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5 Tips to Build Teamwork in the Lab

How to Improve Communication in the Lab

When we’re surrounded by people who understand and support us, we can fly. We can take risks and know that failure is okay. We look forward to going to work. We’re more productive because we have more resources to draw upon.

This is true of any team, and especially for dental lab technicians, who must collaborate with each other and with dentists. We benefit personally when we’re part of an effective team.

But teamwork doesn’t just benefit us individually. Patients also benefit from care provided by an organized, effective team. The clear communication and self-initiated care from a motivated team leads to better patient outcomes.

Employers love team players as well. Companies hire for employees’ ability to work with others: Good team players fit in with coworkers and help foster a positive work environment. So if you want “teamwork” on your resume, read on!

1. Teamwork means understanding the goals.

In order to be committed to the team, every single member needs to understand the collective team goals. In a healthcare environment like a dental laboratory, the goal might be good patient outcomes, zero safety violations, or a completion target.

You may have worked for a company where management gave your team specific instructions without explaining why or how your work fits in with the larger goal. It’s hard for a team to stay motivated if they’re not clear why they’re doing what they’re doing. In the absence of clear goals, employees may jump to conclusions that are incorrect.

There’s no secret to having clear goals: Write goals down and post them somewhere they’ll always be in sight every single day.

Related resource: Why Every Dental Lab Needs More Communication With Dentists

2. Everyone takes turns being in a leadership role.

Teamwork isn’t just about what’s good for the organization or company. It’s also about developing the individual members of the team. That means giving everyone an opportunity to lead the group.

Sharing the leadership role mitigates possible resentment, in case team members feel they don’t have an opportunity to speak up. It also ensures that each member of the team has some “skin in the game”; that is, that everyone is equally invested.

Sharing the leadership role might mean taking turns leading weekly meetings, or encouraging alternate team members to participate in committees or company events. Try these:

3. Encourage different points of view.

It’s easy to take advice from people that agree with us. It’s a bit harder to be open to those who disagree. Consensus is important, but the best teams know that before a consensus is reached, each point of view should be considered — no matter how much you disagree.

To encourage different points of view, the group should consider these questions:

  • What does each group or person believe?
  • What do they value?
  • What information are they using as a basis for these beliefs?
  • What decision-making criteria and processes have they employed?

Related resource: You Can Improve Your Focus in the Dental Lab. Here’s How.

4. Encourage personal interaction.

Do you have a childhood memory of running into your teacher at the grocery store? You were probably shocked to see them wearing “non-teacher clothes” and doing something other than teaching! In a child’s mind, teachers exist only at school. It doesn’t occur to us that teachers have lives of our own, in which their job is only a small part.

As adults, it may be a surprise to learn that our coworkers exist outside of work, too.

While some people may not be comfortable socializing outside of the work environment, it’s valuable to encourage personal interaction that extends beyond “talking shop.” Try engaging team members in conversation. Take someone out for lunch or coffee to get to know them better.

If your team is open to it, these games and team-building activities can help people see past others’ work personas — and see coworkers as individuals who have interests and families and aspirations.

Related resource: How to Promote a Healthy Work Culture in the Medical Field

5. Find mutual methods for communication.

We all react differently to conflict. Some of us run and hide, avoiding conflict as much as possible. Others address the conflict directly and immediately. We all communicate in very different ways.

Different communication styles should be celebrated on a team — but everyone should know the process for communicating, and when to do it. To foster great teamwork on the floor or in the lab, a few things should be clear.

When conflict arises, what steps should be taken to address it?

Conflict is inevitable, in the dental lab and in life. Addressing workplace conflict quickly and consistently is important in maintaining a happy team.

Steps might include addressing the individual directly in person, writing an email outlining the conflict and sharing it with the group, or communicating the conflict to a manager.

But what about good news?

Celebrate wins collectively

Everyone knows the frustration of observing one co-worker being honored for his or her achievement while having your own achievement go unacknowledged. Wins should be celebrated regularly.

In the dental lab, that might be acknowledging a new skill or role that a team member earned, or a particularly great crown or other dental prosthetic.

When your achievement is acknowledged, be sure to mention team members who helped or supported your achievement. Others will feel satisfaction that their contribution is recognized; this helps foster team spirit and gratitude. Set time aside regularly to celebrate team wins, whether in front of a larger group or within the team.

At Ameritech, we strive to create a sense of belonging and great communication skills in all our students. To learn more about our accredited Dental Laboratory Technician program or other health care tracks, visit our program page.

5 Tips to Build Teamwork in the Lab