When Egos Run Wild!
I recently asked a number of dentists to name the first three clinicians who came to mind when I said the words “Guru” and “Ego.” Invariably the same three names were conjured: one on the east coast, one on the west coast, and one living in fantasy land.
Now don’t get me wrong, a healthy ego is generally a good thing, but when does a guru’s ego get out of hand? I remember when I first started in dental management, I attended a CDA session on case presentation by the then-reigning master, who has since moved on to the wilds of Canada. I can’t even begin to count the number of times he claimed to have a 100% case acceptance record. 100%!
My partner at that time – who had an outrageous ego of her own (I think she once claimed to have invented the airplane) – said to me: “What has this guy been smoking?” Even Zig Zigler never claimed a 100% closing ratio.
This was my first introduction to what I have since coined the “Dental Guru Syndrome.” It manifests itself when truly great clinicians have mastered their craft and been recognized by their peers as breakthrough thinkers. They begin speaking at various dental meetings where their skills are rightly acclaimed by their colleagues. Eventually, they may even go on to found their own institutes or associations. Not a bad start, but slowly some of these doctors fall prey to the Dental Guru Syndrome. They start to believe their own PR.
The first sign of the Dental Guru Syndrome is the phrase, “This is how I did it in my practice…” Next, they start teaching “marketing.” “Change your sign,” they preach, “to The Center for Aesthetic Dental Arts, and attract all of the cosmetic dental market!” (All three of them in your middle-class market who understand what you are trying to say when you combine the words “arts,” “dental” and “aesthetic,” that is.)
Then they start telling their acolytes how to invest their money. My favorite was the pitch to buy undeveloped land in the country and wait for the city to get there. I know several doctors who are still waiting, 15 years later.
Once they’ve worn through their financial adviser hats, these “brilliant thinkers” move into the field of practice management. They tell you to follow the 80/20 rule – cut 80% of your patient base to focus solely on the top 20%.
“Small is good,” they say. “You don’t need the hassle of a hygienist, and one person at the front is all you need to handle your reduced patient load.” Don’t worry about only working two days a week… the city will eventually reach your land in the countryside. Your children’s college funds can wait until your ship comes in. (Did they tell you to build a harbor, too?)
The final stage of the Guru Syndrome is the outrageous behavior stage. We have all seen gurus do strange things in public – I’ve done a few strange things myself. The difference? I usually regret it the next day and try not to make a fool of myself again. Gurus deep in the syndrome, however, are so successful, rich and powerful that the rules no longer apply to them. Their bad boy – or girl – behavior is now part of their public persona. Where does it end?