ITI Blog

You got the power!

Majd Al Mardini

Table of Contents

Empowering your team members is the recipe for a successful practice. This can be accomplished in many ways. Showing your team members that you trust them is one way of empowering them. It is helpful to get to know your team members personally to build this trust. Making time to catch up with your team members will keep them engaged, as opposed to having a transactional culture in the office that is based on orders and tasks.


Trusting your team members will allow them to go beyond the call of duty. The next time you assign a task to a team member, consider outlining the deliverables but allow them to do the task their way. You need to try and develop leaders and stretch their potential. You cannot hold people responsible for results when you dictate the way they must complete a task.


Another way you can empower your team members is by mentoring them and giving them the tools to be successful, whether by providing guiding steps, resources, or education. Try to concentrate on their strengths rather than focusing on their weaknesses. Most importantly, you need to show your appreciation and reinforce their good work with positive feedback. The worst habit that many of us have is not acknowledging the good work that our team members do. The most severe punishment you can inflict on a team member is to not recognize their efforts or good work.

Empowering your team by giving them the guidance and the framework for success will benefit your practice tremendously.

Priming people for low or high power

Many social experiments have shown that empowering people enables action, proactivity, and makes the burden of mundane everyday tasks more tolerable. In an interesting study by Galinsky et al., participants were primed for one of two groups: low-power or high-power. 

Priming people to be in a low or high-power position is usually done by assigning them to a position such as a subordinate or supervisor, for example. Other ways of priming people is to have them write a story about an experience when they felt empowered or had power over people to prime them to feel powerful.

In the above experiment the participants were placed in a room and asked to perform a task. The room had a floor fan that was annoying. The researchers were more interested in monitoring who would take action in regard to the annoying fan rather than in the task. 

People primed for low power took action around 40% of the time as compared to more than 70% in the high-power group. So, there was a greater tendency for people in the high-power group to do something about the fan to stop it bothering them. When people feel they have power, they will be more proactive and take more action.

False feedback

Another study done by Galinsky et al. to address the effects of false feedback on the two power groups also showed that people primed for power were less likely to conform to other people’s opinions. When people feel powerful, they are less affected by the opinion of others when making decisions or developing new ideas and concepts. In other words, empowering the right team will prevent the creation of a toxic work culture.

Powerless vs powerful

There is evidence that powerless people, relative to powerful people, see life as more challenging because of their lack of control. A powerless person will find a task more challenging than a powerful person because of their lack of control over resources, opportunities, and rewards. The powerless, compared with the powerful, experience a lower potential for future actions, which results in tasks being perceived as more challenging.

How heavy is the box?

In a study by Lee et al. that tested the link between power and the perception of weight, researchers asked participants to lift a box and estimate its weight. After a short break, the participants were then primed for high or low power and asked to repeat the task. The low-power group consistently perceived the box as heavier than the high-power group. In the high-power condition, the weight was estimated as lower after the break than before. There was no such reduction in the low-power group – participants in the powerless condition continued to provide inflated estimates.

Researchers asked participants to lift a box and estimate its weight

When the researcher introduced a control (not primed) group to the study, the change in weight estimates differed as a function of power, showing reduced weight estimates for the high-power and control conditions compared to the low power condition. In other words, both the high-power and the neutral conditions showed adaptation. It was only the lack of power that impacted weight perception relative to a neutral state. People deprived of power will likely be unable to attain enough resources for difficult actions ahead, and would experience perceptual attributes of the world around them in an exaggerated fashion. Consequently, further activities would be discouraged with the goal of preserving their existing resources.

From powerless to empowered

To conclude, the present work suggests that feeling powerless – whether because of inherent personality characteristics when dealing with others or because of being in a disadvantaged social position – strongly affects perceptions. This could well be because people without power are faced with challenges, for which they lack the necessary resources. The world of the powerless is indeed full of heavy burdens. The weight is related to the burden, and empowering people changes the way the burden is perceived. The same burden may be perceived as an opportunity by one and an insurmountable task by another. 

Power enables action, proactivity, increases adaptation and reduces the heavy load of mundane daily tasks in dental practices. If you want to have a proactive, and creative team that is willing to take action in your practice, start empowering your team members.

To find out more about managing your practice and your team, check out our flexible online Dental Practice Management course!


Majd Al Mardini
Majd Al Mardini
Majd Al Mardini, D.D.S., MBA., FRCD(C), is a Maxillofacial Prosthodontist. He completed his MBA at Cornell and Queen Universities. Dr. Al Mardini maintains a private practice in Hamilton, Canada and is the director of the Maxillofacial Prosthetics Unit at Princess Margaret Cancer Center in Toronto. He is a Fellow of the ITI, a fellow of RCDC, a fellow of AAMP, and an ITI business mentor for North America.

Galinsky, A. D., Gruenfeld, D. H. & Magee, J. C. (2003) From power to action. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 85(3): 453 – 466.
Galinsky, A. D., Magee, J. C., Gruenfeld, D. H, Whitson, J. A., & Liljenquist, K. A. (2008) Power reduces the press of the situation: Implications for creativity, conformity, and dissonance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 95(6): 1450 – 1466.
Lee, E. H., & Schnall, S. (2014) The Influence of Social Power on Weight Perception. Journal of Experimental Psychology. General 143(4): 1719 – 1725.


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