6 ways to earn R-E-S-P-E-C-T


Do your staff members respect -- or better yet worship -- you? If not, you may be unconsciously stemming their admiration.

Coming to work every day is great—your loyal team lines up to greet you, doe-eyed, welcoming your calming presence to the clinic. Then you wake up.

If your clinic suffers from that dreaded malady of frequent staff turnover, pay attention—your team members are trying to tell you something. (Too bad you can't hear what they say about you during their first week at a new job!)

Your staff wants and tries hard to respect you, but they need your help. Check out these tips and become the kind of doctor that deserves their adoration.

1 You've gotta start somewhere. Does your staff view you as a compassionate and competent doctor? One with solid priorities that never waver? Do you act professionally as you perform your daily tasks as a healer? Are your medical and communications skills up to date, and do you treat every patient with the same level of compassion? Do you demonstrate your skills and compassion by caring for your employees' pets?

Your primary purpose is to provide compassionate care for your patients, and that's the first thing your staff members will judge you on. Your clients may not be able to evaluate your prowess, but your employees surely will. And if you fail to impress them, you'll never move on from there.

2 Walk the talk. Do you treat others with respect, from your most valued client to the bratty little kid rummaging through your exam room drawers? Do you maintain a professional demeanor with your clients and staff members? Are you courteous to your sales reps? (Telemarketers excluded.)

If you deserve respect, everyone else you meet during the day does, too. And just like Christmas cards, you've got to give to receive. Many doctors wear a two-faced mask, with smiles and cheer for their favorites, and growls for everyone else—including their staff members.

3 They do have lives, you know. Understand that your team has concerns beyond the confines of your clinic's walls. Though family matters shouldn't intrude unnecessarily at work, you need to make as much effort as possible to accommodate personal issues. This may mean you offer flexible scheduling, day care, emergency leave, or other accommodations.

For example, do you allow personal phone calls if they don't interfere with work? Are you flexible when a family member is sick? The old days of the workplace taking priority over absolutely everything else are like, way over, so get with the new millennium and integrate the personal with the professional.

4 Treat team members as equals. You're the most educated person in your clinic, but you don't know it all. From the receptionist who can soothe difficult clients with poise to the tech who can spear a cephalic vein from across the room, you're working in a building full of trained professionals—and you must treat them that way.

Acknowledge staff members' work and prowess to other employees and with clients. Shine the spotlight on them whenever you can. Ask for their advice. Doctors' skills and experience are often a yard wide and a mile deep. So rely on others' skills to give you breadth and help you through the day. And give them praise and a raise when they do.

5 Fair and balanced. Treat all your team members equally and fairly. Now, that doesn't mean they all get the same thing all of the time. But it does mean that you don't play favorites. Nothing is more disheartening than feeling like you're not treated as well as your peers are.

Staff members also need someone besides you to go to if they feel they've been treated unfairly—maybe your office manager, chief technician, or receptionist. Not having anyone to talk to is one of the most common complaints from people who've moved on to other jobs, so it has implications for your turnover rate.

6 Look like you deserve it. Invite respect as a professional from your employees, clients, and the community at large by using your title and dressing like a doctor. Keep your clinic looking and smelling clean and professional. Buy uniforms and nametags for everyone who works at your practice.

The respect you project toward the practice of veterinary medicine is returned to you from everyone around you. And you help propel the profession to a higher standard when you show that you're competent, caring, and doing the best for those around you—whether it's a patient, a client, or an employee. You'll become a beacon, and you'll attract all the respect and admiration you deserve.

You can't compel respect—it can only be earned. Show others that you're worthy of respect, and you'll be showered with it soon enough.

Editors' note: In what ways have others gained your respect? We'd love to hear your thoughts. Write to us atve@advanstar.com.

Craig Woloshyn, DVM

Dr. Craig Woloshyn, a Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member is showered with love and adoration by his team at the Animal Medical Clinic in Spring Hill, Fla., which he owns. He also shares his advice through Sun Dog Veterinary Consulting. Please send questions or comments to ve@advanstar.com.

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