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Episode #334: What is Your Practice “IT” Factor?, with Dr. Michelle Lee

the best practices show podcast Sep 06, 2021

Differentiating your practice is one of the most important things you can do. But just being unique isn't enough. You still need the “secret sauce” to put that uniqueness into practice. And to help you find and apply your own “it” factor, Kirk Behrendt brings in Dr. Michelle Lee from the Pankey Institute to share the philosophies she learned from the organization. For Dr. Lee, focusing on relationships and the patient experience is what helped her practice thrive. To hear her advice on finding your unique “it” factor, listen to Episode 334 of The Best Practices Show!

Main Takeaways:

Differentiate yourself through practice philosophy, different services, or patient experience.

Relationships are part of the “it” factor. Cultivate relationships with your team and your patients.

Differentiating your practice can positively impact your team.

Start small with team meetings. Don't tell your team to do it — invite them.

The Pankey Institute provides a template for the “it” factor, as well as a life/dental compass.

They will also help you bridge the gap between what you know and how you practice it.

Practice gratitude and mindfulness with yourself, your team, and your patients.


“Dr. Pankey had a practicing philosophy construct. He said you need to know yourself, you have to know your work, you have to know your patient, and you have to apply that knowledge.” (09:21—09:38)

“All patients come with a story, just like I have my story. All patients come with different circumstances. They have objectives and they have different temperaments. How do we begin to know our patient, that practice philosophy piece, if we’re not able to spend the time with them?” (13:35—13:52)

“My differentiation in my practice is that comprehensive exam, is really fully understanding where the patients are coming from to then fully understand what kind of treatment plan we’re going to go to, and then executing that. But that execution piece is also that technical piece, that I think patients appreciate the communication, the philosophy, and understanding what their circumstances may be.” (15:07—15:35)

“My heart just goes back to gratitude every day — and my team. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for my team. I'm the last person that patients meet when they enter the practice, and so to be able to have that culture where all of our hands are on the rope and we’re pulling in the same direction, I always say that it takes a village. And I really appreciate the gifts that my team shares with me.” (17:03—17:32)

“Speaking personally for myself, the type of practice that I have is a fee-for-service, out-of-network practice. And so, that is the only way that I feel like my practice can thrive, is to differentiate [myself], whether it’s through a practice philosophy or, at least for me, having different services for the patients, or creating a new patient experience.” (18:10—18:45)

“A couple differentiations that I have is, all patients in our practice get a tour. Just like if you were a guest in my home, I would invite you in and I'm going to walk you through, and I'm going to tell you where things are. And we’re really going to thank you. We really thank our patients for coming into our practice. Everyone puts down what they're doing. I'm going to say pre-Covid days — now, it’s a really big smile with my eyes with my mask on. But we really welcome our patients to the practice, and we thank them for being there. So, we really warmly welcome them.” (18:47—19:23)

“The other thing that we do is just that experience. I always say I don't like to treat strangers. But once we meet, and once we have this new patient exam together and this thorough exam, we will no longer be strangers and you will be a part of our Fleetwood Dental family or my practice family.” (19:23—19:42)

“I want to make sure that the practice stays viable, that we keep growing. And so, we have to really keep that in our mindset as we have to pivot through these changing times. So, there's adaptability. How are we going to adapt? And we want to all adapt favorably. And what is it that's going to set us apart? And those things are just — it’s just the relationships. So, that “it” factor is just in our human core. It’s a part of us, is having those relationships. Well, if we thrive through friendships and circles in our communities, why can't we create that for our patients in our practice?” (19:49—20:41)

“Having strong relationships, it takes work. It takes effort to make sure that patients be like, ‘Oh, I got your email,’ or, ‘Thanks for that extra special call.’ So, we would just make calls sometimes, cold calls, just saying, ‘Hey, we’re thinking about you,’ or just stuff on social media to cultivate that culture of knowing that we’re going to be here for you on the other side, and we’re actually going to be better.” (24:06—24:34)

“I love education. I teach regularly. But I had to make an effort that Michelle Lee wasn't going to be the only one learning and growing, that my team had to also be doing that too. So, we would always set aside the time with our team training or our team meetings to always have some type of education piece so that you slowly implement some of the culture or the core values in the practice.” (26:50—27:22)

“There's no better way to set the rules of the practice than by creating a really strong mission and a vision. And it’s always best done when it’s collaborative, when the team is doing it together. So, we’ve revisited this a couple of times. But that has really enforced an understanding of, ‘What is it really about our practice?’ Like, are we in it just to come to a nine-to-five job, or is this going to be your profession, or do we want this to be part of our life’s work? And just like we have to work on planting seeds with our patients or cultivating that kind of energy, I've also done that with my team.” (27:34—28:23)

“It is tough work [finding time for team meetings]. It is really tough work. And for some of us that can't carve out time, I call it margins on a page. I've had a faculty member come through and share that analogy with me, and it stuck with me. If we’re writing something, we have margins. You need to leave a little bit of a space in your life and in your practice to be able to spill over the margins so we don't feel like we’re driving 90 miles per hour, and any little change happens in our life or in our practice and we just go off.” (32:08—32:44)

“You asked how I got to do the things that I most enjoy doing. Well, I looked at the procedures, and I gave myself permission not to do the things that I felt I was not doing my best work in.” (37:40—37:54)

“If I were to share one little bit of advice to all of the practitioners, practice owners, dentists and associates, and mom dentists, businesspeople, it would just be this broad word of mindfulness. It’s something that I'm also passionate about, of being able to be in the moment. Paying attention in a particular way, nonjudgmentally, and staying present has really helped me on a day-to-day basis because I kind of bring stuff home sometimes. And I think we all do that. But having a little grace and gratitude and appreciation to what we do and loving what we do has definitely been a factor for me that's really helped charge me to go day by day and work through challenges in life and in practice.” (39:16—40:21)

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom. And I know that there's a lot of stuff out there, and how we need to do things, and what we need to learn. But I encourage everyone to go out there and learn a little bit more about yourself and making sure that you take care of yourself too, because we can't pour from an empty cup. So, I think right now, it’s a really critical time that we all practice a little mindfulness.” (40:25—40:50)


Dr. Lee’s background. (02:54—11:30)

Why the “it” factor is important as a dentist. (12:03—17:33)

Why it’s important to differentiate your practice. (18:09—20:42)

Staying connected during and post-Covid. (22:08—24:34)

How differentiating your practice impacts your team. (25:31—31:28)

Finding time for team meetings. (32:01—34:05)

You're not everybody’s dentist. (34:39—36:39)

Last thoughts on the “it” factor. (37:37—39:13)

Advice for practitioners, practice owners, dentists, and associates. (39:14—40:50)

Get involved with The Pankey Institute. (41:19—44:06)

Reach Out to Dr. Lee:

Dr. Lee’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/michelle.m.lee.50

Fleetwood Dental’s Instagram: @fleetwood_dental https://www.instagram.com/fleetwood_dental/?hl=en


Dr. Lee’s website: https://fleetwooddental.com/


The Pankey Institute: https://www.pankey.org/

The Pankey Institute Essential Courses: https://www.pankey.org/curriculum/essentials-courses/

Dr. Michelle Lee Bio:

Dr. Michelle Lee is very proud to provide all aspects of comprehensive dentistry, which includes Restorative, Cosmetic, TMD, and Sleep Apnea treatment to the Fleetwood and Berks County areas. She is passionate about providing excellent patient-centered, comprehensive dentistry to her patients, and strives to provide gentle and customized dental care. She is committed to relationship-based and patient-centered care. Dr. Lee is a graduate of The University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine with a one-year post graduate General Practice Residency Program at the Abington Memorial Hospital.

Dr. Lee continues to be a lifelong learner herself and constantly keeps herself abreast of dental advancements by committing to hundreds of hours of advanced dental education. She is an active member of The Pankey Institute, American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD), American Equilibration Society (AES), and other courses for advanced education.

Dr. Lee has advanced knowledge and training in TMJ, disorders of the TMJ (TMD), bite disorders, and sleep apnea. She continues to expand her knowledge in this field because she feels passionate about dentistry based on the relationship of the jaw joint, muscles, and occlusion (teeth). Dr. Lee provides preventative, cosmetic and implant dentistry, and TMJ therapy. She approaches dentistry with precision, accuracy, and artistic perspective.

Dr. Lee began her journey with The Pankey Institute and her experience has changed her life both professionally and personally. The Pankey Institute allowed her to incorporate many invaluable skills and knowledge to build a better practice for her patients and create a more fulfilling understanding of a balanced life with her career and with her family. The Pankey motto, “quid pro quo,” remains very strong in Dr. Lee’s core beliefs and she truly values giving back to her community and in dentistry. As a faculty member at The Pankey Institute, Dr. Lee is inspired to carry out the Pankey mission of building a supportive community of learners and inspire dental professionals. Dr. Lee is actively involved with giving back to her community. She is committed to volunteering between 80 to 100 hours of service per year, both in dentistry and in her community, combined.

Professionally, Dr. Lee is also a member of the Academy of General Dentistry, American Dental Association, Pennsylvania Dental Association, and serves on a committee of the American Equilibration Society. She also volunteers to treat pediatric patients through her local dental society.


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