Earlier today, Paige, my number one child came up to me and asked “Dad, can we talk?”
Putting my book down, I asked how much this talk would cost me.
“It’s not about money”. She replied. And then she smiled.
Did you know that children smile on average about 400 times a day? I didn’t. And did you know that adults only smile about twenty times a day? I didn’t know that either but I do know that they don’t all work for me.
By the way, I’m not talking about a fake smile. The one that just involves the lips. I’m talking about the one which includes our eyes and raising our cheeks. The real smiles. People can tell the difference.
Paige’s was the real type. Lips, cheeks, eyes. Everything. She told me she has a new boyfriend. His name is Sven, he’s German and he’s asked her to visit him in Berlin. So Paige, still smiling and her head leaning ever so slightly to one side, was asking my permission for her to go.
In his Ted talk “The Hidden Power of Smiling,” Ron Gutman talks about the positive effects of smiling. Reducing the number of stress-related hormones like adrenalin and cortisol. Reducing blood pressure. And increasing the number of hormones that improve our moods.
Apparently, one really good smile can give us a feel-good factor equivalent to 2,000 chocolate bars! Substitute your own favourites here: Running, especially at the practice, for Jules, dancing for Debbie, anything sweet for Iva, and alcohol for Lisa. Sausage rolls for Nikoletta, sex for Maggie, and more alcohol for Lisa. Debbie’s cakes for everyone -I’ve heard that they’re delicious but I’ve never been quick enough to get any- and diet coke for Alex. Answering emails for Penny, public speaking for Andrea, cheesecake for Sue and any food for Amy. Wearing spotty undies for Kate, more sex for Maggie, camping for Dani and HTM0105 for me.
“So, what does this German boyfriend of yours look like?” I asked. But only after I’d asked the usual dad-type security questions.
“He’s blonde with blue eyes.”
“It’s gonna be interesting when he meets me then.” I half joked.
She laughed. “No, he’s not like that.”
In Richard Wiseman’s book ‘Quirkology’, researchers looked at photographs of women in a college yearbook when they were in their early twenties. Nearly all were smiling. But when they looked carefully, they noticed that about half of the photographs showed a false smile and half a genuine smile. They discovered something. Those with the real smiles were much more likely to be married, to stay married, to be happier, and to enjoy better health throughout their lives.
According to social anthropologists, smiling makes us appear less dominant and more approachable.
You get the idea. Basically, a genuine smile is pretty good for us. So why don’t we (notice I put we) do it more often?
Back to today. Anyway, I agreed to Paige visiting Sven. I know that Denise would have already said yes. So I know that I had to say yes. But I played my part well. It’s a game and it makes me feel important. And any of you girls with children probably do the same with your other halves.
“Oh, thanks dad.” She said. Cue even bigger smile.
My work was done. As head of the family, I had performed my role. And that is to pretend to be head of the family.
My point here is that smiling can be used as an act of persuasion. For someone to like us, trust us, have faith in us and even to get permission to go to Germany to stay with some random person that I’ve never met.
But it has to be a genuine smile!
Smiling is contagious. As an expert on HTM0105 I know that it’s not yet been banned.
I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to underusing it. But I promise to start from tomorrow. Just forgive me if I look silly.
Will you join me?
“Every smile makes you a day younger”
Many, many years ago, when the Earth was flat and I was an associate, I remember hearing the following adage:
‘If you upset one customer, they’ll tell 10 people. And if you please one customer, they’ll tell 2 people’.
In other words, people are far more likely to talk about you if you upset rather than please them.
As a newly qualified dentist, the last thing I wanted was bad press. So I used to treat my patients with the simple mindset of not upsetting them. It was my compass and it worked.
These days of social media, one unhappy customer could easily spread their message to many, many hundreds. So, keeping this mindset would seem to be the best thing to do wouldn’t it?
The answer is yes. That is, so long as we’re happy staying below the radar. Not really being noticed and not really being talked about.
In other words, the safety of anonymity.
But, just a few years ago, I learnt a really valuable lesson:
There is no safety in anonymity.
In this ever more competitive market place, we do need to be noticed. And we do need to be talked about. For the right reasons, obviously! In the words of Seth Godin, we need to be remarkable. We should aim to be the Purple Cow (also Seth Godin). The one that stands out.
If we’re proud of WHAT we do and HOW we do it: and I know you all are. And if we really do believe in our WHY, then we should stand out in peoples’ radars.
A bright red flashing dot! A Purple Cow!
And how do we do this?
By Delivering WOW.
Firstly, what is WOW? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it means ‘To impress and excite greatly’. That’ll do for me.
I feel it every time I walk into an Apple store. It happens every time I watch Roger Federer. Win or…….come second. For certain companies and individuals, it’s part of their brand.
And I’d like it to be part of ours too.
So how do we deliver WOW? The simple answer is to do something above and beyond a person’s expectations. I’m not talking about ‘under-promising and over-delivering’. That’s just dishonest, in my opinion. I’m talking about ‘Promising and Over-Delivering’.
I can think of lots of lots of examples where you all do this already. Promising pain-free dentistry for one. During as well as after. Phoning our members after they’ve had major treatment is another. Gifts. Discounts. Charitable donations. Charitable activities like Debbie’s triathlon, Jules’s Tough Mudder (nutter), Iva’s forthcoming Kilimanjaro. And lots more.
But I confess that I don’t have all the answers. Sometimes I don’t have any. You all know that. But together, we do.
So I’d be really grateful if you could help me by replying with any suggestions of your own so that we can start putting them into practice. Regularly.
Let’s not be anonymous. Let’s not stay below the radar.
Let’s Deliver WOW.
We recently found this article in the local East Grinstead Observer making reference to the Hugs Pride of East Grinstead awards.
” Jaspal Sandhu . Dentist Mr Sandhu was commended for his humanitarian missions which have raised thousands of pounds for a range of charities.”
Why do you come to work?
Obviously, the money. But why else, and why here? And, for that matter, why do you call it work?
Put all of our core values, and our WHY together. Stick them in a bag and give them a shake. And pour them out. What do you see?
If it’s a jumbled up mass of words, maybe you’re not seeing for looking.
Me, I see work as a place to play. I see what I do not as dentistry, but as art. I see our practice as a playground. One in which our patients become members. Because they can have fun, share smiles, spread laughter. I see our role as not to treat people, but to care for them, get to know them. Who they really are. Their likes and dislikes.
And I see us not as a team, but as a ‘Tribe.’
Tribes, according to Seth Godin, are those groups of people who are playing a part, forming a movement, going somewhere with purpose and a desire to create change.
Last week, I was accused of being an ostrich by a duty nurse at A&E. To be fair, she did have a point. More often though, I’m accused of having my head in the clouds. But, I actually think my head’s above the clouds. Because this is where I can choose to see exactly what I want. In any direction and where nothing clouds my vision.
In other words, I see HAPPINESS.
That’s important to me because I spend the majority of my waking day at our practice. With you. So, if we become a tribe, with common goals, with common values that we ALL believe in, we will be happier.
And if we are happier, our members will be as well.
This could be us…
Now, I’d like to remind you why I share an email a month relating to one of our core values.
A young Benjamin Franklin sought moral perfection. So, he developed a list of thirteen virtues he wanted to follow. But he learned that he couldn’t change them all at once. So he developed a system by using a chart. The days of the week were listed at the top and the virtues listed in the in the first column. Then he tracked his progress daily. Each week, he focused on one virtue. And, after thirteen weeks, he’d covered them all. He continued this for the rest of his life.
If it’s good enough for Ben, it’s good enough for us.
This month’s core value is ‘Excellent Customer Service.’
It goes without saying that this means being courteous and polite. Not just delivering on our promises but exceeding them. On that note, our recent survey revealed that 95% of our members felt no pain and 5% felt slight pain. I know we can do better. Let’s make that our number one priority.
But there’s more to excellent customer service. Much more!
As I’ve said before, put yourselves in our members’ shoes. What do you want above all from a business?
For me, it’s recognition. I want to be listened to, not just heard. Our members, our prospects, our social media followers are all looking to be recognised. When we listen, we’re showing an interest. And there is no greater compliment than giving someone your un-divided attention. It allows you to get an insight into their personality, their needs and their wants. Then, and only then can you better serve them.
Remember, being a good listener is the most important part of being a good communicator.
I posted this on our facebook page a few months ago. It’s called the ‘Connect With Anyone Creed.’ We should use this as our compass.
Now, just for a change, here’s a story about a little-known tech company by the name of Apple.
Back in the year 2000, Apple was a company dwindling. Michael Dell, of Dell Computers fame, was asked what he’d do. He said I’d give the cash back to the shareholders and close the business down.
But Apple invested during that downturn. That’s when they started to build its chain of stores.
Every Genius Bar employee was given a training manual staff and had to pass a 14 day training course. Not just about technical tips and tricks but also how to empathise with customers.
Apple doesn’t want high-pressure sellers behind the bar – quite the opposite. The manual reinforces a constant message that staff must be empathetic to a customer’s needs.
If you visit the Genius Bar at an Apple Store you’ll discover the real job of the Genius. And it’s not to fix things. The first job of the Genius is to acknowledge your problem and to change how you feel. Apple Geniuses get twice as much training in changing how the customer feels as they do in solving tech problems. The only thing that the Genius has to do is make people walk out feeling better than when they walked in.
And if we do the same, it’s also a kind of genius.
The Apple training manual focusses on an acronym – APPLE.
Approach customers with a personalised warm welcome.
Probe to understand the problem.
Present a solution.
Listen for issues, and
End with an invitation to return.
Apple takes ‘Excellent Customer Service’ to a new high. It improves customer relationships, it can transform a disappointed customer with the potential to become a negative voice in the marketplace into a fan. It creates a tribal following.
That’s where we should be aiming.
Everyone clenches their teeth to some degree, even denture wearers. Some of us just clench, and some grind. In its severest form, this tooth-grinding is called Bruxism.
Bruxists will generally show classic signs in their mouths such as worn or broken teeth, or ridges along the sides of the tongue and cheeks. And a typical symptom is constant headaches or migraines.
The cause of the headaches is linked to the muscles of our jaws. As we grind, these muscles place extra strain on the Trigeminal nerve. And, as it compresses, it sends signals to the brain which can result in mild to severe headaches.
It’s very important to realise that tooth-grinding is only one possible cause of headaches and migraines. Our role, as dentists, is to help determine when that may be the case. In a lot of occasions, we’ll try and work closely with your doctor to find out any other possible causes.
When we can confirm a link between tooth-grinding and headaches, our goal is to limit the amount of strain placed on the Trigeminal nerve. And we do this by trying to reduce the intensity of the grinding.
One of the most common ways in which we do this is by providing bite guards. These hard plastic guards are made to fit over the teeth and they help to spread the forces when we clench. They also help to protect any teeth which may have become weakened through wear.
But, in some cases, if the grinding is severe, a conventional bite guard may not be enough to reduce or relieve the symptoms of headaches. Instead, a very simple and non-invasive technique is to add small tooth-coloured fillings to some of the teeth closer to the front of the mouth. We can’t clench as hard with our front teeth. Try it yourself by biting on a pencil. First with your back teeth and then with your front teeth. Notice the difference? So, when we can’t close with the same force, this reduces the pressure on the Trigeminal nerve and helps to relieve the headaches.
If you suffer from the above, please speak to your dentist about how they can help you.
This is to all you phobic people out there….I was the worst case of being phobic at the dentist, not only the dentist but also of needles! It used to take me over a year to pluck the courage up to even book an appointment just for a check up and even at the check up I’d pass out, if any work needed to be done it had to be through sedation, that’s the only way anyone could get near to me! My last trip to the dentist I had the maximum IV sedation and even with this I was unconsciously fidgeting too much for them to deal with me, I managed the 1 filling but needed more work done, they refused to have me back…..I’m sure a lot of you can relate to this? That horrible sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, the feeling of being totally out of control, the invasion of someone intruding in your mouth, the fear of feeling any pain, the hot sweats of sheer panic!
I would of given anything to be brave enough to attend the dentist and have work done like most people…..well, good news, after 40 years of phobia, that has now been possible due to joining the High Street Dentist at East Grinstead. I went along for a check up (only the mirror is allowed anywhere near my mouth) with a lovely patient Dentist Nicoletta, and her equally friendly assistant. There was no rush and everything was talked through. Nicoletta has been the first dentist ever that has asked exactly what scares me and has worked with me to overcome this.
I needed 1 filling done, just hearing that felt like the whole world was closing in on me again…..I downloaded Paul McKenna hypnotherapy CD to overcome Dentist Phobia and listened to this regularly but not convinced it was working, I went to the doctor to get some Valium, I loaded my MP3 player with lots of songs and even put an ice pack in the freezer ready (that hot wave that flows over you is not nice is it?)….the day arrived, a bit quicker than I wanted!
Firstly it was an afternoon appointment and Nicoletta booked me a longer slot than was needed so it wouldn’t be rushed. The normal sinking feeling wasn’t there all morning but when I was walking towards the dentist I realised the Valium just wasn’t working and I can honestly say I had every intention of coming home without the treatment being done!
Nicoletta called me in, and although I told her I wasn’t ready, she was very friendly and just said we’d chat only and there was no pressure, she made sure all equipment was out of sight before I went in.
We agreed between us that we would do it in small bite size pieces, the first piece was the numbing, being scared of needles this was a big deal! Nicoletta had a very calming influence over me and eventually I trusted her enough to let her do this, afterwards I didn’t know what all the fuss was about, I was so pleased with myself that I’d got this done but where I’d got so scared, the reaction of it was that I come over very feint. This wore off after 5 mins and I was back to being calm again. Next step the drill….well when I say it felt like she was tickling the tooth, it’s no lie…..she done it for 2 seconds only so I knew what to expect, after that I blasted my music out and let her carry on, all the time her assistant was holding my hand all the way through, before I knew it, it was done and finished. It now feels like a great weight has been lifted and I feel invincible!!!!!! The whole time I was in there seemed to fly past but in fact I was in there 1 hour, the treatment was probably 10 mins or so, this is how patient and understanding the staff at this dentist are. I trust Nicoletta completely with my teeth now and know that there really isn’t any pain at all, obviously I’m still going to be nervous, you can’t wipe out a phobia overnight but I now feel in control so if any of you can relate to this phobia, get a hypnotherapy CD and book in at the High Street dentist, afterwards you’ll look back and ask yourself “why didn’t I do this sooner”
Debbie from East Grinstead
I was asked to record a short message about my experience of being the lucky winner of the High Street Practice – Gift of a Smile competition, which seemed easy enough but it was such a short window and I had so much to say. So I thought I would put into words my experience.
I remember reading the paper and seeing the competition and thinking, wow, what a fantastic prize I would love that. I know everyone dreams of winning a lovely holiday or a shiny new car but a smile, now that was different and something I would dearly love, but didn’t do anything about it.
The following week I saw the advert again and I thought to myself I would really love to win that prize and I could not stop thinking about it. 2012 was an important year for me, my daughter was due to graduate and it was my 50th birthday both big photo opportunities. All I could think about was the competition and if I had nice teeth I would be able to smile in the photo’s rather than the usual grimace that looked like I was chewing a wasp. The competition stated that you could nominate someone or nominate yourself. I decided I would rather selfishly nominate myself, so I completed my entry and sent it off never expecting to hear any more.
It was a rare weekend when my daughter was home from university when I received my letter telling me I was one of the finalists in the competition. I was so excited and when I told my daughter I was a finalist in a competition to have £10,000 of dental work she said she was really surprised that I had applied but also very pleased for me as she knew how unhappy I was about my teeth.
I was invited to visit the practice to have a dental consultation as part of the competition process. I had not been to the dentist for quite some time and was worried about the poor condition of my teeth. I must admit I was really nervous.
I recall being greeted by some of the nicest staff who were so excited for me and I was soon totally at my ease. I was shown through to the dentist and that was when I first met Jaspal Sandu the man who was behind this fantastic competition. He carried out a very thorough examination of my mouth and teeth. He asked me lots of questions about what I did and didn’t like about my teeth and what my expectations were. He was lovely and made me feel totally comfortable to be able to speak about my teeth and the problems I had.
I must admit I did enjoy the examination as it not only covered the condition of my teeth but also the health of my mouth and we spoke about mouth cancer which was not something I had previously thought about. The x-rays that were taken revealed the true horror my teeth and I remember thinking that there was a lot of work required and I could not expect to win. If nothing else, I had had a very thorough examination and discussion about oral health and left the practice feeling very upbeat as it had been a most pleasant and informative experience.
I remember quite clearly the day I received the telephone call to say that I was the winner of the competition. I have never won anything before and this for me was just the best prize I could have won, I was ecstatic. Then the reality kicked in and I thought, what was I doing, I hate going to the dentist and my mind was filled with horrible thoughts of drills, injections and discomfort. I then thought about the dental practice and how lovely everyone had been and how comfortable I had felt. The practice had been so professional yet caring and it was this thought that re-assured me and made me realise how very lucky I was.
A treatment plan was created for me that entailed teeth whitening, replacement white fillings, new crowns, and a replacement bridge.
Never once in all my appointments did I feel uncomfortable or in any pain. In fact I really used to look forward to my appointments as I could very soon see the improvement with my teeth. I recall on one occasion I was so comfortable and relaxed that Jas had ask me to open my mouth wider as I was actually biting down on his finger as I was drifting off.
I must mention the lovely Alex who replaced my fillings. She has such a passion for what she does and really takes such a great pride in her work. She is such a credit to the practice.
I cannot tell you what a difference having this treatment has made to me. I was always reluctant to smile as I thought people would be looking at my teeth, but now I smile at any given opportunity. As for having photographs taken I can now step forward without any hesitation giving my biggest cheesiest grin. Not a day goes by when I don’t give myself a great big smile in the mirror just to make sure that it was not just a dream and yes I do have a great smile.
I am very fortunate to have won this prize and not a day goes by when I don’t acknowledge that fact. I can only encourage other people who have been worried about having dental treatment and perhaps like me had neglected their dental health to visit the dental practice to find out how they can help you. I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised and might even leave with a smile on your face.
I would like to close by saying a big thank you to all the staff at the practice; you have all made my experience an amazing one for which I am truly grateful.
Me: “I’m about to enter our team for the OLYMPIC triathlon. I need a team name ASAP”
Adam: “OLYMPIC? Behave. 1500m swim will be a joke.”
Me: “I don’t want any negativity Jackson! We rowed the Channel, not the Thames!”
Adam: “The running and cycling doesn’t faze me, but swimming is tough man!”
Me: “So we have lessons. I can’t swim either. We go to one of the local swimming baths together and get on it.”
Adam: “F*** it, alright then! We’ll smash it!”
Me: “YES Jackson!!! You make me proud.”
That was a text conversation that I had yesterday. Very similar to the ones I had when I was recruiting for our row.
But, being adventurous doesn’t have to mean entering a triathlon or jumping out of a plane. It can just as easily mean trying out a new idea or a new method. In other words, getting out of our comfort zones.
So how can we be adventurous during our working day?
Let’s start by taking a leaf out of Seth Godin’s book and refer to our work as art. That is what we do after all, isn’t it? We create art and we should be proud of that.
We should also address ALL of our members by their first names instead of their titles. Irrespective of age. Titles are barriers and they should be broken. Our first goal is to connect with our members. You won’t connect with me if you call me Mr Sandhu. I’m Jas, plain and simple. But not necessarily in that order!
But beyond connection, we should aim to engage our members. Every single one. The best way to do that is by telling stories. About ourselves. And I’m not talking about dentistry, I’m talking about our personal lives. Who we really are. What we did at the weekend, what we’re going to do. What drives us, what makes us mad!
And here’s where we can be the most adventurous. Be ourselves. Don’t hide behind a mask – literal or metaphorical. Don’t be the person that we think we should be. Just be ourselves. I’d wager that most of us aren’t entirely comfortable with who we are all of the time. And that there are times when we’ve modeled ourselves on someone else. I know I have. There’s nothing more courageous than allowing people to get to know us. Faults and all.
I got an email last week and, with Andrea’s permission, I’ve copied it below:
Thank you for yesterday’s meeting.
Believe it or not that is the first time in my adult life I have stood up in front of people and presented something and felt in control and I hadn’t had a drink. I avoid anything like that at all cost. It makes me panic and I can’t cope with it. However, yesterday I wanted to do it, I could have easily left it to my intoxicated partner but I wanted to try and that has never happened before. I actually found it ok. So thank you x
Have a great weekend and see you soon.
A fear of public speaking is one of the most common phobias. It’s a big deal. So well done Andrea and thank you.
Finally, one of the hardest things to say is “I don’t know.” As the practice leader, I have a vision which I’ve shared with you. Goals, SMART and ‘Fuzzy’ which I’ve shared with you. But I don’t know all the answers. I don’t know. That’s why I rely on you all to help find the answers.
It doesn’t matter if we make mistakes. In fact, we should, otherwise we’re not improving. The important thing is to learn from our mistakes, learn quickly and then adapt. In the words of Michael Masterson “Fail fast and fail forwards.”
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” – Helen Keller