Stop looking for unicorns!


I think the perfect 10 employee is a mythlike Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and, yes, unicorns. Ive developed a new definition for describing the ideal team member.

(Getty Images)I've read a lot of different articles over the years on “10 out of 10” employees (Editor's note: Ahem. We're partial to this one). I've been instructed that as a veterinary practice owner, I should hire 10s only. I've also read a laundry list of traits and talents these 10s need to possess.

Now maybe it's me-actually, I'm sure it is-but I've never found these articles to be useful in a real-world setting. The 10s in these articles are always described in mythological, unicorn-esque proportions, their superhuman feats of skill and prowess making them sound more like fictional heroes Sinbad or Wonder Woman than anyone who's going to come to me for a job.

It seems I'm supposed to hold out for these fanciful imps and not settle for anything less, but no one has told me the magical lands I must travel to in order to find them. Furthermore, if everyone is supposed to hire only 10s, I suspect supplies will run out. After all, how many unicorns have you seen lately?

With this in mind, I want to propose a new definition for a 10 employee. I think you might find more of these to fit your practice.

Our herculean muscles vs. our Achilles' heels

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Everyone. Yes, even you. Come on, admit it. What we all strive for is to emphasize our strengths and steer clear of our weaknesses. Yes, much is said about working on our weaknesses and improving them, but you can't make everything a strength.

Thus, when it comes to finding an employee, you should seek someone whose strengths outweigh his or her weaknesses and whose strengths lie in arenas different from your own.

Let's pick on me for a little bit as an example. I have a terrible memory. I don't even remember the sentence I just typed. I am absolutely useless without a chart in front of me. My staff knows to never begin a sentence with, “Do you remember…?” No, I don't remember. I'm hopeless.

Many of my team members, however, have uncanny mental abilities and can bore me with the most mundane aspects of our clients' lives. They're amazing, and I'm so grateful they can augment my brain the way they do.

Another weakness of mine is that I'm not particularly socially adept. I can fake it for short periods of time, but like a dog paddling in the ocean, if a ship doesn't come along soon, I'm in trouble. However, again, my team members are real human beings who are able to effortlessly and authentically relate with the other human beings we call clients. Thank goodness for this, because their abilities deflect attention away from my inequities.

Our courageous quest for complementary 10s

What you want in an employee is what I call a “Complementary 10.” Complementary 10s make you better by adding their strengths to yours and have strengths in areas you don't.

I've often wondered what employees think when they see these articles about employees who are 10s, because the standard is often so high that everyone is inadequate by comparison. With Complementary 10s, on the other hand, everyone has something to bring to the table.

Despite how traditional 10s are defined, no one has to be perfect in everything they do. My definition of a Complementary 10 extends beyond what the employee does for me. It also includes what they do for each other and how they hold each other up-whether technically, through knowledge, or emotionally, via their behavior and character.

Finding the right balance of reciprocal and integrative talents and personalities so that the cumulative powers of you and your staff make your practice a 10 should be the goal, not having all of your employees be 10s.

I think if you look at your staff and your potential hires through this lens, you'll find a whole slew of unicorns.



A graduate of UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Dean Scott has enjoyed 35 years in the veterinary profession, including five years with the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps. He now practices small animal medicine at Animal Clinic of Brandon in Brandon, Florida.

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