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Building a Culture of Leadership: Creating everyday leaders in your veterinary practice

Posted in Management @ Apr 23rd 2020 - By Tracy Kamens, Senior Practice Advisor, Vettr
Building A Culture Of Leadership Creating Everyday Leaders In Your Veterinary Practice

Why we need to stop asking people if they're a manager or a leader...

There is an endless number of articles around how leadership concepts have changed over the years - and now “transformational” and “servant” leadership are all the rage. But these concepts are still only being discussed and taught to senior management and those in charge. 

Why is this important? 

Whilst we might not all be in positions of authority; we can all have a positive leadership influence on the people around us. By increasing awareness of our own leadership skills, we can apply them to everyday situations – which benefits everyone. 

Why not spend the time teaching your whole team about emotional intelligence, empathy, ways to have better conversations, and how to deal with conflict?

Now, I realise that you can’t have a whole practice full of “leaders” and that there needs to be people with the ultimate responsibility of making decisions and deciding on the strategies and goals for the business. Despite this, however, I would like to challenge all of us to learn skills that can help us develop our interpersonal relationships. 

The concept of Everyday Leadership

I first came across the concept of everyday leadership, watching Drew Dudley’s TedTalk: Everyday leadership

He proposed that leadership shouldn’t be reserved only for those in authority and suggested that in order to keep ourselves on the right path to being everyday leaders, we should ask ourselves these 6 questions every day.

The 6 Questions to Ask Yourself Every Day to be a Leader

1. Impact: What have I recognised in someone else’s leadership today?

2. Continuous Improvement: What have I done to make it more likely I will learn something?

3. Mentorship: What have I done to make it more likely someone else will learn something?

4. Empowerment: What positive thing have I said about someone to their face today?

5. Recognition: What positive thing have I said about someone who isn’t in the room?

6. Self-respect: How have I been good to myself today?

However, while I like Drew’s concepts and agree with his overall concept, I find the challenge of being true to these 6 questions every day is a bit daunting.

Practical everday leadership

In my search for a more practical approach that can be applied to the entire team, I came across a study by the Harvard Business Review that identified the skills and behaviours most important in leadership. 

Reflecting on these, I would like to propose that these are important skills for all staff, no matter what their position:

1. Inspire and motivates others

2. Display high integrity and honesty

3. Solve problems and analyze issues

4.  Drive for results

5. Communicate powerfully and prolifically

6. Collaborate and promote teamwork

7. Build relationships

8. Display technical or professional expertise

So what might this 'model' employee looks like?

Let’s take a step back, and think about what a “model” employee might look like:

They are the ones that come to work motivated and have an inspiring “can do” attitude that radiates throughout the team. 

They are the employees who continue to work tirelessly even when the “boss” is away. They are conscientious and will admit when they have made a mistake.

They come to you with ideas on how to make a process better or with an althogether new idea.

They are not afraid to think outside of the box, nor are they afraid of failure and have a “nothing ventured – nothing gained” sort of approach.

These employees love it when KPI’s are set so they have a goal they can strive towards.They may often even exceed that goal. They are also great at getting the rest of the team motivated and excited about working towards that goal. 

They have a considered approach when communicating with others. They understand how best to communicate so that everyone is informed, on the same page and understands what is needed to make the day run smoothly. They also keep the team up to date if anything changes in the plans for the day.

Asking for help or advice is never an issue. Getting the right people involved at the right time to foster a spirit of teamwork and to improve efficiencies comes easy to them. 

Given all the above, their behaviour and attitude builds trust and respect which fosters great relationships with the team and the clients. 

Then last but certainly not least they have the technical skills and abilities to perform their job well and are eager to continue to learn new skills and share them with the team.

My guess is, if you think about it long enough, you might have come across people like this in your places of employment. I certainly have, and they are a joy to work with. We all have our bad days, and no one is perfect but people with a combination of the above characteristic stand out.

So, the question is…. how do we get all of our employees to be “model” employees?

Well if we look the concepts above – it could conceivably boil down to teaching all of our employees “leadership skills”.

Here are a few general concepts I recommend to teach and adapt to your everyday cultural norms in order to build a culture of leadership. 

1. Learn self-reflection.

We need to understand ourselves, our reactions and how well we adapt. How do we react to conflict in our workplace – when the boss is upset us? Or when we're upset with another team member? Is it fear? Anger? Frustration? Until we can notice and temper our own fear (keeping in mind that anger is a fear reaction) we will struggle to display leadership qualities. 

2. Empathy.

Empathy is the ability to take on someone else’s perspective and see things from a different point of view. Empathy is a key skill to understanding others and learning to adjust and adapt our thoughts and reactions. 

3. View mistakes as learning opportunities.

True leaders accept that mistakes are a learning opportunity – both for themselves, and for their team-mates. Avoiding destructive criticism, is a constructive approach that encourages accountability and the taking of responsibility. 

4. Be able to ask for and take in feedback from others.

We need to be able to ask for and accept criticism and feedback without becoming defensive. This is another fundamental leadership skill, that is definitely harder than it sounds.

5. Learn to communicate with a whole range of people

We need to be able to comunicate with people of different ages, ethnic backgrounds, religions, political stripes and personality types and learn to be open to a wide range of perspectives. It takes patience and focus to step out of our traditional biases and recognise our own subconscious bias’s as well. 

6. Be able to have a “difficult” conversation, even with those in a more senior position

7. Understand how to build trust and a sense of community.

Without trust, a practice will not function to its full capacity. 

8. Stay curious.

Ask questions and be patient enough to wait for others to answer. 

How to get these skills?

There are any number of ways to learn the above-mentioned skills, including free online courses, webinars, workshops, YouTube, etc. You can also check out the OnPoint Practice Coaching Events page.

However, one skill I would suggest you start with is with the understanding of emotional intelligence and how your behaviours impact those around you. I can also recommend the free Johari Window tool to get feedback on how others perceive you. 

The final piece of practical advice I have to offer, is that once you have chosen a new skill to learn, set a specific goal. For instance, if you would like to encourage your colleagues to be better problem solvers, then set yourself the goal that every time someone asks you a question, your first response is going to be “What do you think would be a way of going about fixing this issue?” rather than giving them the answer or doing it yourself.

You could also create a scorecard to complete at the end of the day reflecting on how many questions you asked as opposed to how many answers you gave. Only after you have 1 month where you have consistently asked more questions should you move on to your next new skill.

As with all learning, once you have decided you really want to make a change, it’s time to jump in and give it a go. I also recommend telling your colleagues you are going to be trying a few new things and welcome feedback. 

Great leaders don't set out to be leaders...

They set out to make a difference

- Jeremy Bravo

This quote resonates with me, as I truly believe that we all want to make a difference in the lives of pets and the people around us, which in my mind cements the reason why I think Everyday Leadership is so important to embrace. 

If you have any questions for Tracy on how build a culture of leadership, ask them in the Comments section below.

This post was originally published on the OnPoint Practice Coaching Blog and has been republished with full permission. 

About Tracy

Tracy has over 25 years experience in the veterinary industry, having worked as a nurse, practice manager, practice owner, industry rep, several buying groups and now Senior Practice Advisor for Vettr

She is passionate about finding ways to help businesses improve and grow. Mentoring staff to achieve their potential along with customer service and marketing are some of the key areas she enjoys. If you would like to get in contact feel free to email



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