You can’t get the practice right until you get the right staff... - Veterinary Practice
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You can’t get the practice right until you get the right staff…

Paul Green explains how personalised coaching and engaging of staff can make a positive dfference to their performance and your happiness

LAST MONTH WE LOOKED AT THE NEED TO COACH STAFF 121, rather than try to tackle individual performance in group meetings.

Coaching staff gets better results because it is highly personalised. You can read the person in front of you and adjust the support that you give them.

This works as well for under- performing staff as it does for your superstars. Coaching engages staff. And engaged staff are one of the ingredients necessary for a high-performing business.

This is the hardest area to get right. We know from the regular Gallup employee engagement survey that your team can be split into one of three categories:

  • Engaged.

Staff who work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company. They drive innovation and move the practice forward.

  • Not engaged.

Staff who are sleepwalking their way through the day. They’re putting time into their work – but not energy or passion.

  • Actively disengaged.

Staff who aren’t just unhappy at work … they’re busy acting out their unhappiness! Every day they undermine what their colleagues achieve.

The goal is to get more of your staff from the middle level up to the top level. And to prevent anyone from dropping down to the bottom.

This is not an easy job. The more staff you get, the harder it becomes. Even in a practice with only three staff, it’s hard because everyone is so busy trying to do what has to be done that employee development takes a rm back seat.

What causes staff disengagement? Primarily it’s you, and your management team, if you have one. The principal way this is done is by damaging trust. Your team want to feel as though you as their leader have got their back.

There’s a great book to read that explores this issue in some depth. It’s called Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek, and it explores the concept of the “circle of safety”. This plays on our most basic programming inside our brain. The programming we had when we were cave dwellers – that still drives us today.

People want to belong and they want to feel safe. As the leader of your practice, your role is to create a circle of safety and bring your team inside it.

Staff inside the circle feel valued, and con dent that their boss and peers will help them to succeed. Stress declines and fulfilment rises. Because it’s a safe environment in which to learn, try new things, and make mistakes. For staff outside the circle, the exact opposite happens. They become less willing to try because the penalties of getting it wrong are too great. They become suspicious, more stressed and less productive.

Other ways that leaders and managers disengage staff is by handling change poorly (particularly in the way it is communicated), and failing to develop an appropriate personal or emotional connection with each member of the team.

People buy from people, remember. That’s as true for staff as it is for clients.

Staff also disengage because they see a lack of opportunity to grow. That may mean no formal training, or them being held back from being able to do what they do best. And sometimes disengagement comes because they don’t understand why they are working at your practice. They have a lack of purpose, meaning or buy-in.

Sure, they have to turn up to do certain things in order to get paid. But what’s the bigger picture? Why does this practice exist? Where are we going? Another Simon Sinek book, Start with Why, explores this in detail.

What’s to be done about this? There are seven rules to increase staff engagement levels:

  1. Set clear expectations and shared goals. Work stops being work when we’re all coming together to achieve something bigger. Set stretching goals. Make your practice the most extraordinary place to work, because it achieves more than any other vets they have ever worked at. Recognise and praise. Catch your people doing a good job. Give them praise and rewards for individual performance; and celebrate as a group when you achieve your business goals.
  2. Communicate better. No matter how much you think you have told them, it hasn’t gone in. Repetition breeds reputation. As their leader they need to hear from you again and again and again what the plan is and how it’s being executed.
  3. Lead the purpose and the culture. As the leader, you set the culture. If you openly moan about clients, it becomes OK for everyone to do that. You really do have to act as you want others to act.
  4. Lead the team’s growth and development. You don’t have to do all the trainingand development yourself. But you do need to make sure it is happening across the practice.
  5. Build and strengthen trust. Make it OK for people to take risks and fail. Your attitude towards mistakes and failure dictates how open they will be to overall change. And if there’s one constant in business … it’s change.
  6. Drive your team. The team needs a leader and it’s you. Even if you hate that, someone has to do it. It’s really hard to replace the practice owner with a different leader. Leading can be fun when you do what feels right inside, and you watch your staff bond with you and your business.

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