Stop doing these things to become more successful (Part 2) (Proceedings)


These are issues concerning your interpersonal and leadership behavior. These are the everyday annoyances that create toxic workplaces. This is something you do that negatively affects someone else. This is great because they can be fixed, often by doing nothing.

There's Nothing Wrong with You

These undesirable behaviors aren't a reflection of you.

     • They aren't flaws in your skill as a veterinarian.

     • They're not flaws in your intelligence.

     • They're not flaws in your personality.

These are issues concerning your interpersonal and leadership behavior. These are the everyday annoyances that create toxic workplaces. This is something you do that negatively affects someone else. This is great because they can be fixed, often by doing nothing.

Stop These Behaviors

   1 – You Don't have to Win Every Time

Winning at all costs is a common behavior of highly successful people. This isn't to say competition is bad; I'm a highly competitive person. But there are times when we shouldn't worry if we win or lose. Winning comes at the cost of damaging a relationship or hurting someone's feelings.

Let's say your clinic has decided to add digital radiography. You and your doctors have looked at all of the choices and it is decision time. You are sold on Brand A but your two partners like Brand B. You debate the issue, point out that Brand B had one bad review and only some of the provided references really supported the product. You begrudgingly yield two-to-one and Brand B becomes your new digital radiology unit. Technical support is slow and you're without radiology for three days.

You have two options during this awful experience:

     1. Criticize the decision, point out how you were right along and how this could've easily been avoided if the other two doctors had only listened to you.

     2 . Shut up and say nothing.

Most veterinarians will criticize the decision and generally demoralize the other doctors. This builds division within the team and wastes valuable energy arguing that should be spent solving problems and pursuing alternatives. Most veterinarians agree that they should shut up instead.

Winning at all costs is not a strategy for success. In the above example, the other two veterinarians know they may have made a mistake. Reminding them of their poor judgment serves no positive purpose. Try being supportive, adopt a "can do" attitude despite the challenges (self-imposed or not) and learn from the experience. You'll be viewed as a true leader and your opinion will carry increased weight the next time a decision needs to be made. Fight and condemn at this time and the other two will become more solid in their partnership and strive to beat you and question your decisions in the future. Your partnership becomes fragmented and the seeds for future separation will be sowed. Don't be a jerk; you've already won. There's no need to rub their noses in it.

2 – You Don't Have to Add Your Two Cents

Successful people are used to being listened to. It's hard for them to sit idly by whenever they have a "better idea." They're accustomed to telling other swath to do – all the time.

It works like this: You (the veterinarian) hear two of your employees discussing their idea for labeling the surgery packs. The idea won't work, at least in your opinion. You just can't resist adding your own two cents. Because you're conscious about "not being a jerk," you start by acknowledging their good work. "That's a great idea. I think it would be better if you tried..."

Let's say you improve the original idea by ten percent. Unfortunately, in the process of adding your ten percent, you've reduced the employees' commitment to it by half. You took their idea and made it your idea. Worse, in the future, these two employees will be less likely to problem-spot and problem-solve because of this subtle undermining.

The correct way to handle this situation is stop after, "Great idea." The refinements will come; you may even be able to gently add any suggestions you have as the idea gains momentum and acceptance by your staff.

Ass leaders within our practices, our goal should be to encourage and nurture creativity in our staff. As with most of these behaviors, most successful people don't even realize they're doing it. Once you stop adding your two cents to every conversation, you'll free your staff to pursue their own ideas. Your practice will only benefit from you butting-out.

3 – Stop Judging Others – Especially Clients

In human medicine, if you walk in with a cut on your hand, your doctor doesn't judge you on how you cut yourself. Most of the time they don't care about the how of your injury; they focus solely on the what. Her goal is to suture your hand, not lecture you on kitchen safety.

This isn't always the case in veterinary medicine. Too many times I hear veterinarians comment not only about the diagnosis, but on the causes. "I can't believe this lady would wait, like, five days after she fed her dog bones and it was vomiting before she brought it to the vet." Subtle but significant. It instantly creates an adversarial relationship with our clients. The people seeking our help are now viewed as the bad guys.

This judgment extends to actions as subtle how we handle feedback. Think about a time when you asked someone how a particular skirt looked on you or if they liked your new haircut. Maybe their response was something along the lines of, "You look great." Maybe you replied sarcastically, "Yeah, right, you mean I look heavy (or older or worse, take your pick).

You just judged their answer.

You ranked their opinion as meaningless and dishonest. Imagine how that makes the other person feel. This is why people often hate answering questions about someone's appearance. It's not that they're afraid of hurting someone's feelings; they're avoiding the inevitable dismissal that follows their answer.

Your goal should be to adopt a neutral mindset whether dealing with patients or compliments. Stop at "Thank you." and avoid making accusations about your client's perceived negligence. People will begin to feel they can be open and honest with you and you'll approach your patients with clearer focus.

4 – Stop Saying "No," "But," or "However"

My work in television has allowed me to undergo media training from some of the best trainers. I've been fortunate enough to work with media consultants from 60 Minutes, The Today Show, and Hollywood celebrities. One of the earliest lessons I learned was the "No-But-However" Rule. This rule basically says to avoid ever starting off an on-air response with these words. These words tell the interviewer that you're right and they're wrong. News people hate being told they're wrong by a guest. One tiny word can turn an otherwise enjoyable interview into an adversarial one.

As a practice owner and consultant, I've learned that this rule is doubly important in the workplace. Anytime an authority figure adds their two cents by starting out by saying "No," "But," or "However," they are telling the other person, "You're wrong. I'm right." Maybe you are. It's still a jerk-like thing to do.

A few years ago I was working with three partner veterinarians who were dealing with a thorny issue (to them) of whether or not they should schedule staff training for two hours each week, thereby reducing available hours to see patients on that day. One of the partners was passionate about the importance of structured training, another was not. The third seemed to take the approach of wait-and-see.

I asked both veterinarians to state why or why not it was a good idea to them in about five minutes. The "no" vet went first. When she finished the "yes" vet proceeded. As the "yes" vet finished, the "no" vet pounced. "You've made some really interesting points, but..."

That's where she should've stopped. As soon as she uttered "but," she told the other person, "you're wrong." It went downhill from there (as it usually does when someone tells you you're wrong).

Saying "No," "But," or "However" doesn't tell the other person, "I have a different opinion," or "I don't agree with you," or even "Maybe you don't have all the facts." It simply says, "You're wrong and I'm right."

Stop before you say "No," "But," or "However." It's perfectly alright to disagree, just do it civilly and productively. These three tiny words carry serious emotional firepower. Handle them with care.

5 – Not Giving Credit where Credit is Due

Many successful veterinarians view their success as the result of their skills and talents. This is true, but only to a point. As you've learned, successful people tend to overestimate their contribution to their success. The reality is the successful treatment of our patients is dependent on many people other than us.

People we work with need to be recognized for their contributions. This need is a central component of being human. We need to be acknowledged and feel appreciated. Without this recognition, people seek it elsewhere. This is why management experts like to say, "Employees don't leave bad jobs; they leave bad bosses."

Giving credit can be as simple as telling someone "great job" or as complex as a thank-you card. The people in your life that you depend on most or contribute greatly to your practice need to be acknowledged. For me, I've adopted Dr. Ken Blanchard's rule of "Catch someone doing something good every day." A pat on the back goes a long way toward fostering relationships.

6 – Having Favorites

Let's face it; we like some people we work with more than others. There's nothing wrong with that, unless you show favoritism. Veterinarians need to be very careful of having "their tech" or their favorite assistant. If we work consistently with a certain staff member, it sends a divisive signal to our team.

Favoritism has no place in the workplace, especially if it involves owners or partners. The wedge it can drive between you and your team and your team and the "favorite" leads to disharmony and tension. Spread your attention equally, reward fairly and you'll create a true team-oriented work environment.

7 – Blaming Others

Blaming others for our mistakes is a serious flaw for successful people. It begins with a successful person's need to always win. It is followed by the tendency to make excuses whenever we don't win or meet our expectations. It is capped by an individual's refusal to apologize for their mistakes and failure to recognize others. This adds up to passing the buck.

This is also a key trait we look for in our leaders - "The buck stops here." Leaders or bosses who can't bear the blame don't maintain loyalty among their employees.

It starts out innocently: we want to find out why something went wrong with a patient under our care. As we dig deeper we discover that a staff member made a mistake. We've found our scapegoat and lay the blame on thickly.

The reality is that the care of our patients is our responsibility as doctors and leaders. Like it or not, our patients are our ultimate responsibility, no one else's. A good leader recognizes this and faults himself for not providing better training, protocols or systems to avoid the mistake.

When you blame others and fail to accept responsibility, you create a workplace in which people are constantly "covering their butts" and blaming each other. People often act as their leaders. Pas the buck and you'll soon find your staff doing the same.

The More Successful You Are, the More Your Problems Are Behavioral

Successful veterinarians don't need help being veterinarians. What holds most veterinarians back are these behavioral issues. The higher you go on the ladder, the more likely your behavioral issues will affect you.

Once you accept that these aren't criticisms of you on a personal level and begin to make changes, you'll find new levels of success you never imagined. If you don't, you'll still do fine. You just won't attain the greatness that lies within you.

Getting to Know You

Two Lessons

      1. It is easier to see

      2. We may be able to deny problems to ourselves but they may be very obvious to people observing us.

We must stop, listen and think about what others see in us. Unsolicited feedback, although at times painful, is the best way to learn about how you are viewed by others. You must avoid the classic denial reactions and really analyze what you're hearing. Few are able to step back and do this, but when they do, their entire world begins to improve.

Steps to Change

      Write down what people say about you.

The first step in learning what others think about you is to record those casual comments people make about you during each day. "Are you listening to me?" is a prime example (an done that should be addressed).

1. Observe People's Body Language

As you speak and interact with people, focus on their body language. Do they cross their arms, rock back and forth or avoid eye contact? All of these actions, and many more, are signs of discomfort. Maybe your employees feel intimidated or threatened; perhaps they don't even like talking with you. Take note of how people behave in response to you and you'll learn a lot about how you are viewed by them.

2. What are your reasons?

Dig deep as you answer the question of why you want to change. "I want to get in better shape so I can feel better about myself." Keep adding more and more reasons until you're completely done. As you dig deeper you'll uncover the true motivation. "Getting in better shape" may lead to "I want to live long enough to see my grandchildren's weddings." Now that's motivation.

3. Record your self-flattering remarks

Listen to how you talk to others. Do you say things such as, "I definitely can handle that." or even self-deprecating remarks such as, "Now I'm no neurosurgeon..." You can bet the next thing out of your mouth says you might as well be a neurosurgeon. These remarks are a technique designed to give you the upper-hand when dealing with others. This creates adversaries instead of team mates.

4. Work and Home Behaviors

Many of the negative behaviors that sabotage our workplaces are carried into our homes. Evaluate how you speak to your spouse and children. Make sure the lessons you learn from work are applied at home.

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Adam Christman
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