Communicate positive attitude to staff


Ask any number of our colleagues to tell us the most challenging part of their practices.

Ask any number of our colleagues to tell us the most challenging part of their practices.

Not too many would express concerns about their clinical skills.

Only a few veterinarians would admit that their business systems area source of clinical gastric distress.

However, the overwhelming majority would raise their hands whenever theissue of communicating with staff came up. That most veterinarians eitherfeel (or are) inadequate at communicating with their staff is not surprising.After all, who of us chose to become psychologists and human resource managers?

How rather than what

Communication is more about how you think than what you say.

The attitude you maintain with your staff influences - more than youractual words - your behavior, and ipso facto, the outcome. No amount ofcommunication training can overcome a bad attitude.

A positive attitude makes for a positive environment and a more successfuloutcome; a negative one does the opposite. A mistrusting attitude will bringout the worst in others and confirm your every expectation. If you believeeveryone is out to get you, you are probably right. Paradoxically, thosewho believe that others are basically good - and behave that way, tend toexperience the best in others.

Evil vs. asset

You can predict the difference between what you would see in the practiceof a colleague who considers his or her staff a necessary evil vs. one whosees them as an asset. The former might resent the efforts to hire, train,pay, and deal with employees and thus would be more likely to have lessskilled, less satisfied, and less loyal staff members. The latter, on theother hand, finds investing time and energy in staff pays dividends thatmake the practice more successful.

Your staff wants to do the right thing and make you happy. No staff memberwants to do a lousy job, make mistakes, or annoy you. They all work to earna living, but we all prefer a job from which we can derive a sense of accomplishment.We also want to know that we have performed well in the eyes of those whoare important to us. The performance standards you set and the feedbackyou deliver is the key to your staff's ability to do their jobs well.

Of course, the question is whether staff members are receiving the completereport. Many complain that they don't know what their veterinarian expects.They regularly hear what is wrong but rarely get reports about what theyare doing right. Again, your attitude is the key.

Once they're convinced they cannot make you happy, many will leave aposition rather than endure failure and its repercussions.

No mind-readers

Your staff must know what is on your mind. Veterinarians tend to be internalthinkers. Employees are not mind-readers, although they may try to figureout what they are missing by piecing together clues. While you may havea broad set of concepts and principles in your mind, your staff may onlybe witness to a single application and thus miss the big picture.

Clearly convey your goals. Give them solid guidelines for their performance.Your staff will want to know when they can use their own judgment and whenyou want to be consulted. Unless you clearly define your expectations, staffjust fills in the gaps as they see fit. If you want to avoid incorrect assumptions,it's your job to tell your staff what you need.

Different agenda

Your staff's agenda and priorities are different from yours. Even themost dedicated and long-term employees will have a different perspectiveon the practice. Our largely female labor force works outside the home mostlyby necessity.

Recent studies suggest that young mothers would prefer to devote moretime to their children; they work primarily to supplement the family's incomeand/or provide a respite from home responsibilities. In fact, almost everyfemale employee with young children will report feeling pulled between theobligations of child rearing, home keeping, and extended family. Veterinarians,especially males, seldom encounter this dilemma. This is why female staffmay resist running over at the end of the day, attending continuing educationon weekends, or participating in evening meetings. It is particularly unfairto use after hours events as a litmus test for loyalty and dedication tothe practice.

Understanding, respect

Your staff wants to be understood and respected. People simply functionbetter when they believe they are respected by fellow employees and supervisors.

Respect is vitally important when you wish to have an impact on others.Your staff will be more open to your influence when they believe you havetaken into account their perspective and hold it in esteem.

Consider how understanding and respect impacts you. How likely are youto follow the guidance of someone you believe does not understand your circumstancesand/or does not respect your situation? You will probably reject this person'sopinion and look elsewhere for support. Your team is no different, and it'sin your best interest to invest time and energy in learning more about them.


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