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367: How to Lead Without a Title

Joining the show again is Dr. Jenny Perna! This round, Kiera discusses with Dr. Perna leading others without the formal title of a leadership position. They both share their own examples of letting go of egos and ways they’ve inspired others. 

Regardless of your role, you can choose to lead and inspire and motivate others. Some people are natural leaders; other natural followers, and both are okay to be. Being the leader doesn’t always mean being the good guy.

Let Kiera and Dr. Perna inspire the leader in you!

Episode resources:

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Listen to episode #261: Associate to Owner, Taking the Leap

Listen to episode #320: Plans Derailed? Here’s What to Do.

Reach out to Kiera

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Podcast Transcript

Kiera Dent:

Hey everyone welcome to the Dental A Team podcast. I'm your host Kiera Dent and I had this crazy idea that maybe I could combine a doctor and a team member's perspective because let's face it dentistry can be a challenging profession with those two perspectives. I've been a dental assistant, treatment coordinator, scheduler, pillar, office manager, regional manager, practice owner and I have a team of traveling consultants where we have traveled to over 165 different offices, coaching teams. Yep we don't just understand you, we are you. Our mission is to positively impact the world of dental and I believe that this podcast is the greatest way I can help elevate teams, grow VIP experiences, reduce stress and create A Teams. Welcome to the Dental A Team podcast.

            Hello Dental A Team listeners this is Kiera and you guys, ah this person is a person that I love to podcast with. If she wasn't trying to become an owner of a practice, I would definitely recruit her just to be on the Dental A Team to hang out with her all the time. But you guys know her, you love her, Dr. Jenny Perna. She's on Instagram, the Yogi Dentist, she's going to be at our Dental A Team summit. You guys have heard her she's talked about so many different, awesome topics. So you guys just go search her name on the Dental A Team, you can hear the other ones, but I'm excited to bring her back because we're going to talk about leadership. So Jenny, how are you today?

Dr. Jenny Perna:

I'm doing so great. Honestly Kiera I could listen to you intro me every single day.

Kiera Dent:

Well, it's true and it's fun to intro you. You're one of my faves. So we've got to ramp that up every time. Absolutely.

Dr. Jenny Perna:

You just follow me around and-

Kiera Dent:

I will.

Dr. Jenny Perna:

... introduce me.

Kiera Dent:

I will. I will and I'm serious so if ownership doesn't work out for you just know you've got a place on the Dental A Team, you can be my dentist consultant.

Dr. Jenny Perna:

Perfect.

Kiera Dent:

So just throwing it out there, like we talked about pre podcast, there are opportunities lurking around the corners that we don't even know about. So hey if consulting has ever been on your radar you just let me know.

Dr. Jenny Perna:

I certainly will. I appreciate that and I appreciate your friendship as well and I'm glad we can chat today.

Kiera Dent:

Yeah for sure. So let's just dive right in. I know we kind of have briefly touched on this on a couple of the podcasts you and I have done, but that's on being a leader and I want to do a whole podcast because the other ones it's been like layered in there so if people are really listening they would catch it, but if they weren't, they may have missed it. And so let's just dive into the topic today of how to be a leader when you're not an owner. And you are so primeo because you've been an associate doctor, you've been in different positions and yet you've been able to take over. If you guys missed Dr. Jenny's last podcast where we talk about the toxic culture and then how she's able to lead that team even though she wasn't the owner or the office manager, go check that one out.

            But Jenny let's dive into how to be a leader when you're not in leadership per se, because so many team members it's like, "Oh there's four people on the leadership team, but I'm not that person so am I really even a leader?" So let's kind of walk through what you've done, what you've seen in your practices because I believe you don't have to be given the title and true leaders can lead even if they're given a title or not.

Dr. Jenny Perna:

Yeah I completely agree. As you said I've been an associate so inherently I think that anyone as a doctor is going to have to lead the team, whether or not you are just leading your assistant chair side or if you are a part of that leadership team and your voice matters within the whole team. I think stepping into that role is one of the most beneficial things that you can do as a doctor. But to your point, you don't have to be a doctor to be a leader. What even defines a leader. I think someone who motivates others, I think someone who inspires others, I think someone who doesn't lead with their ego, those are what makes a leader, whatever your title is within the dental office or in this world, you can choose to lead, inspire, motivate, and do all those things and people need leaders. And so I think it's a really awesome thing to do, especially in the dental office.

Kiera Dent:

Yes, I am a big person on definition. So as you were saying that I just popped up real quick, I said leader on Google guys [inaudible 00:04:18] who knows where, it's Oxford languages so don't worry, I'm sure that's totally legit, but they say "The person who leads or commands a group, organization or country." So its leading and you have to think about leading. I think of shepherds with sheep, like they're in front of the organization but they're not doing it through force, they're not doing it through yelling at them, it's people naturally follow. You look at Martin Luther King and he got all these people to show up. It wasn't paid. It was just, he inspired people, he motivated people, he had a dream that people followed. And I love that it says, "Who leads or commands a group or organization."

            And I don't think that's done with force. I don't think its done through yelling, like of course there can be leaders that are very toxic leaders, but like you've said, I love that you brought that up that you don't have to have the title in order to do leadership. So in your experience, I think associates a lot of times, a lot of associates kind of kick back, it's easy, that's why you chose to be an associate because you don't have to have all the responsibilities of ownership, but what about it... Like you obviously were leading a team and doctors I will put it out there, whether you choose to accept that you're a leader or not, you are because people naturally will, like a doctor is a leader. Whether you choose to accept that responsibility or not, that's your choosing. But I do believe all doctors are leaders, whether they choose to accept that responsibility or not.

            But as far as your perspective Jenny, how do people lead without a title? Because so many people, oh my gosh, this is like a hot topic that I hear, so I'm excited your angle. Is they say "Kiera I would be the office manager, but so-and-so hasn't given me the title. So I don't feel like I can actually lead my team because I don't have the title." And like what's your take on that and what would you say to these, it's usually office managers, sometimes it's team leads, but they feel that they have to have the title in order for people to follow what they say.

            Hello Dental A Team listeners. All right one of my absolute favorite quotes is "You are always one decision away from a totally different life." So what life do you want to have? Do you want more accountability? Do you want a team that's trained? Do you want to have somebody who thinks outside the box and creates just for you? Do you want to have a coach? Do you want to have team training? Do you just need somebody to kick you in the rear and get you going? Okay don't worry. I'm in every single one of those boxes and that's why we created Dental A Team Silver, Gold, and Platinum. It's going to be customized team training for you on the terms you want. So Silver, Silver is more for accountability. Gold, Gold includes all of our online training plus the accountability and Platinum includes all of that and in office.

            You guys I would strongly suggest you go join Dental A Team Gold today because you're always one decision away from a totally different life. So what are you waiting for? Hop on over to thedentalateam.com today, you guys we only have so many spaces so get over there today and sign up for Dental A Team, silver, Gold, or Platinum.

Dr. Jenny Perna:

Well, I think that you lead by example. And I think that, let's say that you are an assistant in the office and you're not the lead assistant, but maybe you aspire to be that. Not everyone is a leader. Not everyone wants to be a leader, some people want to be inspired. But if you want to lead and you have that pull towards leadership, I think that you lead by example, you hold yourself accountable, you have high standards for yourself, you stay humble, you don't lead with your ego and you are a true, true team player. And I think that's what a leader is. The leader of a team should be, I'm not sure if anyone's read the book "Leaders Eat Last,"

Kiera Dent:

Yes.

Dr. Jenny Perna:

Like that's a phrase for a reason. You're not doing it for your ego or just for the accolade or the title you're doing it because there is a passion within you that you want to help inspire people and you can do that, like we said, you can do that from any role on the team.

Kiera Dent:

Yeah, you're exactly right. And I love that you said it's not from ego, because I think a lot of times those people who say "Kiera I just need the title." Lovingly I would ask "Is that your ego speaking or is that truly leadership?" Because I do not, and I've seen it so many times, you do not have to have the title in order for people to follow you. You do not have to have the title for things to get executed. I cannot tell you how many times I've seen this. Like my husband, for example, he was literally groomed into being a leader and he didn't know it. He just by love and by his example and rallying a team was naturally leading all of his pharmacists at his hospital and then lo and behold, three years later, he was promoted to be the leader of the now multiple clinics within the hospital.

            And I say that, yes of course I brag on my husband, congratulations, but I say that because he did not have the title, he wasn't even aspiring for the title. He literally was just being a team member who saw a need and inspired people, rallied them and that's how you can lead. So I just love the thought of, I think that, that's a freeing zone too, that you don't have to have a title, you don't have to wait to be given that opportunity to take the leap. So for you, Jenny, what were some of the things that you did that were quote unquote leadership before you were actually given a title of leadership? Or maybe you never did get the title, I'm not sure.

Dr. Jenny Perna:

Well, like we said I think just being a dentist you have to lead, you have to be able to lead especially, like I said even if it's down to the granular of chairside, you have to be able to lead your assistant, so that way they understand the expectations and that you're going to be doing exceptional patient care, right? But for me I wasn't always a good leader and I'll admit that. I'm very humble in who I am and very much like to talk about how much I've grown throughout my life, but in my very first associateship, I remember I would have team members that wouldn't call me doctor, they would call me Jenny and that used to bother me.

Kiera Dent:

Sure.

Dr. Jenny Perna:

And I remember talking to another doctor who had been a doctor for many, many years, and he called me out and he said "Get your ego out of this. Like, who cares what people call you? Respect is not given it's earned." And that was a huge wake up call for me. And so that was one instance in which it said, "Okay be a better leader." And I can say, I can fast forward to today, I laugh, I'll be in an office and people call me doctor, they'll be like, "Are you Dr. Jenny? Are you Dr. Perna?" And I go, "I don't care." I really don't and that was because I was able throughout my career to remove that ego. But you know what I really noticed is that, in one of my associate positions I've had really good leadership teams and I would very much rely on the office manager to be the leader.

            So I got to say my opinion, that's just the person I am. I've always loved leadership roles and rewind to like high school I was in student government and I was the captain of my dance team. I always enjoyed those roles, but fast forward to dentistry I was like, "Oh well I'm the associate I don't really get to make all the decisions. I'll sit back." But then I found myself in an associate position where there wasn't a strong leader and it challenged me. It challenged me a lot to step up as a leader and that was what propelled me and I learned a lot, a lot of what it took to be a leader.

            I learned that you have to lead with compassion. I learned that you have to lead and be vulnerable and I learned that I had to be just as willing to hear the stuff about me that I could improve on and I could grow on so that way my team knew that we were truly a team and that we could all continue to grow together. And I think that was probably one of the hardest lessons, was to learn how to be vulnerable.

Kiera Dent:

Yeah. So I'm actually going to ask you... Great I'm glad you already said it's being vulnerable and you've learned, what were some things because ego, and then I'll share my side of it as well, I do think ego plays a lot into this leadership world and it can prevent you, like you said, not being called doctor bothered you a lot. I know I've had that too. When I was office manager, I'm like "You guys are going to freaking respect me. You're going to listen to what I say. You're not going to back down." Like whoa talk about an ego-driven maniac over here.

            So I'm curious from your angle, what were some of the things that helped you reign that ego back in and not have it direct your life? Because I do think that ego is probably the number one stumbling block in front of great leaders and they don't even see it. So from your angle, what were some of those pieces that helped you or some tactics that you learned to let go of that ego? And maybe it was just age. I'm not sure maybe just growing up, maturing I know that can happen, but maybe there were some specifics you had as well.

Dr. Jenny Perna:

I think as we get older, I think that we've learned that our ego doesn't get us anywhere. I think that is part of it. And I also realize that if I kind of let my guard down, I think part of the reason that perhaps my ego is shining through is this whole theory of like imposter syndrome. That if I let you know that I'm trying to figure it out, then you're going to think less of me.

Kiera Dent:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr. Jenny Perna:

And the truth is that you gain better relationships and you become a better leader and you inspire people more when you do let those walls down. And it's not easy and everyone has walls for different reasons, right?

Kiera Dent:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr. Jenny Perna:

But I think that was something that I very much had to work on and understand that every day I was going to grow and it was okay if I faltered, that doesn't mean I'm a bad person. It doesn't mean that I'm an evil person by any means. But if I showed up every single day and just tried to be better than I would inherently grow. And so I think that was part of it. It was just like letting down the walls and being vulnerable that allowed me to have no ego. And I have to say that by not allowing my ego to dictate anything has opened up so many doors for me and opportunities because it creates better relationships.

Kiera Dent:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). I totally agree with you on that. You become human, you're not some crazy person that's so far out of reach. You actually become very relatable. And I think when people feel that they can relate with their leaders, it feels that they can become that as well. So I love, love, love that angle. And for me, I think one of the pieces that helped me, I mean I still think I'm ego-driven and it drives me nuts because I'm like, "Kiera Dent like quit this." And I think they say, I heard a quote and it said, "When you're in your head, you're dead. When you're in your heart, that's where freedom lies." And so ego is very much in our head, like I should be this or I'm this way.

            So when I catch myself, which is not always all the time, but I'm reminding myself like "Kiera if you're in your head, you're dead." Like thinking you should be respected, like what are you doing to earn that respect? If I think people should follow what I'm saying, do I have clear expectations and do I actually hold them accountable? Or do I dodge away from those situations? So I'm actually almost worthy of those traits that I want as a leader. And then really being, I think my word would be like humble and listening when people tell me I'm a certain way, instead of being like bent out of shape, which is one of my first reactions, like "Who are you to tell me?" That used to be what I would respond too often and I'm grateful that I've morphed because I really respected the Dean of Midwestern and he told me, he said, "Kiera, every person I meet is better than me in some way and my job is to find it." And I love that because then you're on an equal playing field with everyone.

            So listening if they're telling you something about yourself, look to see how could that be true. If they're saying you're not following through, or they're saying that you're bratty or you're hearing that people aren't following you, ask yourself like, "Is that true and what's creating that to be true?" Because like you said that becomes that vulnerable state, that's you going into your dark shadows that you don't want to admit to yourself and I feel like leadership is just a constant evolution of yourself, of how you can be better and then you're sharing those lessons with other people and inspiring them to be the next best version of themselves.

            And you're almost, it's crazy as a leader I feel like instead of being in the front of the page, you're actually behind the scenes, like pushing your whole team to greatness. And that to me is, and it sounds crazy because I was like, "No being a leader, I'm in the front. I'm like taking them to war, we're going." But I found being behind the scenes and really elevating people in their own world is one of the greatest attributes that's helped me not be as ego-driven and ego centered. It's really focusing on my team and how I can help them be the best and celebrating them and giving them a lot of credit for being incredible as well.

Dr. Jenny Perna:

I think that's an absolute perfect, perfect, perfect point is that you don't need the accolade. And I think that's what defines a good leader is that you don't need to be the shining star in the organization. I would rather people come in, nothing makes me happier, I mean a lot of things make me happy, but nothing makes me happier than when I walk into the room and my patient is telling me how great my assistant is.

Kiera Dent:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr. Jenny Perna:

And telling me and joking, "Oh I don't even need to see you. I love Rachel." And I'm like, sounds great.

Kiera Dent:

Yeah.

Dr. Jenny Perna:

I'm glad that I can have people on my team that get that gold star. Like you don't have to love me. That's not going to do anything for me. Obviously I want my patients to love me. I don't mean that.

Kiera Dent:

Sure of course.

Dr. Jenny Perna:

I love when my team can shine and I'm happy that I can be at that stage in my career to, like we said, put that ego aside. And truthfully being a leader and we've touched on this, it's not always being the good guy.

Kiera Dent:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr. Jenny Perna:

And sometimes you have to be the bad guy, but if you have that good team culture, which we've talked about on a podcast and you have good people around you that surround you, you can have those hard conversations. You can have those accountability conversations and know that your team's not going to hate you because they respect you as a leader. But you can't go into a situation and just immediately assume people are going to respect you.

Kiera Dent:

Yes.

Dr. Jenny Perna:

You have to very much earn that from them. But I think a big part of it is also the culture that you have.

Kiera Dent:

Mm-hmm (affirmative) agreed. It's interesting we're talking about all this because yesterday my brother texted me and I said, "Hey how's work going?" I haven't talked to him in a while, they live in Ohio. And he said, "Things are great at work." I'm literally reading our text messages right now. He said, "I'm still learning lots and I enjoy working for my boss." And I think it's interesting when people say they enjoy working for their boss. I'm always intrigued by that when people say they love their boss. So I said, "That's so good, what do you love about your boss?" And he said, "Great communicator, fair, doesn't get hung up on small things that don't matter, sees the big picture and makes sure I'm only working on the most important things." And I wrote back and I said, "That's really impressive." And he said, "He's at the tail end of his career, but has been leading people forever, I get to benefit from years of experience."

Dr. Jenny Perna:

That's great.

Kiera Dent:

And I thought that was crazy cool because here's my brother who's new in his career, who's very impressionable and yet for him to point out things that are really making his boss such a great leader. So great communicator, fair, doesn't get hung up on small things that don't matter, sees the big picture and make sure I'm only, he literally said, I'm only working on the most important things. And I love that he has so much respect for this man. He has just almost like eyes of, I wouldn't say envy, it's eyes of just wisdom. Like tell me more, I want to learn from you, I want to glean as much as I can and I get the benefit of that. And I thought, wow if somebody could write that about me as a boss, about me as a leader, not in an egotistical way, but like that's what I want to strive to be as a great communicator, fair, doesn't get hung up on the small things that don't matter, sees the big picture and make sure that I'm only working on the most important things.

            My brother wasn't talking about accolades. He wasn't talking about being constantly supported. It genuinely was this boss that really was leading by example and I just love that. And I thought it tied in perfectly to what you were saying of, you're not hung up on those pieces of calling you doctor, you're not looking for the accolades, you're really supporting the team. And I just thought that was a good segue through it all, of almost what I... I want to even put that up on my wall of what a great leader is. And so whenever somebody says they love their boss, I would suggest you ask that question and why do they love their boss, or think back to a boss that you loved, why did you love them? And then start to emulate those attributes in your life as well.

Dr. Jenny Perna:

That is such great advice and that's very important. There's obviously very good bosses or leaders out there. And just to reflect on anyone that you've encountered, that's been that for you and seeing what those attributes were. And you're absolutely right, communication is key. It's key to every relationship, right? Whether or not it's a romantic relationship, your work relationships, your family, your friends, we have to start with communication. And I also find, and it kind of seemed like this was the tone of your brother's text as well, that he has some autonomy.

Kiera Dent:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr. Jenny Perna:

People don't like to be micromanaged. And that's something that I've had to learn as well. And I say this all the time that I don't have all the answers, I like things done maybe a certain way, but if you have a better way, let's hear it.

Kiera Dent:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr. Jenny Perna:

I would love to improve on things and not be the sole person in charge of that.

Kiera Dent:

Yeah.

Dr. Jenny Perna:

I think it's really important to empower your team and empower others to have that autonomy, to have creative thinking. And then as a team you guys can all grow together.

Kiera Dent:

Absolutely. I love it. And you mentioned a great leadership book of "Leaders Eat Last," there's another book since we talked a lot about ego, "Ego is the Enemy" by Ryan Holiday. "No Ego" is another great book, but I would say I know I started listening to leadership podcasts, I started reading leadership books. The "Go-Giver" is probably my guiding book of life. I read that a long time ago and I try to read it at least once a year to remind myself, but I'd say if you want to be a leader, leaders continually grow and evolve as well. So making sure you're investing in yourself, learning, ask people, ask people that are great leaders, like what do they do? How do they motivate people? How do they hold people accountable? And you will learn so much, like we've said so many times there's more gold in the minds of men than in the minds of the world.

            And so just like picking people's brains that are great leaders, what do they do? Asking those questions I think so many of us don't realize that we're great leaders and we could actually magnify that gift that we have that we might have just kept dormant because we've never been on a leadership team just like you did Jenny, and look at how much you were able to grow and evolve through that as well.

Dr. Jenny Perna:

Yes. And that's so right. And I think self-reflection is so important as well. And to sit at home, not get down on yourself about it, but be willing to hear that feedback and reflect on your day. How did things go? If you had a great leadership moment what made that a great moment? If you had a moment where everything was at odds and you did not show your best leader skills, what could you do better for the future?

Kiera Dent:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr. Jenny Perna:

And always just trying to improve on that. And you brought up some really great books and I think that's a lot of where when I was challenged the most as a leader, I did turn to a lot of those books and there's smarter minds out there and surround yourself with people who know more than you, who are better leaders than you, who are better practitioners than you and learn from them and pick their brains.

Kiera Dent:

Totally. I love it. So you guys go take on that leadership, assess yourself. I think that Jenny you and I, this is such an awesome podcast and I'm actually excited selfishly for myself to have this to re-listen to because there are certain podcasts that when I record them, I'm like, "Oh that's actually for me and I am going to pin that and save that and re-listen to it," but I also think that, that's a sign of leadership to constantly be refining yourself as a leader of how can you be better of learning from other people. So as always Jenny, thank you for just bringing so much goodness and so much wisdom today, especially like you said you're just an associate and yet I don't think it should ever be just an associate. Looking for how we can lead no matter what position we are in the practice, because everybody can, they can lead and there's lots of different ways to do so. So thank you. Thank you for your insights today.

Dr. Jenny Perna:

Absolutely. I'm glad to share it. And I have to say that just being a leader within the team and taking on that role, just advances your life in general. It makes it, like we talked about communication, it makes it a better communication in your relationships, friendships and family as well. So I hope everyone that is listening to this, whether or not again you have that title or not, just lead. Lead by example, learn all these skills because it'll better your life in totality.

Kiera Dent:

Agreed. Awesome you guys, like I said go follow Jenny, Yogi Dentist, I love her page. Dr. Jenny Perna and as always thank you all for listening and we'll catch you next time on the Dental A Team podcast.

            And that wraps it up for another episode of the Dental A Team podcast. Thank you so much for listening and we'll talk to you next time.

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