Q&A: Stop yelling and start praising your veterinary staff


Team members respond better to honey than vinegar.

We're a busy practice and I expect everyone to do their jobs right. Is it OK that I correct my staff more than I compliment them?

—High staff standards


Take a minute and put yourself in your team members' shoes. If the roles were reversed, which type of leadership style would you prefer? Think back to the last time you worked at a job where you received more hassle than praise. How high was your stress level during that time? Which type of feedback—negative or positive—did you respond to better? You don't want your team members to feel like failures, but you can't jeopardize your patients' or your practice's health by letting errors slide.

In order to run a positive and productive practice, you must maintain a balanced work environment. When team members make mistakes—and they will, nobody's perfect—never yell at or correct them in front of clients or fellow team members. In fact, don't yell—period. Rather, invite the offenders into your office or address them calmly when no one else is around.

Even though we have a culture in veterinary practice that equates feedback with yelling or getting in trouble, it's best to get the conversation off to a positive start. Team members will be more likely to take your suggestions if they feel appreciated instead of backed into a corner. So first compliment them on something they're doing well. Then correct rather than criticize them. If you're just criticizing, that's not helping your team members learn. You must tell them how to fix the problem. Or better yet, show them how to fix the problem by giving them opportunities to observe you in action. Many problems come down to poor training or a miscommunication. Try to get to the bottom of the situation to prevent the need for constant correction in the future.

Shawn McVey, MA, MSW, is a member of the Firstline and Veterinary Economics editorial advisory boards and is CEO of McVey Management Solutions in Phoenix. Don't miss your chance to hear McVey's management tips in person at the Veterinary Economics Managers' Retreat at CVC in Kansas City on Aug. 25, 2011. Head to http://thecvc.com to register today.

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