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Episode #565: Why You Need a Leadership Team, with Jenni Poulos

Whether you have a team of three or a team of 30, you need a leadership team. To reveal why you need one and what it can do for your practice, Kirk Behrendt brings back Jenni Poulos, one of ACT’s amazing coaches, with advice for building a great leadership team early in your career. Remember, you can’t run a practice alone — and you were never meant to! To start creating a smarter, healthier, more aligned team, listen to Episode 565 of The Best Practices Show!

Episode Resources:

Links Mentioned in This Episode:




Rocket Fuel by Gino Wickman and Mark C. Winters:

Traction by Gino Wickman:

Main Takeaways:

You can’t be a solo leader.

Find a mentor or coach early in your career.

A leadership team is not just for small practices.

Figure out who you are and your unique ability ASAP.

Be intentional and committed to creating a leadership team.

Having a leadership team will keep you aligned, smart, and healthy.


“I love Brené Brown, and one of my very favorite quotes of hers is, ‘You can’t do it all alone. You were never meant to.’ And really, when you’re running a practice any size, you need help. You need someone that you can bounce ideas off of. You need someone to work through the challenges. You need people to execute in their unique abilities so you can execute in yours. And having members of a leadership team that you trust that you can be vulnerable with, that can help you make tough decisions, live within your core purpose and your core values, is going to really elevate your practice, elevate your life, and take you to places you didn’t know that you could go.” (2:32—3:19) -Jenni

“Having a leadership team does not mean run out and get a partner. That’s not what we’re talking about. It may include that at one point in time. But sometimes people think, ‘Well, running a dental practice is lonely. I need somebody I can work with and bounce ideas off of, so I’m going to split my business in half and bring in another dentist.’ That’s not the smartest thing. It’s not. If you’re lonely, get a coach. It’s a lot cheaper.” (3:23—3:52) -Kirk

“The big elephant in the room, especially when I begin coaching and working with small docs and I say, ‘Hey, we need to get our leadership team going,’ they say, ‘I’m a group of five. I’m not going to have a leadership team. I’m a solo leader.’ It’s like, ‘No, you’re not a solo leader. And you’re not intended to be a solo leader.’ I will be a part of your leadership team. Or if it’s not me, if you don’t have a coach, you need to find a mentor. You need to find someone that can be that thought partner with you that can help you make decisions, help you think outside the box, look at things in a different way. You have to bounce ideas off of someone, or else you’re living inside of your head, which is a dangerous place to live all of the time. So, no matter how small [of a practice] you are, you need a leadership team.” (4:39—5:34) -Jenni

“As a coach, that’s one of my favorite things to do, is to be a part of your leadership team, to be that person that you can bounce ideas off of, and think differently, and point things out in ways that maybe you wouldn’t. That’s what a great leadership team does. They challenge each other to look at things in a different way, to look outside the box, have a new perspective, maybe think about something that we didn’t think about. And this is how we get to the best decisions for the practice.” (5:34—6:04) -Jenni

“The first thing you should do when you own a business is get a mentor or a coach. A mentor can save thousands and thousands and thousands of hours of your life. A coach can do exactly the same thing.” (6:09—6:21) -Kirk

“The other thing I didn’t really do early in the process, which I’m going to encourage all of you guys to do, is figure out who the hell I was. I wish I would have taken every personality test under the sun, like the Kolbe, DiSC, Myers-Briggs, worked with an intense behavioral specialist, and figured that out by the time I was 30. And then, I would have gone all-chips-in on who I was.” (9:54—10:20) -Kirk

“You need to be thinking about priorities, the path, the vision, and where you’re going. And a leadership team is going to help you get there.” (11:32—11:39) -Jenni

“There are three areas that you need to really excel in to kill it in your practice. You need to be aligned, you need to be smart, and you need to be healthy. An amazing leadership team is going to level you up in all of these areas because the alignment is going to come clear when you have someone that has these complementary strengths to you, and you can bounce ideas off of one another, and get really clear on where you’re going and developing priorities and a path for your team that gets you to these goals.” (11:49—12:25) -Jenni

“An amazing leadership team is going to get you aligned, get you smart, and get you healthy.” (13:16—13:22) -Jenni

“Pete Dawson used to say making money was a byproduct. It’s the byproduct of doing the right thing with the right people for the right reasons, all that kind of stuff. And that is absolutely true. If you’re a dentist and you want to make a lot of money, it should never be your goal. Your goal should be to do something great.” (13:27—13:41) -Kirk

“Being a great leader and being a great leadership team isn’t about what you tell people. It’s about how you show up, how you support, how you grow the people around you, and how you grow great leaders. And when you’re so in the weeds alone, it becomes frustrating and it’s hard to really be the type of leader that projects what they expect. When you’re so in the weeds, it’s hard to project that amazing attitude, that smart, aligned attitude that you expect of your team. And when you can share in the responsibility, when you have people that you can bounce ideas off of, bounce frustrations off of, you can really project what you want. And as a great leader, you’re in front pulling and leading and showing what you want. You’re projecting the attitude. You’re projecting the core values. You’re projecting the work ethic that you want to see from your team. And that’s going to elevate everyone around you, and they’re going to want to work harder for you because they see you working hard for them.” (15:32—16:52) -Jenni

“People don’t leave practices. People leave people. So, if you ever lose a great team member, they didn’t say, ‘This place is messed up.’ They left a person. So, the leader has got to get better.” (17:10—17:20) -Kirk

“A great leader is this: it’s not somebody who is amazing, thoughtful, brilliant — no. A leader is consistent. What they do, ultimately, is grow other leaders that grow other leaders.” (17:28—17:39) -Kirk

“You can’t just develop a leadership team and go, ‘Go!’ There are laws. You have to have bylaws. One of the most important bylaws that I screwed up a lot is you can’t have workaround conversations. You can’t have these sidebars. You can’t agree to something and then have a sidebar and trump the other people on your leadership team. That’s the fastest way to make them super angry at you and obliterate trust.” (18:40—19:05) -Kirk

“Because we have trust and vulnerability, we’ve been able to come to the table and say, ‘Whoa, we’ve agreed that we don’t do this. We’ve agreed that we bring things to the table, and we discuss them.’ It allows us to work through those challenges and grow together. But absolutely, you have to be committed to one another, committed to the process, and you have to work at it. And when there are agreements, you have to honor them.” (19:15—19:43) -Jenni

“Vulnerability allows us to create these environments of psychological safety. And we’ve talked about this before, Google actually did a study on this with 40,000 teams. The most effective teams across all industries have environments of psychological safety. What that means is team members feel free to say, ‘I don’t know. I need help. I made a mistake,’ and to ask questions without fear of repercussion from their teammates or their leaders. As a leader and as members of a leadership team, that begins with you guys practicing that together, and then modeling it for your team. And being vulnerable doesn’t mean like this weepy, oh-my-gosh sob story. It’s about being honest. It’s about saying, ‘I need help,’ about saying, ‘I don’t know.’ And that is a tremendous strength that you need to learn and grow into. And when you can develop that, when you can develop that within your leadership team, your team will see that and they’ll begin to feel free to say, ‘I want to grow, and I need help to grow in this way. I’m uncertain and I need help here. I made a mistake and I want to get better.’ That’s what you want from your team. You want them to say, ‘I want to be better, and I need help in this way to get better.’ When they start asking for help in that way, that’s when the magic is going to start happening.” (21:02—22:44) -Jenni

“An effective leadership team, the meeting cadence and getting things done, it can’t be haphazard. The one thing I would encourage you is that you really have to set aside time to say, ‘We’re going to be intentional about this. We’re going to sit down. We’re going to land the plane. We’re going to talk about the things that matter.’ Just as we talk so much about the importance of the team meeting, meeting with your team, calibrating with your team, this is also so important with leadership. And the bigger you get, the more intentional you need to be about this. Don’t just think, ‘Oh, we’re going to fit in some time at our lunch,’ or, ‘We’re going to meet for a few minutes before.’ Because what happens? We see an emergency over lunch, or we’ve got to finish our chart notes, or life happens and we’re coming in late one day, or we have to leave early. Be intentional about creating this team and being committed to it, or it won’t work for you.” (24:39—25:43) -Jenni

“Time is the new rich. I don’t care how big your practice is, how many locations you have. I don’t care how cool your practice is. All I care about is how much time you have. The person who has the ability to do what they want with their time is the richest person in the world. And that’s the hugest benefit to building something that’s worthwhile, more time.” (26:55—27:20) -Kirk

“Whether you’re a practice of three or a practice of 30, this is a component that you need. Having a leadership team, be it two, five, ten people, it’s going to create that aligned, smart, and healthy practice. It’s going to bring outside perspectives, bring complementary strengths, and it’s going to let you share in the challenges and the joys in your practice. So, if you don’t have one, commit to making it happen.” (27:56—28:25) -Jenni

“Even if your practice is really cool and you have an amazing leadership team, you’ve got to have a coach that coaches your leadership team. Our coach is going to be here next week. She’s a badass. She kind of scares me a little bit. I’m worried to see what’s going to come out of her mouth. But she can say things I can’t say. She can call me out in the middle of the room, and we use terms like “gloves off”. ‘Here they are, gloves off. Here’s the truth.’ And one of my favorite things she’s ever said to us is, ‘I can see ceilings you guys can’t.’ And it’s so true. It’s amazing when somebody from the outside can take your leaders and make them healthier and think better in a way that there’s more glue and more alignment.” (28:31—29:13) -Kirk


0:00 Introduction.

2:20 Why you need a leadership team.

3:22 Leadership teams aren’t just for large practices.

6:04 Stop living in your head.

7:57 Figure out who you are and your unique ability.

11:27 Get your team aligned, smart, and healthy.

15:25 What it means to be a great leader.

18:37 Develop trust and vulnerability.

22:50 Be aligned at the top.

24:27 Invest in your leaders.

27:52 Last thoughts.

Jenni Poulos Bio: 

Jenni brings to dental teams a literal lifetime of experience in dentistry. As the daughter and sister of periodontists and a dental hygienist, she has been working in many facets of the dental world since she first held a summer job turning rooms and pouring models at the age of 12. Now, with over 10 years of experience in managing and leading a large periodontal practice, she has a firm grasp on what it takes to run a thriving business. Her passion for organizational health and culture has been a driving force behind her coaching career. She has witnessed firsthand how creating an aligned and engaged team will take a practice to levels of success that they never believed possible!


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