I often find myself having conversations about staff development and clinic culture. These conversations usually go the same way: The veterinary practice manager, or owner, is frustrated and overwhelmed with all the work they have to do. They feel beat up trying to manage a team of support staff that may not have much experience in veterinary medicine. Drama and burnout are plaguing the entire team. As a result, the clients, the patients and the books all are suffering. How do we turn this around?
The answer? The practice owner(s) and manager(s) must accept that they are the culture. However they feel, think and behave is exactly what their team is going to replicate. Attitude and energy are contagious. Because of this, the practice leaders must strive for a higher level of consciousness, in which they maintain a positive, supportive and caring demeanor. You are leading by example, so always show the highest level of yourself. Always show up fully aware and engaged.
Being a role model means that you are taking care of yourself first. How do you do this? How do you find the time and motivation to provide yourself the resources you need to be a healthy, mindful servant? What are those resources? Perhaps it’s time to worship or meditate. Maybe it’s sticking to a plan of good nutrition and exercise. Maybe it’s having more hours with your family each week. Or getting a massage every month. Maybe you subscribe to personal development trainers and need time to study their lessons. Whatever it is that helps you be your best, highest-performing self, make it happen so that you can lead your team as the finest example.
The job of a role model is to influence others. To be there for them. You owe it to them to be fully aware and engaged. A great role model is emotionally and spiritually available. Jesse Jackson so famously said, “Your children need your presence more than your presents,” and this philosophy applies to your team, as well. They need you to be consistently available to guide them. You must be all of these things consistently because you can’t make a positive mark if you are crumbling.
Engage your team with positive energy, interactions and questions. Find out what is important to each of them individually, but also together as a team. Regular team meetings, a fantastic way to show that you care and listen, should address any concerns while maintaining an air of positivity and appreciation. A good role model welcomes feedback. Perhaps this is a good time for a team-building exercise or for everyone to share a “shout-out” to another teammate who has gone above and beyond. It is also a great time to have a think-tank. Thought-provoking questions that lead to group discussion also can bring out fantastic ideas and really boost morale. Remember the focus is on them and what they need in order to best serve your clients, patients and practice. You are there for them, the clients and the patients.
Lessons in mindfulness teach us to observe where we are and to be fully active in the moment. Veterinary hospitals can be very chaotic and stressful places. In that type of environment, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger goal, which is to serve and heal. Put some space between the stimulus and the response by taking a moment to breathe and process whatever you may be facing. I have a catch phrase that I love to share: Respond intelligently rather than react emotionally. In other words, don’t react impulsively. When we fail to be mindful, we are likely to react emotionally, and the outcome is usually less than ideal. A good role model should strive to respond intelligently always, for it is in those moments that you will set the best example and be your best self.
A good role model is a good communicator, part of which is to stop talking, stop moving and just listen. Listen to what others are saying with their words and in their behavior. Then, on the flip-side of the coin, it’s to keep the team informed of where they are going and why. Veterinary care providers are naturally compassionate and nurturing people. With those traits come a higher level of emotional engagement, including a need to know the “why” behind a requested action and how it is going to help. As the role model, you should be able to give them this understanding.
To help you enhance your leadership skills in your practice, I’d like to share two YouTube videos. I watch these with every new member of my practice’s team. They are both by Brendon Burchard, a world-renowned personal development and leadership coach. One is “The Ultimate People Skills: Positive Projection”; the other is “How to be More Mindful.” I highly encourage you to first study these short videos and discover what they mean to you and how the lessons can help you influence yourself, your team and your clients. Then, use these in your next staff meeting and apply the lessons to help your team work more cohesively and to strengthen the bond with clients.