'Seek first to understand' in the veterinary clinic

January 24, 2019
Dave Nicol, BVMS, Cert. Mgmt MRCVS
Dave Nicol, BVMS, Cert. Mgmt MRCVS

Nicol is a graduate of Glasgow University Veterinary School in Scotland. He initially set out with plans to become a surgeon, but almost immediately was drawn into general practice by the interaction with pet owners and the problem-solving opportunities that cropped up each day. Initially, this meant finding and fixing animal problems, but quickly it became clear that there were plenty of problems with how practices worked as well.

Instead of forming a knee-jerk opinion, start asking questions. You'll get a clearer picture of how things got the way they are.

Ever have a day that goes completely off the rails and then, as a manager, you're left to pick up the pieces? Come to think of it, that sounds like a lot of days, right? Fetch dvm360 conference speaker Dave Nicol, BVMS, MRCVS, suggests you take a cue from Dr. Stephen Covey. That author's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People advises readers to "seek first to understand, then to be understood."

"It's one of the most fundamentally important things as leaders we have to get worked into our day," Dr. Nicol says.

He goes on: When things don't according to plan, you may react in a angry or worried fashion. That's not exactly productive or conducive to getting your day back on track.

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On the other hand, when you seek to understand, you are coming from a position of curiosity-of wanting to get to understand things.

"Often we see one little snippet of information and we base our whole next series of actions on that," Dr. Nicol says. "You wouldn't do it in medicine, so we shouldn't do it when we're managing people either."

So when you start asking people open questions to find out what they were thinking in the first place, the next steps usually present themselves. And isn't that better than making the wrong call out of frustration?

Watch the video for more from Dr. Nicol.

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