Success Accelerants: Finding the Momentum to Win

Posted By

Weston Lunsford


August 18, 2020

One of my absolute passions in life is mountain biking. I could seriously spend time everyday biking the beautiful mountains of Utah where I and my family live, exploring the countless trails and enjoying the stunning views available at the end of a steep vertical climb. I’m happily addicted.

In addition to my love for riding, I also have the privilege of coaching my son’s high school mountain biking team. There are close to 150 kids on our team, and I love each of them. They come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, as well as abilities. Some are incredibly competitive, and a few could even make a career out of the sport. But most are less ambitious, and ride just for the fun and fulfillment that comes as they do so.


One of the most rewarding (and exhausting) opportunities I have as a coach are the competitions. These are grueling. Here in Utah, we have many different environments to race in, which makes for a lot of fun and variety. During a recent race in the famous red rocks of Moab, I had an experience that taught me about the power of “success accelerants,” and how this principle can be applied to a dental practice trying to reach a difficult goal.

According to author and motivational speaker Shawn Achor, a success accelerant is the “X-spot” in our brain that is activated when we are within sight of reaching a goal. For example, that moment at the end of a marathon when a runner sees the finish line and accelerates during those last hundred yards. Where does that surge of adrenaline come from, and most importantly, does it only apply to elite athletes?

“The X-spot illustrates how forceful goal attainment can be in terms of increased energy and focus. When your brain recognizes that success is not only possible but now probable, the reaction is physically powerful. Similarly, in football, running backs are said to have a ‘nose for the end zone.’ With the goal line right there, players’ brains sanction the release of greater energy rather than reserving it for later rewards. They are thus flooded with increased vigor, speed, mental clarity and toughness. Of course, this phenomenon doesn’t occur only in sports. 

“No matter what your goal is—whether it’s finishing a marathon, completing a big project at work, or losing 20 pounds—your brain behaves in the exact same way. What if we could access that increased energy, focus and drive not just as we approached the finish line, but at any point in the race?”


Back to my mountain biking team in Moab. Austin, one of the best bikers on my team, had consistently been placing second in races for several weeks. He was frustrated by this and kept telling the team, “I’m going to get first in Moab. I know how to do it. I have a plan.” When I asked him what his plan was, he told me he was going to stay in the pack of the top four riders during the entire twenty-mile race, and then, at the end, he had a strategy for how to finish ahead of the other riders.

And guess what? He did it!


As he approached the finish line, Austin’s “success accelerant” kicked in and he was able to call on a reservoir of energy that carried him to victory. It was truly one of my greatest coaching moments to watch him achieve this goal. The moment after Austin finished this race, he collapsed. He literally stepped off his bike, took a step, and then fell to the ground. You can imagine what was going through my mind, right? The medical team and I hurried over to him to make sure everything was okay, and happily, he was just completely spent. He’d pushed himself to the absolute limit in order to win that race. He’d found a way to access his mental “success accelerants” in order to push himself past the temporary pain and on to a thrilling victory.


Your Dental Practice “Success Accelerants”

In Dental Intelligence’s work with thousands of dental practices around the country, we’ve seen many different paths to success. This being true, there are a few “success accelerants” that are applicable regardless of the size or type of a dental practice. I’ll briefly touch on just two. My favorite definition of success accelerants is a simple one: It’s when you recognize that you have the ability to win. Whether in mountain biking, marathon running, or in the day-to-day grind of managing a dental practice, your success won’t accelerate until you can visualize the finish line and believe you have the capacity to cross it.


The Power of Incremental Improvement

Often when setting a goal, we think big. Nothing wrong with that. A favorite quote affirming this is the one attributed to Chicago architect Daniel Burnham:

''Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency.”

Big plans or goals do stir our souls. They get our heart pumping with excitement as we contemplate what reaching them will look and feel like. The problem many of us face, including members of a dental practice team, is in the how, as in, “How will I reach this goal?” As someone once said, a goal without a plan is only a wish. Behold the power of succeeding incrementally. Setting small, incremental goals leading to achieving more substantial goals isn’t a new idea, of course. Here’s an example of this from The Unmistakable Creative Podcast host Srinivas Rao:

“Let’s say you have a goal to earn 100,000 dollars this year from your business but you’re currently only at 10,000 dollars. You’re attempting to bridge a 90,000-dollar gap. But if you set your next milestone as 15,000 dollars, you’re only trying to bridge a 5,000-dollar gap. Since your brain makes progress towards a goal based on how close it thinks it actually is, 15,000 dollars would actually be a better goal than 100,000 dollars. Once you reach 15,000 you can reset the goal and make your next milestone 20,000 dollars and so on.”

This can easily be applied to your dental practice right now. Let’s say you’re currently at $50,000 in monthly production and want to double that to $100,000. That’s awesome…and also a huge increase. What could you possibly do to create this kind of aggressive growth? Here’s another thing to think about. What will you do when an inevitable setback occurs on your pathway to reaching this goal? The power of incremental improvement relieves, or at least reduces, the risk of failure here. Instead of trying to make the leap from $50,000 to $100,000, start with a smaller increment. This is where a data analytics system like Dental Intelligence becomes essential. We enable dental practices to drill down into their actual performance, allowing them to see and understand what is happening right now in all of their key performance indicators.

As you review these metrics, pay particular attention to your current treatment acceptance. By focusing on this important KPI, you’ll soon realize there are simple, incremental steps that can be taken to see an increase in the percentage of patients accepting treatment. Perhaps some modifications to wording when presenting treatment are needed. Maybe you need to add an intraoral camera and an iPad the patient can look at with you to see areas of concern. Or perhaps certain team members are more effective in presenting treatment as a team than are others and can share what they’re doing with other team members? Without the need for dramatic and potentially expensive changes to your current approach to presenting treatment, taking incremental steps can be a powerful “success accelerant” toward reaching your goal of $100,000 in monthly production. I love what Srinivas Rao suggests here:

“When you focus on incremental progress, you’re able to easily change the perception of your current progress to one in which the probability of reaching a goal feels inevitable. Put yourself in closer proximity to the finish line. When you get past it, simply reset and pick a new finish line. Through a combination of measurement and incremental progress and success accelerants you’re able to only create and sustain momentum but reach your goals much faster.”


Magnify Your Target

The second success accelerant I want to talk about is that of magnifying your target. Here’s how that works, according to Shawn Achor:

“Target size refers to the perceived likelihood of attaining a goal, not how important or ambitious the goal is. Think about darts. The larger the bull’s-eye, the more likely you are to hit it. Does that make hitting the bull’s-eye a great accomplishment? Not particularly, but it does make it more achievable, and that fact isn’t lost in your subconscious.”

What does this have to do with the success of your dental practice? Quite a bit, actually, especially as it pertains to the goal of increasing treatment acceptance. There is a great deal of skill involved in successfully presenting treatment to patients. Many different factors can influence acceptance, both positively and negatively. Treatment acceptance begins the moment a patient enters your office, or perhaps even before they walk through the door. How were they treated on the phone? What were their impressions of your office and team? Did they like your assistant? What was the reason they called your practice? The list of influencing factors is almost endless. As a team, it pays to have regular conversations about the overall patient experience and how it influences treatment acceptance. Do everything in your power to “magnify the target” of success.

Here’s an example Achor shares from the world of baseball:

“According to sports statisticians, different stadiums are better for hitting home runs than others. And it’s not just the size of the park that matters: ‘Park factors’ also include wind, building features that block wind, temperature, altitude, humidity and so on. Players know exactly which stadiums are good for hitting home runs and which aren’t. So, what happens if a player is moved to a team whose ballpark has greater park factors than his current one—say 28.8 percent better? Statistically, one would expect that he should hit 28.8 percent more home runs. But an analysis found that the player actually hits 60 percent more home runs (and weaker hitters benefit most).”

“Why? The answer lies in the target size. If you believe you have a higher likelihood of hitting a home run, you’re more likely to swing for the fences. In business and life, just as in baseball, our perceptions can affect whether we give something our all. One way to increase your ‘park factors’ is to set reasonable goals. Let’s say you want to increase your clients from 15 to 25 in the next month but aren’t optimistic about your chances. Why not set the seemingly more doable goal of adding five new clients in two weeks’ time? The number of clients to add within a certain time frame hasn’t changed, of course, but adding five clients at a time seems less daunting.”


So, how does this relate to your dental practice? Think for a minute about all of the treatment presented by everyone in a practice, both doctors and hygienists. Tens of thousands of dollars a day, right? Now, in your practice, right now, how much of that treatment is being accepted each day? Is this something you’re tracking? Here’s another thing to consider: Are certain doctors or treatment teams seeing a higher acceptance percentage than are other providers or treatment teams? Do you know? This is not an easy metric to track without access to some powerful analytics tools. But knowing this would be a huge thing for your practice, right? If you knew, for example, that a certain doctor and dental assistant, presenting treatment together, were getting ten or twenty or even thirty percent more treatment acceptance than were other team members; knowing what they are doing and having them teach others what they are doing could have a transformative impact on the health of your patients and practice, correct?

The opposite is also true. If you had a hygienist, Sherry, for instance, who’s treatment acceptance percentage was lower than other hygienists on your team, it would be great to know that so that you can help Sherry improve and, critically, to help her know and feel that she is improving and contributing. Data should never be used as a weapon. Think of the impact to your team culture if your top-performing hygienist, Kate, was able to coach and encourage Sherry to replicate some of the things Kate’s doing to help patients accept treatment? Wouldn’t this be meaningful for both Sherry and Kate? For Sherry, this would be a powerful “success accelerant” as she sees her “target” increase in size. “If Kate can do it, so can I.” Instead of getting discouraged by the gap between her performance and Kate’s performance, she would instead experience an acceleration of her growth as Kate and others help her “magnify” her belief in the possibility of improving her treatment acceptance percentage.

Success accelerants are incredibly powerful. Discovering your practice “X-spot” can lead to some incredible growth and performance. Treatment acceptance percentage is a great place to start, but certainly there are other KPIs that are equally important to pay attention to. Start incrementally. And then stick with it. Find ways to help your team magnify the target so that success seems more likely to occur. Exciting things are sure to start happening.

If you would like to learn more about ways to accelerate the success of your practice, Dental Intelligence is here to help. Visit us here to request a free practice analysis, or give us a call anytime at 855.776.2673.


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