Lead better by having more fun with your veterinary team

January 1, 2020
Julie Cappel, DVM

Vetted, Vetted June 2020, Volume 115, Issue 6

Part of being a good leader is allowing and encouraging your team to have fun. At our monthly meetings, which are usually well attended—we have free lunch, go figure—we discuss client service, hospital events, hospital policies and procedures, and we also make time for fun team-building exercises.

One week we did a photo scavenger hunt with two teams and two cell phone cameras. We ran around the hospital performing silly tasks and taking photos. Everyone had a great time.

Why good leaders want a fun workplace

When team members are having fun, they're less stressed. People that are stressed make more mistakes, take more sick days and have poorer communication than those who are less stressed. Fun reduces stress.

When team members have fun, they are more engaged in the business. Engaged employees provide better customer service to clients and pay more attention to details.

Productivity also increases when people have fun. Some fun or relaxation time refreshes us and allows us to feel energized, engaged and motivated, allowing us to get more done.

When work is fun, the business has lower turnover. When workers know that their employer has their back and that they are allowed to have fun, they're less likely to look for another job.

How can we create fun for our team?

Pay attention to your employees. Watch your employees to observe when they have a good attitude or are having fun. When you notice, tell them you love to see them happy and having fun at work. Participate in the merriment if you can and reward them for their great attitude.

Model a positive outlook. When you're the leader, you're expected to do better and act better. Do you enjoy your work? If it's not obvious, you need to share your feelings more openly with your team. If you have fun, your team will join you.

Allow them to have fun. It's difficult as a leader to see people who are on the time clock not working, but team members need a little space to chat, joke and eat together. One time I bought my team donuts we all took a minute to eat donuts together. This gave them time away from their work. Once they ate, they were much happier and were able to get back to work and serve clients.

Create a fun workplace. This is my favorite step when it comes to fun for my team. I love to create games and fun things for us to do at work: scavenger hunts, shopping trips, movies, puzzles, auctions. In an ongoing game at our hospital right now, we dress a Barbie doll in a lab coat and move it around the hospital. When a team member finds her, that team member must write a compliment about another team member and post it in the lunchroom on the board “Barbie says.” Then the team member has to hide her again for the next person to find. 

Work and fun are not mutually exclusive. We can create a more successful work environment by simply creating and allowing a little more fun. Lead well and have some fun while you’re at it!

Dr. Julie Cappel owns Warren Woods Veterinary Hospital in Warren, Michigan. She served as president of the Michigan Veterinary Medical Association in 2015.
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