Stop motivating and start inspiring your veterinary staff


Don't let fear of failure or change stand in the way of your practice's success. Get everyone on board by building a stronger sense of purpose.

As Dr. Allan called the monthly staff meeting to order, he tried to smile, but the recent report from his accountant weighed heavily on his shoulders. For the third month in a row, his practice figures had been significantly lower than last year's. Somehow he had to figure out a way to motivate his staff to work longer and harder—after all, that was the key to success, right?

For too long, business owners have depended on the carrot-and-stick approach of motivating employees to work more productively and profitably. But over time such motivation seems to take an even larger carrot on an even shorter stick. It's time for us to stop motivating and start inspiring.

Motivation vs. inspiration

According to Lance Secretan, PhD, a former CEO of a Fortune 100 company and an award-winning columnist and author, "Motivation, which is based on fear, comes from the personality. Inspiration, which is based on love, comes from the soul." Another way to think of this is that motivation is external—something that is often done to you from an outside source, while true inspiration is internal. Inspiration is a way of being that can be encouraged by another person who is also inspired.

There's plenty of evidence showing the lack of inspiration in the workplace these days. A study of more than 1.5 million employees by Gallup found that only 28 percent of employees are engaged in their work (meaning they are inspired and emotionally attached to the organization), while 55 percent are disengaged and another 17 percent are actively disengaged. This means that 72 percent—almost three out of every four employees—are either emotionally disconnected from their work, or worse, actively undermining the organization for which they work.

Purpose-inspired life and work

It's difficult, perhaps even impossible, to inspire others when operating from a place of fear, worry, or concern. So in Dr. Allan's case, the first thing he needs to work on is himself. Leading from fear often results in manipulation, coercion, and exploitation. So how do we move from fear to inspiration so we can then inspire others? It starts by reclaiming our sense of purpose and vision.

To safeguard a practice from the disengagement described above, practice owners must reignite their team's sense of purpose. Each person in the practice already has his or her own life purpose—a sense of who he or she is and what he or she is here to do. But on a much larger scale, consider this: When you gather a group of people together in a business setting like a veterinary hospital, there's the potential for a vision to emerge that will inspire everyone to take actions that are consistent with bringing that vision into reality. (See "Dig a little deeper" for an exercise on developing your veterinary practice's vision statement.)

Dig a little deeper

For example, one of my veterinarian clients created a vision for his well-established practice that was simple and elegant: to be of service to the community as pet advocates for all animals and their owners. Together with his staff, he explored what it means to be a pet advocate. This ongoing exploration continues to inspire the entire team to align their daily actions with their vision, reach out to an ever-expanding community, and add services that are consistent with that vision. For action steps, visit

Don't let fear take over

Our true purpose is a positive force that has the power to shape our life—our decisions, choices, and actions. But consider that we also have a second powerful force that shapes our lives in the form of fear.

This fear and sense of lack shape us, not only at the individual level, but also at the group level, as in a veterinary practice setting. And we live in a fear-based world that makes living a truly purposeful and inspiring life particularly challenging—but not impossible.

Some of the common fears I hear include:

  • I have to be open evening and weekend hours, or I'll lose my clients.

  • I can't charge what my services are really worth.

  • I can't take time off.

These fearful beliefs then become self-fulfilling prophecies even though, in reality, they are simply lies that have been told so long and so often they now masquerade as the truth.

Challenge yourself today to declare your true purpose, lead your staff in creating a purposeful vision for your veterinary practice, and above all, inspire them to make that vision a reality.

Dr. Swift is founder of the Life on Purpose Institute and one of the foremost experts on personal life purpose. Visit for more information.

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