It’s not them, it’s you: Five signs that you’re the real problem at work

  |   Practice Management

When staff are under-performing, it’s easy to place the blame on them. But as a practice owner or manager, if you find the same problems coming up repeatedly, perhaps it’s time to face reality: you may be the problem. Here are signs that you might be the real reason employees are under-performing.

Good employees are leaving

One of the main reasons people leave a company is because of bad management. People want to contribute and grow while working for an organization that’s aligned with their interests and goals. They also want development opportunities and recognition, and they want to feel like part of a team. When these things don’t happen, good employees (the ones clients love, who have a great skill set and constantly problem solve to improve the clinic) leave for more fulfilling positions. As a result, the clinic is left with mediocre or poor performers.

Turning it around starts with you. Show your employees how much you value them and recognize team members when they do something great or when you’ve noticed how they’ve improved. Perhaps a staff member who was shy when she started is now engaging clients in conversation and is a model employee in terms of client care. Or what about the staff member who always comes in on his day off because someone else is sick? Thank them and let them know you appreciate how much they care. Then work with each staff member to help them grow their career—what goals do they have? Help them achieve their goals and celebrate when they do.

Don’t forget about your associate veterinarians—providing opportunities for growth, continuing education and mentorship can go a long way. Associate veterinarians can also play an important leadership role by recognizing the work of team members and promoting an inclusive, positive approach to teamwork.

You think coaching belongs in sports, not in a clinic

As a leader in the clinic, you are your team’s coach. That role includes providing regular feedback to staff members. Recognition for a job well done is important as outlined above, but you should also give regular feedback to let staff know they’re on the right track and are meeting your expectations, and you can also make suggestions about ways they can improve. Team members want to know when they’re meeting expectations, but also what they can take to get better. Coach them in a way that shows you’re trying to help them, not make them feel bad.

Working without receiving feedback is like setting out an important journey without a map or compass. You may have a great sense of direction, but this may not be sufficient to keep you on track. When people don’t receive feedback, they can be overly self-critical or self-congratulatory. This is because they are relying on events rather than specific feedback to measure their performance and impact.

In addition to annual performance evaluations, start carving out some time each week to review your staff’s performances and provide feedback. Be sure to include associate veterinarians, who are often overlooked when it comes to feedback and coaching. When working closely with a staff member, use that time to coach them on a task and remember to cheer them on when they get it right.

You want everyone to like you and be their friend

It can be a tough lesson to learn, but it’s OK if everyone doesn’t like you. What’s more important than being your employee’s friend is you treat everyone with fairness and respect. If you happen to be friends with someone on your team, be sure to set clear boundaries so staff members aren’t tempted to take advantage of you.

How do you know if you’re too friendly with your team? If you find yourself overlooking poor performance, providing compliments but not constructive feedback, allowing meetings to turn into mindless chit-chat or not enforcing clinic policies, you’re being too nice, it’s time to work on your management style. You can be kind, but firm. The key is to keep everyone in line with what’s expected, knowing that if someone steps out of line, you will be the first one to coach them back to where they should be.

You think feedback is a one-way street

Some of the best ideas will come from your staff, but you must be willing to listen. When you have team members who care about the clinic, clients and patients, they will bring issues to your attention along with some possible solutions. If you’re too quick to dismiss what they have to say, they’ll stop sharing their ideas and feedback, which can affect your business.

For example, Kelly is a client service representative who’s been dealing with clients who are upset because they’re waiting more than 15 minutes for their evening appointments. Recognizing that appointments after 4 p.m. on surgery days tend to start a bit later because of unexpected delays, Kelly suggests starting these appointments at 4:15 p.m. This way, appointments will start on time and clients will be happier. If she presents this and you immediately brush off her suggestion, Kelly will think you don’t care. If you don’t care about improving client service, why should she?

Instead, you could say, “Thank you so much, Kelly. Let’s make some time on Friday at noon to discuss this further—it sounds like a great idea for the clinic. I appreciate you coming to me with your suggestion.”

When a team member comes to you with an idea that may not work, thank them for it and respond on a positive note. Then take the time to discuss why it may not work for the clinic. This shows staff that you are willing to hear their suggestions, even if they aren’t implemented.

You’re not walking the walk

If you’re gossiping, late for work, badmouthing clients or doing a poor job, you can’t be surprised if your team follows in your footsteps. As the clinic leader, your team will look to you as a role model for how they should behave. If your clinic has a no-gossiping rule, then don’t gossip. If you have a rule that prohibits food at the reception desk, don’t eat at the reception desk. Remember, your team is watching you all the time and to shape their behavior, you must start with your own.

Recognizing that you are part of the problem is the first step. With some thought and effort, you can be part of the solution.

By Terra Shastri, Director of Business Development & Strategic Initiatives – Ontario Veterinary Medical Association


Posted January 4, 2019