Want more from your team? Look in the mirror

February 2, 2020

If you want more out of your veterinary team, look to what you can do, not what you’ve decided they can’t do.

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A new year can mean a new you and a better team, but I challenge you to take a long hard look in the mirror at the biggest roadblock and the biggest opportunity: you. That’s right, it’s you who can get the most out of your team. Here are five things to get you pumped for a great year as a veterinary practice manager and, more important, empower your staff to have their best year, too.

Step 1: Change your perspective

Your perspective on everything from normal, everyday stuff to big yearlong plans really sets the tone for the rest of the team. I am far from perfect, but I try to start every day with a fresh outlook and an “I can conquer anything” approach. This rubs off on the team and before you know it’s New Year’s Eve again and everyone’s exhausted from a crazy holiday season but still laughing and having a good time. Hang onto your hopeful perspective—you’ll help keep everyone else excited to try their best to break records.

Step 2: Give team members the tools they need

Each person on your team marches to the beat of their own drum. It’s your job to figure out what makes them tick. The tools that you give Jenna may be completely different than the tools you give Brandon. Jenna may be a visual learner. Brandon may be a list maker. A great manager can really consider each team member and give them what they need to excel. (If you’re not sure, it never hurts to ask.)

Step 3: Coach, coach, coach

This does not mean yell, yell, yell or preach, preach, preach or poke, poke, poke. Coaching is far more productive and less annoying. Go back to the way each team member ticks. Some of them thrive on words of affirmation. Some of them appreciate more responsibility and autonomy. Others are rock-solid with current procedures but need to be walked through a process four times before they nail it. Patience and understanding are key!

Step 4: Reflect on yourself

Terrible day? Nothing went right? One person quit? All the rooms waited a minimum of 30 minutes past their appointment time? Two team members were crying? It’s happened to all of us, so you’re in good company—but don’t shift the blame onto team members or bosses or clients. The first place to look after a day like this is in the mirror, not to beat up on yourself, but to consider what else you can do, what’s in your power. Ask yourself:

  • Have you given your team the tools to be successful in their jobs?
  • Is everyone in the right seat on your proverbial bus, or are you trying to shove a round peg into a square hole?

Self-reflection before, during and at the end of workdays is a surefire way to improve your emotional intelligence and help you be more proactive, and less reactive, so you don’t take all the craziness of a bad day personally. This is all about how you can position your team and yourself better to achieve success and not have to endure days like this. Take the emotions out of it and think these things through.

Step 5: Share freely

Nothing was given to me as I was moving my way into management. So much energy was lost in scratching, clawing and crying to get where I am today. So, don’t do that: Share and share freely. Don’t play mean-girl games; coach team members, and give them the tools to not make the same mistakes again.

Take ownership of your actions—good and bad. Your team is depending on you. This could be your best year yet, but I suggest taking a moment to look in the mirror at the person who will make that happen.

Emily Shiver, CVPM, is practice manager at Cleveland Heights Animal Hospital in Lakeland, Florida.