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What The Block can show you about successful teams in your veterinary practice!

Posted in Management @ Aug 1st 2011 11:55am - By Judy Gillespie
The Block 2011 - Teams

I’ve been watching (and I have to admit – enjoying!) the current series of The Block.  It’s a show I’ve never watched before as I’m not generally a fan of reality TV – but after last night’s 'Room Reveal' I was struck by some interesting parallels.

For those of you outside Australia or who don’t watch the show, it’s about four couples each renovating a very grungy house. Each week they have the challenge of totally renovating and furnishing a room which is then judged and marked on design and execution, with the winning team receiving $5,000 for their renovations budget.  The end goal is to sell the house at auction for the most profit.  The winning team gets to take home the profit from the sale as well as an extra $100,000!

So how does this have anything to do with managing a veterinary practice or small business I hear you ask?  Well, how about this: each team has a passion for what they do; they have very limited budgets to achieve their sometimes wildly ambitious goals; they have a range of skills from highly practical trade skills to highly ‘theoretical’ design skills; they work under extreme time pressures; and they are faced with unexpected challenges on a daily basis which means things almost never go to plan – starting to sound familiar?

Each team also has very different and fascinating dynamics.  Tania and Rod are a married couple and experienced renovators.  He has extensive trade skills and is able to do most jobs himself, she’s also pretty handy with a hammer and is the brains behind their design concepts.  Their power as a team is the knowledge they have of each other’s strengths and weaknesses, their ability to stick to clearly defined roles, strong communication and their shared goal.  Their weakness is that as they are so competent, they try to do everything themselves to save money and unfortunately limited time doesn’t allow for this.  Sometimes you need to bring in the experts!

Katrina and Aimie are sisters.  They are both fabulous on the design side and as sisters are able to emotionally support each other through very stressful situations.  This closeness means they know exactly how to get the best from each other.  Their weakness is that they have absolutely no building skills and don’t appear to want to learn.  This means that they have to pay for everything to be done and their limited budget just doesn’t allow for this.  Interestingly the Site Foreman believes the ‘Sisters’ are capable of doing quite a bit of their own work but they seem to lack confidence in their ability to pick up these new skills.

Polly and Waz are a couple who have been together for three years – and they’re my favourite!  They have never renovated before and know absolutely nothing about it – but they’ll certainly give anything a go.  I love that fact that even when the ‘experts’ tell them “It will NEVER work” they still go ahead with their vision – and end up winning the challenge.  Their weakness is obviously their lack of experience and skills.  But their strengths? They have an absolute ball doing everything!  Even when half of a lounge suite fell off the back of their car in the middle of a freeway they didn’t blame each other (and clearly someone didn’t tie something up properly!) they just picked it up, tied it on, had a good laugh and marvelled at their good fortune that nothing was damaged.  Now that’s how I want to run my business - and my life for that matter!

Josh and Jenna are a young couple who have been together for six years and have some good renovating experience.  Their strengths are Josh’s trade skills and Jenna’s eye for unusual design. Their weaknesses – hmmm – that’s interesting.  Josh & Jenna are actually my reason for writing this blog.  In the first few weeks their quirky design and shared vision made them consistent winners but now – well the wheels seem to have fallen off.  They consistently (and nastily) argue, there seems to be no planning – just reacting to every problem (usually caused by lack of planning!) and any communication that does happen seems to involves sniping at each other.

And the result?  Well – they’ve turned into the ‘Chumps’ – The Block's term for the team that achieves the lowest score.

So what sort of team exists in your veterinary practice or small business?  Are you Rod and Tania?  An experienced, well running team that is sometimes guilty of trying to do everything when it would really make sense to hand some jobs over to others?  Or are you Katrina and Aimie?  A really supportive team that loves working together but who should take the challenge of learning new skills to take the business to the next level?  Or perhaps you’re Polly & Waz (lucky you!)?  You really are making it up as you go along but as you all understand your shared vision, you’re determined to have a ball getting there – after all – if you’re not having fun – why do it??  Or worryingly – are you Josh & Jenna (I have great hopes they’ll sort themselves out!)?  It all started well but somewhere along the way you forgot to keep talking, planning and reminding yourself of the vision you all shared.  Now as you’re constantly putting out fires and blaming each other you’re no longer winning and it’s certainly not so fun anymore.

See – I bet you never realised reality TV could offer such insights into team building in your workplace!

So tell me – who do you think your team most resembles and how are you going to go about winning your challenges and NOT being the ‘Chumps’?


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