Free article: Effective leadership: Building effective teams

Published: Monday, 23 July 2018
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Steve Burnage offers advice on motivating staff, getting the best from them and building effective teams.


  • Create an ethos, through clear and inclusive leadership, where all colleagues feel safe and empowered.
  • Use strategies that work with employees as the key strategies for successful leadership: see employee learning and development positively and value mistakes; encourage employees to develop growing independence.
  • Lead staff using the appropriate strategies for the right person in the right context, based on their competency and commitment, to empower and motivate them to succeed.
  • Value all staff for the positive contribution they make to the organisation, for the mistakes they make, and for the contribution that each makes to your organisation’s success.

Truly successful organisations have a well-motivated and engaged staff who form effective and successful teams. This sounds like an easy leadership challenge, but just how can dental practice managers accomplish it?

Motivation: A key driver for success

In order for colleagues to feel motivated, valued and supported, you need to ensure that they feel safe and secure in your leadership and in the systems and structures through which you lead and empower them.

The psychologist Maslow (1943) might argue that, for this to happen, staff need to have their basic physiological and psychological needs met.

  • They need to feel safe and secure.
  • They need clear and consistent systems and procedures.
  • They need to feel ownership of their actions, i.e. the locus of control is internal and not external.

Staff need to be fully engaged with, and have ownership of, the areas in which they work. If you want to motivate staff and get the best from them, you need to lead and manage them.

Support staff

Successful leaders have clear and well-established strategies based around three things:

  1. Strategies that are praise focused
  2. Support that is individualised
  3. Clear, positively worded SMART targets.

In leading staff, you should aim to accomplish the same three things through clear, strategic and distributed leadership that:

  • empowers staff
  • engages them with change
  • operates in a no-blame culture
  • is appropriate to each individual colleague.

How you appraise the effectiveness of your staff strategically is based on your judgements of two key things:

  1. The competency of your staff – how good are they at what they do, and how do you know?
  2. The commitment of your staff – do your staff want to improve, know how to improve and are they willing to improve?

Just as you need to adopt different leadership styles in different situations, you also need to lead your staff in different ways based on their levels of competency and commitment.

The 'Checklist – Distributed leadership model' in the Toolkit shows how best to lead staff based on your judgement of their individual levels of competency and commitment.

If you use the most appropriate leadership style for each of your colleagues, they will be supported in their actions. They will be given the appropriate freedom and support to flourish and, gradually, strategic distributed leadership will flourish.

Lead them towards a team ethos

In motivating and empowering staff, dental practice managers should value staff for the positive contribution they make to the organisation, and for mistakes they make as part of the learning process. Each colleague should be valued for the contribution he or she makes to your organisation’s success.

In this way, you shift the locus of control from a leadership-centred model to one where staff:

  •  have fuller control over key leadership decisions
  • work together effectively in productive teams
  • are highly motivated to achieve the shared goals of the practice.

Further information

  • Maslow, A. H. (1943), ‘A theory of human motivation’, Psychological Review, Vol 50(4), July 1943, 370–96.


Use the following item in the Toolkit to put the ideas in this article into practice:

About the author

Steve Burnage works as a freelance trainer, consultant and author for senior and middle leadership, strategic development, performance management and coaching and mentoring. Steve may be contacted by email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or via his website

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