How team meetings can make you a better veterinary employee


Team meetings are a great way to learn important skills, develop teamwork, and encourage communication among employees. So why aren't you meeting more often?

The 12:30 p.m. staff meeting finally began at 1:07 p.m. in the treatment area of Meadow Hills Veterinary Center, the practice I've managed for the last 11 years. Lunch was cold, staff interest was minimal, and every piece of equipment that had some kind of audio alarm seemed so be going off in unison, as if to say, "You need help because this meeting is destined to fail."

I began going through the agenda, unable to see some team members who stood behind cabinets and kennels. I'm not sure if I ever took a breath that day as employees picked apart my ideas, displayed a "What's in it for me?" attitude, participated in side conversations, and even complained about the ever-so pressing lack of a vegetarian lunch option. Yes, I had hit staff meeting bottom.

A decade later, I can finally toot my own horn: We've come a long way from that awful day.

Maybe you harbor a negative view of team meetings. You might use a few distinct (possibly vulgar) adjectives to describe a typical meeting at your practice. If these meetings feature inadequate environments, a lack of objectives and timelines, and minimal structure, you might even feel the desire to skip the next one. It's OK to admit. We've all been there.

It's easy for a veterinary team to say, "We'll meet next month." But next month turns into next quarter and before you know it, you might consider your yearly holiday party in December as the meeting you've been putting off. Singing "Jingle Bells" together might bring some laughs, but it doesn't constitute a legitimate team meeting.

Take heart: It doesn't need to be this way. But for things to change, you must stop assigning all the responsibility to your practice's leader or leadership team. Some of the most successful team meetings feature minimal involvement from the head honchos. This change in direction doesn't come easy. So, team members, you must understand that you bear some of the weight of making these meetings successful. You no longer just get to eat pizza and pretend to care.

Now is the time for every one of you team members to take a stand and personally acknowledge that this time we set aside to meet is important. It must be dedicated to finding ways to become more efficient, cohesive, skilled, and, yes, profitable. Each of you should bring your energy, talents, and experience to the table—literally. No more complaining or wishing for a better work environment. It's time to walk the walk and take responsibility for the future.

Your leadership team's responsibility is to help employees build skills and support them in a new direction. For truly effective and constructive meetings, team members should gain communication and team-building skills while celebrating individual and group accomplishments. Over time, the need for a facilitator will decrease. Meetings will start to manage themselves and creativity will increase.

Today, I reflect back on how far we've come since that first dreadful meeting. It lingers in my mind as a symbol of where we could end up if we don't continue to empower and embrace each member of our team. These days, our meetings start on time—and our team is much more successful.

Click here to learn more about this year's Firstline Live at the CVC in Kansas City Aug. 26 and 27, where Brian Conrad will teach you how to make the most out of your team meetings. Can't make it to Kansas City? Click here for the scoop on Firstline Live at the CVC in San Diego on Oct. 27. And for more help with your team meetings, check out Team Meeting in a Box for a series of comprehensive meeting ideas and activities.

In three words: Describe your team meetings

Brenda: Consistent core communications!

Jennifer R.I.: Team effort exemplified

Robin: Communicating, moving forward

Brie: Uplifting, refocusing, driven

Amy: Hmmm, we try!

Sophie: They don't happen.

Jennifer R.T.: Boss: No time.

Kat: They don't happen.

Crystal: Meeting? What meeting?

Jill: Wish we had'em.

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Brian Conrad, CVPM, is practice manager at Meadow Hills Veterinary Center in Kennewick, Wash. He was recently appointed to the board of directors for the Veterinary Hospital Management Association. Send comments to or post them on the community message board.

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