change them all at once. I always feel like that’s really important. You cannot change them all at once. It’s one thing at a time.

Shawn: (19:14)
So that’s why right now, if you’re feeling like you’re kind of timid or there’s some areas in your expression that you’re kind of hiding, or you feel like you’re playing it safe or excessively cautious right now, or you feel trapped or there’s self doubt, or you feel like you’re faking it. These are all yellow flags, signposts, that there are some areas in your life right now in dentistry that you’re not being authentic. And the only reason why we want you to be authentic is because it is a win for your patients. It’s a win for your team. It’s a win for yourself. Feeling aligned, feeling energized, feeling at peace with yourself.

Allison: (19:59)
It’s a win for dentistry. Don’t. We want doctors that are engaged, doing work, that they love and listening to patients. That’s isn’t that what we want in healthcare. So you have an assignment today. I want you to sit down, think about all the things that are driving you crazy about your practice and write them down. And some of them will be painful because you’ll have to acknowledge that there’s a problem, but write it down. It doesn’t mean you have an answer today, but you’re one by one. You’re going to knock these things off and change your practice. So the next year you’re going to make a huge shift, but it’s going to be just one problem at a time.

Shawn: (20:37)
And we just want to say, you are wonderful. You are enough. And it’s okay for you to keep taking steps toward being your authentic self. We are on board with that. We give you permission and we say, go for it.