words of wonder

Lessons in Leadership at Q2 Camp

Our quarterly Camps typically have the same format — we pick a theme, dress accordingly, and get together in our beautiful San Diego office to discuss agency wins and areas for growth. This Camp’s theme? ‘Midwest Is Best!’

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Our quarterly Camps typically have the same format — we pick a theme, dress accordingly, and get together in our beautiful San Diego office to discuss agency wins and areas for growth. This Camp’s theme? ‘Midwest Is Best!’ The Buds showed up in flannels, cheeseheads, and camo gear — one Bud even dressed up as a lightning bug. We all enjoyed breakfast (flapjacks, eggs, and sausage links) before settling into our seats. Our CFO, Matt, walked us through the agency financials as we sipped on some diner-style coffee.

At this point, the Buds are used to seeing department heads get up to provide an overview of their department’s performance.

Instead, Michael introduced Dr. Blair and Mark Ketterhagen to take the stage. 

Our Midwestern Mentors

As Wonderist clients and native Wisconsinites, the Ketterblairs (as we affectionately call them) fit right in with our Midwestern theme. Dr. Blair walked us through the story of her own practice success. With our help, she rebranded her practice, invested in marketing, and exponentially grew Third Coast Dental. Dr. Blair and Mark sold the practice and are now living their best lives in Panama, where they soak in the tropical sun and set off on sailing excursions. 

The Ketterblairs are not only former clients of Wonderist but also the founders of Indie Practices. Together, they empower dentists to reach an elite level of practice management and profitability within two years. How do they do that? By coaching dentists and teams to embody five key principles of organizational health: trust, healthy conflict, commitment, accountability, and team results.

These principles aren’t just concepts to help dental practices thrive. They can work for any organization, including our own. So we decided to take notes and start putting them into practice. 

But First…

Why did we decide to spend an entire day focusing on these concepts in the first place?

We can always hustle harder, push initiatives forward, and come up with new goals. But if we’re not investing in ourselves to be outstanding communicators, collaborators, and leaders, we’ll never achieve the transformations we’re looking for. 

Here are a few of the key lessons we learned from our day with the Ketterblairs.

Lesson One: It All Starts With Trust

The Ketterblairs kicked us off with the first key principle — trust. Trust is the bedrock of a healthy organization. No other principle can occur without trust between your colleagues and your clients. How do you foster trust? You get real. You share about your life. And you get used to readily admitting faults and shortcomings. 

Around the room, there were nods and notes jotted down. But there was also a sense of discomfort. Getting vulnerable? Sharing our shortcomings? That’s not always easy. It’s as if the Ketterblairs knew exactly what the Buds were thinking. To get us comfortable with being uncomfortable, they split us up into small groups so we could put trust into action. 

In our groups, the Buds practiced lay up drills between clients and colleagues. During one of the mock conversations, a Bud shared that she has Invisalign, and apologized for her slight lisp. Her vulnerability immediately sparked a conversation between her and the client, which broke the ice and established a deeper connection. 

The Buds gave each other feedback on the delivery of our conversations and took turns rotating roles. Putting trust into practice was a little strange at first, but soon, it felt liberating. Ultimately, we abandoned our pride, set fear aside, and sacrificed our egos for the collective good of the team.

Lesson Two: Encourage Healthy Conflict

The Ketterblairs walked us through the second key principle — healthy conflict. With a foundation of trust now in place, our team was ready to embrace honest, constructive communication.

The Ketterblairs emphasized the importance of “mining for conflict.” They encouraged us to identify moments when someone might hesitate or hold back their true thoughts. Giving permission to speak freely, and then celebrating that openness, was key to fostering an environment where healthy conflict thrives.

To flex our healthy conflict muscles, the Buds returned to their small groups. We came up with scenarios that caused disagreements, whether with a client or a team member, which challenged us to debate and discuss openly. We swapped roles, offering quick, constructive feedback to each other. This exercise wasn't just about disagreement — it was about strengthening our ability to handle conflict in a way that was productive and positive.

Lesson Three: Can I Get Your Commitment?

After engaging in some healthy conflict, the Ketterblairs coached us on the power of commitments. They explained that when team members have the chance to openly discuss and debate ideas, they feel valued and heard, which naturally leads to a stronger commitment to team decisions.

The Buds learned that the best commitments are clear, confident, and concise. Effective commitments should include numbers and deadlines. They taught us that clarity is not only helpful, it’s kind. Clarity allows team members to openly commit to a decision and stick with it.

Once we understood commitments, it was time to put our knowledge into action. The Buds met with their departments and asked themselves important questions, like, “Do we have solid team commitments? Do we need to recommit to anything?” 

We also practiced establishing commitments with clients. The Buds came up with one common scenario where we struggle to get client buy-in. Then, we got up in front of our departments and individually practiced asking a client to commit to a decision. Speaking on the spot felt a bit awkward, but with trust and healthy conflict firmly established in the group, we weren’t afraid to put ourselves out there and get feedback from the team. 

Lesson Four: Hold Each Other Accountable

After practicing in small groups, we got back together as an agency to learn all about accountability. The Ketterblairs helped us understand that when team members truly commit to something, we can confront one another about issues without being afraid of defensiveness or backlash. After all, we’re simply helping each other get back on track with our commitments. 

With these concepts fresh in our minds, the Buds broke out into small groups with a deck of accountability scenario cards. One Bud stood in front of the group, selected a card, and read a common scenario. Then, the Bud shared what they would say to hold a team member or client accountable in that moment. Group members shared their feedback and quickly swapped roles so everyone had a chance to practice. By now, the Buds were on a roll. We were finally starting to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. 

Lesson Five: Track & Celebrate Team Results

Finally, the Ketterblairs gave us pointers on tracking and celebrating team results. They encouraged us to clearly outline what team results should look like and to regularly check the “scoreboard” when focusing on collaborative projects. This allows us to celebrate wins and get on the same page about areas for improvement. 

To put this into action, the Buds broke out into groups one last time. Two Buds stood up in front of the group to practice a conversation between a Bud and a client. By practicing these mini-skits, we got used to clearly communicating what winning looks like, sharing current areas for growth, and creating a plan to ensure a successful outcome. We even came up with creative ideas to celebrate wins with clients, so that they continue to feel motivated and committed to their campaign. Getting excited about results and collective success was the perfect way to close the day.

Takeaways From the Team

These principles aren’t just discussed once in a team meeting. They are constantly referenced and fused into every aspect of the office culture — both internally as a team and externally with clients. 

Think about your own practice goals. You may want to increase collections, focus on dental implant cases, and start getting more 5-star reviews on Google. How do you even begin to execute those strategies? You invest in your team. You foster trust, encourage healthy conflict, get full buy-in from the group, keep everyone accountable, and celebrate collective success. These principles serve as the foundation for a solid, healthy workplace where everyone — including the patient — wins.