Teamwork and collaboration are the heart of veterinary medicine. At its best, this group dynamic creates safer patient care, personalized customer service, and a culture of continual learning. Unfortunately, when improving the workplace and cultivating practice growth, most change happens from the top-down, and veterinary support team members (i.e., technicians, assistants, and client service representatives often feel left out of the conversation. However, overlooking these team members, who have a practical perspective and an intimate knowledge of day-to-day workflow, can hinder practice progress, encourage apathy, and increase staff turnover.
Whether or not you have an official leadership title, all veterinary team members deserve to be heard, and their input valued. Here are five tips for affecting positive change, proposing ideas, and being heard—and demonstrating that the most successful growth happens from the “bottom” up.
#1: Don’t talk about problems, talk about solutions
Faults, flaws, and problems are easy to identify, but viable solutions can be more difficult. When you notice a recurring challenge (e.g., forgotten callbacks, missed charges, inefficient scheduling) talk to your colleagues about possible solutions. Pooling your peers can unify everyone to the cause—rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame—and generate better ideas.
Once you’ve generated or collected suggestions, request a one-on-one meeting with your supervisor to present the problem, as well as the group’s potential solutions. This organized approach demonstrates concern for the practice as well as commitment to change—which means your suggestions will more likely be considered, rather than dismissed as “complaints.”
#2: Be open and adaptable to top-down changes
When top-down changes occur, maintain an optimistic attitude and an open mind. Look for the advantages and disadvantages before dismissing the idea as unrealistic or impractical. Try viewing the change from the owner’s perspective—first acknowledging the good intention (e.g., relocating the lab equipment to a central location to make testing more convenient and save valuable technician time), and then identifying areas for improvement (e.g., moving the fecal centrifuge nearer to the waste bin and away from the exam rooms, to reduce odor).
By always first “seeing the good,” you’ll develop a growth mindset, and when you do have constructive suggestions and ideas, it’s more likely they will be received as helpful, rather than viewed as critical, complaining, or change-resistant.
#3: Be a self-appointed leader
Being a leader doesn’t always mean being the boss or giving orders. Leadership is about taking thoughtful action (i.e., not always reacting in the moment), encouraging others, listening, and problem solving. Lead from the bottom up by:
- Stepping in when help is needed, no matter how small the task
- Teaching, rather than correcting, other team members
- Avoiding the blame game when something goes wrong—instead, look for explanations
- Embracing change
- Maintaining a positive mindset
These personal changes may not feel effective in the day-to-day grind, but in the long run your ideas, solutions, and suggestions will carry more weight—and may result in a leadership or management promotion where you can make a lasting difference.
#4: Start with small changes and small goals
Although you may think your practice needs an extreme makeover, attempting to initiate revolutionary changes will only frustrate and demotivate you and your peers. Instead, look closely at what you can do—what tasks and opportunities are in reach? As you achieve smaller goals, the positive effects will grow. Examples of small actions include:
- Initiating preventive care conversations with clients
- Voluntarily following up with first-time clients
- Creating hospital-specific discharge forms for common procedures
- Composing checklists for specific roles or tasks (e.g., anesthesia monitoring, dental cleaning, attaching X-rays to pet records)
#5: Do some legwork before proposing a big change or investment
If you’ve got a big proposition in mind—an equipment purchase, staff benefits, or a hospital protocol change, for example—be prepared. While management and practice ownership may turn a deaf ear to cries of “we need” or “we want,” they’re less likely to deny a well-considered proposal. Do your due diligence and research your request, before asking for a meeting. Then, map out some talking points, such as:
- Profit loss or missed growth opportunities
- Relevant statistics
- Anticipated outcomes that you learned about by reaching out to other hospitals that have implemented your idea or made a similar investment.
With a little effort, all team members can achieve these five change-implementing tips—no matter their title. Titles and financial ownership are not a requirement for investing in your veterinary hospital—you need only a love for animals, a passion for working with others, and a desire to deliver the best possible care for pets.
Inspire Veterinary Partners is committed to empowering veterinary hospitals and their teams through quality medicine, healthy business growth, and shared values. Contact us for more information, or to explore opportunities for your practice.
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