5 ways to manage change

January 23, 2018
Oriana D. Scislowicz, LVT, PHR
Oriana D. Scislowicz, LVT, PHR

Oriana Scislowicz, LVT, PHR, was a veterinary practice manager for many years before becoming senior HR specialist at Pharmaceutical Product Development.

As veterinary practice managers, we can help make our teams more adaptable and efficient.

On a regular day, you have a lot on your shoulders. On days when big changes are coming to the veterinary practice, it can feel like you have everyone on your shoulders. (Shutterstock.com)1. Hire champions of growth

Ideal candidates for positions on a veterinary super team get excited about re-evaluating processes and finding ways to improve them-even when things are functioning “OK.” There are ways to ask questions to see if the job applicant you're talking to has this superpower. Try “Tell me about a time when you were involved in carrying out a company-wide change in policy. What ways did you make the change successful and help get others on board?” Or, “Can you describe a time when you found a way to improve workflow or processes? How did you implement this change?”

Every team has a mix of personalities. Some people are progressive cheerleaders for change, others are ambivalent, and detractors will push against any change. It's important to focus on winning over your more progressive team members first. So, before you introduce change in a team meeting, talk over your proposed plan with change-friendly team members and ask them to help you evaluate potential hurdles and develop a plan to “sell” your idea to the rest of the team. These key players will help keep morale high during times of change and convert the skeptics.

Click on the image above to read more about facing big life and career changes and living through it.2. Create direct lines of communication

During times of change, make sure everyone on your team feels like they've got a direct line to you and the latest information throughout the entire process of change-from inception to the actual “go live” date. Team members will appreciate knowing the plan ahead of time, so they can ask questions and provide feedback. It's also easier to make changes when everyone has been plenty of time to absorb the plan. The feedback received will give another perspective on potential issues with the strategy and ideas for ways to adjust.

Then, after pushing the change in motion, keep the lines open by actively seeking feedback via surveys and in team and one-on-one meetings. This will create a culture of respect and openness among the team.

Sometimes time is not on your side in a period of great change. (Shutterstock.com)3. Slow down

Slow your roll, speedster. Significant adjustments in a veterinary hospital business plan don't happen overnight. Ease into your plan with small changes.

For example, if you want to work on team morale as a whole, don't start with a new set of company core values, a social contract and a “shout-out” system for compliments all in one month. Start by introducing the general concept, prioritizing steps in the long-term plan and giving a few months for each step. These gaps in time allow team members to adjust and tweak the plan to make it as effective as possible, instead of focusing only on speed and checking tasks off a to-do list.

4. Put every team member's abilities to work

Delegate responsibilities to team members-you're on a super team, not a dictator in charge of an army here, people. Then follow up with team members regularly. Involving the team in changes gives them ownership of the plan they need to make happen and means they'll invest in the plan's success. Before you implement changes, plan check-in times (such as every Wednesday at noon), and encourage team members to ask questions so you can clarify concerns and offer support.

5. Appreciate your team's efforts

Make sure you don't forget to thank your team members when they do a great job during a transition period. Remember it takes patience and determination for a team to come through successfully during change. Set aside time each week to deliver kudos to your team. Towards the end of the project, be sure to spotlight those individuals who carried the team through and led to the hospital's success.

These small adjustments to your management approach will allow your team members to feel more at ease and less burnt out in an ever-changing environment. With a primary focus on the team's well-being, morale will improve, which cultivates success on all levels.

Oriana Scislowicz, BS, LVT, APHR, is a frequent speaker at Fetch dvm360 conferences as well as a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and regional manager at CVCA Cardiac Care for Pets in Richmond, Virginia.