Pounce on good behavior

August 15, 2016
Jessica Murphy, CVPM

Saying "thanks" doesn't need to be mushy, sappy or awkward. Here's a quick tip (and a tool, too!) to appreciate your veterinary team members from Jessica Murphy, CVPM, a2016 dvm360/VHMA Practice Manager of the Year contestant.

Catch your team in the act (in a good way). (Photo courtesy of Getty Images.) I'm the first to admit I'm not good at giving pats on the back. I know it's true, because I asked our employees! The key: When you ask, be prepared for honest answers-and be accountable for your team members' perceptions.

Were their answers a hard pill to swallow? Absolutely. But we were up for the challenge, because our employees are our greatest asset. As managers, we tend to become myopic with the to-do list or the fires we need to put out that we unintentionally stop patting people on the back. Because of this, our management team needed help to create a positive environment where we thank or team members for their good efforts.

Our solution?

Orange slips-half pieces of orange paper with this simple (but heartfelt) message: "We caught you doing something extraordinary!" (Get your own appreciation slips here. You can print them on orange paper or not. Up to you.)

We give these slips to employees when we catch them doing a fantastic job-whether it's carrying food to the car for a client or completing a heaping pile of the practice's laundry.

So it's a piece of paper. Big whoop, right? Wait, there's more.

We collect those orange slips for a monthly drawing for a $100 gift certificate of the employee's choosing. The team has chosen Visa gift cards, Amazon, Papa Vinos and other restaurant cards. It's been fun giving it to them, and they're thrilled when their orange slip is picked from the hat. Actually, they vie to see who can pick the orange slip out!

Each monthly winner is entered into a yearly drawing for an all-expense-paid trip. The winner of the annual trip has a choice between two all-inclusive destinations. Last year the winner went to Mexico.

If trips aren't in your practice's budget, try a smaller route: monthly Starbucks cards with yearly $100 gift cards. The point is to make a big deal for good behavior. The recognition becomes the true gift.  

This initiative has been a huge success with our team members. And when I walk into my office and see that orange slip, it reminds me that my employees deserve a much-needed pat on the back.

dvm360, Firstline and Vetted will be publishing personal stories, in-the-trenches advice and bright practice management ideas in the coming months-all from entrants in the dvm360/VHMA Practice Manager of the Year contest. The 10 finalists will be announced at CVC Kansas City in August, and the Practice Manager of the Year will be announced at CVC San Diego in December.

Jessica Murphy, CVPM, is practice manager and co-owner of Kryder Veterinary Clinic in Granger, Indiana.