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President’s Message: Covey’s 7 habits for highly effective people concludes

September 10, 2021

Greetings and good wishes to all of our WSVMA membership, readers, and friends. We trust that your summer was satisfying, and we hope that between the incredible heatwave, the unfortunate challenges of smoke, and the amazing pace of business activity many of you have experienced in your practices over the past several months, that somewhere over the course of the summer, there was an opportunity for you to enjoy a break in the action and an opportunity to refresh and renew yourselves.

While you have been working diligently to meet the needs of your clients and their animals, your WSVMA team has been busy preparing for the 2021 Pacific Northwest Veterinary Conference, completing our move from and reorganization after the sale of our office building, budgeting for the coming year, and planning for our fall activities. It’s been a full three months!

In the regulatory arena, our Chief Executive Officer, Ms. Candace Joy, along with other members of the Board have been engaged in a number of conversations around the issue of chiropractic medicine. We are continuing to address and express our concerns regarding the stated interest of some licensed Doctors of Chiropractic Medicine to practice directly on veterinary patients without the benefit of assessment, support, agreement and supervision by a licensed veterinarian. Our interest has been and remains focused on what we believe to be the best interest of the veterinary patients and the protection of both the patients and the pet-owning public.

We have also been involved in continuing conversations around the development of a novel apprenticeship program, designed to train veterinary technicians using a practice-based and somewhat limited educational model. Concerns about the program, its scope, curriculum and likelihood of addressing the shortage of technicians have been expressed by both the WSAVT, the WSVMA, and others. The program, as designed, has not been subjected to review for approval by the AVMA and as an apprenticeship program, would fall under the oversight of the Washington Department of Labor and Industries. There is an urgent need in the state of Washington for trained, licensed veterinary technicians to support the delivery of veterinary health care services in private practices. There is also a need for many, if not a majority of, veterinary practices to more effectively engage and empower technicians within the limits of the Veterinary Practice Act to deliver more complete, team-based veterinary care. It should go without saying that if veterinary technicians were used at a level closer to their professional training and capacity, practice profitability would be positively impacted and technician compensation could then be increased to reflect that enhanced clinical capacity. The WSVMA remains engaged in the conversation with the goals of supporting our members’ needs for access to licensed technical support while at the same time, advocating for educational programs of the highest quality such that graduates of such programs would be assured of bringing value to practices and enjoying both fulfilling and financially rewarding careers.

Finally, we should all take note that the WSVMA’s Pacific Northwest Veterinary Conference is almost upon us with our kick-off slated for Friday, Oct. 1. The program will run virtually through Sunday, Oct. 3 and present over 150 hours of continuing education programming. There will also be a host of novel opportunities for interaction including the annual Awards Celebration, a virtual bike/walk/run activity, a reception with the Seattle Aquarium, the WSVMA Annual Membership meeting, and a virtual Exhibit Hall. You can be assured that there will be an abundance of learning and fun for everyone. Make sure you are registered for the Pacific Northwest Veterinary Profession’s premier educational and networking event!  Don’t just meet me there… Beat me there!

In wrapping up my year of presidential messages, I will leave you with my last leadership lesson, an overview of Dr. Covey’s sixth and seventh habits, “Synergize” and “Sharpen the Saw.” The verb to synergize describes the action of cooperating and collaborating in such a way that the outcome of the shared effort is greater than the sum of the individual contributions to the process. The sixth habit of synergize can actually be viewed as a condensation of Habits 4 (‘Win-Win’) and 5 (‘Seek First to Understand’), because when we try to understand those with whom we work, and we work with others intending to help them succeed along with us, we are in fact practicing synergy! By pooling our shared desires and goal orientations with others, be they a coworker or client, all while understanding their perspective and moving forward in the spirit of Win-Win, we achieve true synergy through the creation of an innovative, creative, and possibly novel course of action that works for all parties.

Many of us found ourselves and our teams doing precisely that as we adapted to the challenges of COVID-19 and developed alternative service and communication plans for our practices. A commitment to synergy with emphasis on Win-Win is a paradigm shift from the constraints of traditional, transactional efforts where the emphasis is more inclined toward a Win-Lose paradigm and the outcomes are more often than not, underwhelming or unfulfilling. When you bring the concept of synergy to a team where the organizational culture and operational core values are inclined towards Trust and Safety, you will see that the team members will go above and beyond in their efforts to invest themselves in achieving the team’s shared goals and bringing its mission to life.

Covey’s seventh habit, ‘Sharpening the Saw,’ stands apart from the first three habits of self-efficacy and the latter three habits of interdependence while at the same time serving as a critical foundation for the practice and effectiveness of all of those habits in our lives. Dr. Covey introduces the seventh habit through the metaphor of a busy woodcutter who is so busy cutting wood that he has no time to ‘sharpen his saw.’ The more he works, the duller the saw becomes. Yet, without sharpening the saw, the woodcutter must work progressively harder in order to cut wood. The notion of sharpening the saw speaks to the need to take care of one’s tools in life… with each of us, being the principal tool of our own success. The seventh habit is one of personal growth, refreshment, and renewal. It is the habit that gives us permission to enrich and expand our individual capacities…whether they’re Mental, Physical, Spiritual, or Social in nature.

In this time of great challenge to the collective health and wellness of our beloved profession, never has the need for each of us to ‘sharpen our saw’ been more clear and urgent. We ‘sharpen our saw’ when we prioritize life balance or when we seek adequate rest, proper nutrition, and a healthy social life. We ‘sharpen our saw’ when we feed our learner mindset and seek to ground ourselves emotionally and spiritually around a value system that resonates in high fidelity with our character. It is my hope for each of us that we never lose track of the value and importance of this seventh habit…for if we do, it is unlikely that we would ever excel in any of the previous six habits.

I close this leadership musing, the last of my presidential messages, with a great deal of humility, appreciation and thankfulness for the opportunity to have served you, my colleagues, and friends. What an honor it has been to have served you all over the past year. We are part of one of the greatest and most noble professions in the world. Let us remain vigilant to protect our profession from those who would dilute or dimmish it and let us keep our efforts and decisions focused on that which is in the best interest of the animals and the public who entrusts those animals into our care.

Good wishes, God Bless, and as always, Go Cougs!

By Dr. Richard DeBowes, WSVMA President


Posted September 10, 2021