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You get the veterinary team you deserve

Posted in Management @ Jun 7th 2015 - By Judy Gillespie
What behaviours do you see when you look in the mirror?

The fact is, if you’re the owner of a veterinary practice then the culture of your business starts with you. 

Harsh?  Maybe, but unfortunately true when it comes to workplace culture in your veterinary business.

Sure your Practice Manager and the rest of the team also have an impact on the culture in your workplace but by far the greatest impact comes from you.

There are cases where workers who had been fired for swearing at their bosses were found to have been dismissed unfairly.

Now on the face of it, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to loudly proclaim that “In my day, that would never have happened!  Standards in society have fallen to a sad new level”.  But the reality? It seems that in each of these workplaces bad language was regularly used and accepted.  This means that even if you have a policy in place that states that bad language is not tolerated, it’s useless if as a practice owner or manager, you regularly swear.

This is also true for pretty much everything else that happens in your workplace including: workplace health and safety, harassment & bullying and any other policy or standard you can think of. 

So even though I believe that every workplace should have a ‘Code of Conduct’ that details exactly what is important to your veterinary practice and how everyone should be treated  - it’s useless unless the practice owner abides by the same set of rules.

So get what you deserve.

If you’re surly and rude to your staff - they may be the same to each other. If you disregard health & safety protocols – expect your staff to do the same. If you’re short when communicating with clients in person or over the phone – your staff will see that as the standard.    

In short – your staff will model your behaviour.

If this is something that concerns you there are a couple of things you need to do:

  1. Pay very close attention to your own behaviours – the way you speak on the phone and in person, to staff and clients.
  2. Develop a Code of Conduct in conjunction with your staff – there are a heap of useful resources, guidelines and examples on designing a Code of Conduct on the Vetanswers website  in ‘Management Resources’
  3. Personally live your Code of Conduct –

Slightly off topic but I also believe this to be true with your children – speak horribly to them & they’ll return the favour.  Don’t want them to abuse alcohol? Then they shouldn't see their parents over indulging. Use bad language frequently at home?  Your children will do the same.

So now it’s time to tell me your opinion.  Do you agree you get the culture and behaviour you deserve in your veterinary practice?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.  


Mike Falconer @ Jun 21st 2013 2:42pm
Great, great post Judy. Pretty much built my career around this principle. I think it also extends into training and in turn your staff's willingness to train others. If you are not willing to spend time in training and investing in your staff, you can't complain that they screw up or don't know anything. As you so rightly state: you get the team you deserve. Mike @mike_falconer
Judy @ Jun 21st 2013 2:50pm
Hi Mike, thanks for the comment. I absolutely agree regarding training. It always amazes me the number of businesses that don't invest in any training, and then wonder why mistakes keep happening... "But we don't have time for training!"... yeah right!
Dallas @ Jul 3rd 2013 4:29pm
Very true Judy, and that's always the hard part. I agree also about the training aspect - it takes time and reinvestment - we can get so busy in practice that there just never seems to be time, but it is an investment
Judy @ Jul 3rd 2013 4:39pm
Hi Dallas, it can be tough for any business to find the time for training - the hours in a day can seem too short sometimes! I know of a number of practices that close the doors for an hour every week for training. It works well for them as clients are aware of the reason for the closure, although someone's always ready to help out if an emergency turns up but generally it doesn't seem to be a problem.
Lisa Blair @ Jul 25th 2013 8:10pm
Hey Judy, Love the idea but have to disagree...speaking from personal experience my team pick me up, and cover my back and provide exceptional client and patient care, and nurture each other and me.....and I don't deserve them. They are an awesome awesome bunch of people and I am lucky every day. (and, by the way, they put up with me always being behind on projects which is why I'm responding to this blog a month after you posted it, but they'd be supportive)
Judy @ Jul 25th 2013 8:27pm
Hi Lisa - at least you got here in the end - that's what really matters! Shh Lisa ... I've got a secret to tell you... I think it sounds like you've got exactly the team you deserve. I bet if I asked them they would agree - you're obviously doing something right to be surrounded by such a great group of people. So congratulations - and tomorrow you'd better show them your comments and maybe organise a masseur to come in and give everyone a 15 minute back massage to say thanks. Or some donuts... donuts are always good!
Vet Changes World @ Oct 24th 2013 5:47am
Great article, I completely agree that you have to walk the walk. That doesn't mean being perfect but at least being able to admit your weaknesses, try and improve them, and ask for help. You don't need everyone to act the same and have the same skills, but just strive for excellence, admit when they need help, and be willing to help each other.
Judy @ Oct 24th 2013 11:48am
Thanks Vet Changes World - that's an excellent point. I think sometimes admitting that you're not perfect can make you a better leader - it makes it ok for your team to make mistakes which is so important if you value innovation!

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