Healthy Practice Podcast

Management solutions to keep your practice as healthy as your patients.

Your veterinary practice is a place where patients get the exceptional care they need and clients leave happy. What if your practice could also be a place where team members love coming to work in the morning, support and encourage each other, and are actively engaged in helping the practice grow? In this podcast, leadership consultant Randy Hall shares tools and strategies for building the kind of culture you’ve always wanted for your practice. He covers topics like attracting and hiring all-star employees, leading a fully engaged team, minimizing practice conflict, developing leaders on your team, and more. You’ll learn practical solutions for the biggest management and leadership challenges in veterinary medicine so you can start creating the practice you’ve been dreaming of.

Up Off the Concrete

As we are all making small steps to get back to a normal way of life, many of us are still facing enormous challenges.  These may be challenges around how to maintain a profitable, yet safe practice, how to deal with changing processes, how to best organize your team, how to keep employees safe and healthy, or how to provide exceptional care to your patients even while maintaining social distancing.   Working during these difficult times brought back memories of work I did with a non-profit organization a few years back.  Through this organization, I met a young man who had…
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Leading During Times of Change

Usually, change takes time.  When you are looking to lead any kind of change in your practice, there is typically a period of time where you can plan, collaborate, and adjust to change.  But right now, veterinary practices across the country are rapidly changing, evolving, and adapting to new situations.  As the practice owner or manager, your ability to lead the changing landscape of how your practice operates, how your team communicates and collaborates, and how you continue to provide exceptional patient care is crucial for how successfully your team can adjust.  Use these three tips to help lead change…
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Hope … A Leader’s Special Sauce

Being a leader is tough right now.  Let’s face it, it’s relatively easy to be positive and uplifting when things are going well.  Lately though, leaders have had to manage challenges in the midst of uncertainty.  However, even during these difficult times, leaders must find a way to focus on a message of hope and resilience. That’s not to say that leaders should mislead their teams or lose touch with the realities of the current global crisis.  But one of the biggest jobs a leader has is helping her team see a way out, no matter how dark the horizon…
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Working at Home with Kids – A Road Map

Suddenly, your world is different.  For many of us, there are new schedules and routines both at work and at home.  If your practice has adjusted work hours or split into smaller teams to handle alternating shifts, you may find that you’re at home more often with your kids and at the same time, still trying to get things accomplished.  There are no more play dates, daycare, or organized sports.  It’s just you, the kids, and a tangled web of competing priorities and unfamiliar systems.  But there are some things you can do to make this time successful, whether there…
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The Art of Transparency

During times of uncertainty, it is critical that leaders are able to engage with their teams, be seen as trustworthy, and position themselves to lead with influence.  One way to accomplish this is to increase the level of transparency throughout your veterinary practice.  Why?  Employees want to trust their leadership and feel connected to their coworkers and the practice.  Here are three ways increase transparency with your team. 1. Show your human side This form of transparency highlights leaders as people first, versus having your team always see you as “the boss”.  Let your team see your human side.  Everyone,…
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3 Steps to Get Your Veterinary Team More Engaged

When I work with clients, one of the things they always want to increase is employee engagement.  For many, it means more productivity, innovation, and efficiency. When people are engaged at all levels in a veterinary practice, problems get solved faster, everyone is more accountable, and the practice owner and managers can focus on the future.  It comes as no surprise that research from Gallup and other performance management companies clearly demonstrates that organizations with more engaged employees are more profitable than their competitors. Simply put, the practice with the most engaged team wins. So here comes the hard part. …
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The Reality of Communication

I was working with a veterinary practice owner recently who told me, “My team is very honest with me.  I’ve told them that it’s okay to bring me bad news and so they do.” I’ve heard this statement, in some form, from many owners and managers over the years.  But in most cases, it only takes a few conversations with the team to learn that this isn’t the reality; the leader often is getting a more optimistic version of reality.  And while this version might not be completely false, it’s a long way from the clear picture they need to…
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Employee Satisfaction – It’s Not Rocket Science

Employee engagement can be challenging, and often veterinary practices also struggle to keep a team of people fully engaged and performing at their best.  Here are a couple of reasons why practices might wrestle with building cultures that drive employee satisfaction, and some ways to think differently about those challenges. Focus on accomplishments, not progress Many of the veterinary hospitals I’ve worked with are laser focused on what they need to get done, which of course is great. But sometimes they pay less attention to how they get better at doing those things in the first place.  The real question…
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Employee Satisfaction is Not Employee Engagement

Many veterinary practices have been measuring employee satisfaction for years with the belief that satisfied employees are more engaged and do better work than unsatisfied ones.  While there are certainly some components of satisfaction that might lead to more engagement, when we focus on keeping our employees satisfied, we may not be keeping them engaged.  Are your employees engaged, or are they simply satisfied?  The answer could affect your company’s ability to succeed. What we call engagement is similar to the concept that Hungarian psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined as flow.  It occurs when people are fully present, working at…
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4 Ways to Become an Inspired and Engaged Employee

Chances are you have seen and heard the vast amount of reports and research indicating employee engagement is a critical component of retention, productivity, and the overall success of a veterinary practice.  As such, practice owners and managers have been focused on ways to understand what employee engagement is and how to increase it in order to impact the culture, morale, and bottom line in their hospitals. While these leaders work towards creating a workforce of highly engaged employees, I want us to talk about what you as an employee can do to recognize and improve your own level of…
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Build an Enjoyable Environment, Get More

A good friend of mine sent me a video clip the other day.  It was an experiment conducted at a train terminal in Stockholm, Sweden.  The experiment was to determine if you could change the choices people make by adding fun to the equation.  I looked at the website mentioned in the video and apparently, it was an initiative called “The Fun Theory” sponsored by Volkswagen.  Another clever effort to capture the viral information phenomenon and capitalize on the publicity and marketing opportunities that are sure to follow. This particular experiment involved changing a set of stairs in a train…
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Leadership is Just Uncomfortable

I feel like I hear “the phrase” more and more as I work with teams and leaders.  It’s a little phrase that gets in the way, a lot. It gets in the way of progress and growth.  And it gets in the way of the future. It’s not always a bad thing to say. In fact, there are times when it’s appropriate and real and should be listened to.  However, there are many more times when it needs to be discarded, called out for the roadblock that it is, and banished from our thinking.   Here’s an example of a time…
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When You Lead, People Notice

Recently, I had an opportunity to speak with veterinary professionals from across the country at a conference.  At this event, there were also several attendees who were recognized for various achievements. There was one individual, it seemed, who hardly had time to sit down before she was called back up to be recognized again. Her name was Jenifer.  The interesting thing was, I only met her on the bus ride from the airport and even from this limited interaction I wasn’t a bit surprised by the recognition she received.  Her leadership skills were clearly evident. Everything about Jen – the…
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Use Great Questions to Help Your Veterinary Team Find The Right Answers

I watch a lot of practice owners, managers, and veterinarians work really hard to show up with all the answers.  It’s a natural impulse for a leader to want to solve all of the problems, know everything, and help people with information.  Typically, though, the unintended consequence is, well, you have to have all the answers…and no one has all the answers. The expectation becomes that the team has questions for the manager, and the manager has answers for the team.  The scenario plays out this way in veterinary practices everywhere, every day. However, it hinders a practice’s ability to…
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Leading an Important Person in Your Veterinary Practice – Yourself

I often get asked about what makes a great leader.  I used to try and cover all the aspects of the complex and dynamic art of leadership.  Now, I often just answer with a simple phrase: they lead themselves first. In most cases, great leaders were leading themselves long before anyone put them in a position of leading others.  The people who get promoted to leadership roles are the ones that become leaders long before someone gives them the title.  There are many ways that people lead themselves, but I’ve tried to capture the essence of what good self-leaders do…
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What Good Looks Like: Training in Your Veterinary Practice

Training people for your veterinary practice is hard.  If you’re a practice manager, owner, or someone in charge of training at your hospital, you already know this. New staff members bring knowledge and life experiences to your team, but it’s up to you to help them learn how your practice works and the processes you use.  Things like how your team communicates, what your clients are used to, and the care your hospital wants to be known for all are important for your new employee. The sheer quantity of information you need to convey can feel overwhelming. There’s also the…
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6 Ways to Create an Engaging First Day at Your Veterinary Practice

Starting at a new veterinary practice can be a challenge.  As a new employee, there are so many questions and unknowns.  These can add extra stress to the process of starting a new job.  Great leaders do whatever they can to minimize these anxiety provoking experiences.  They know that doing this helps the new employee focus on building relationships with their new coworkers and gain the competence and confidence to do the job more quickly and efficiently.  When you alleviate common concerns, your employee will likely retain more of the training and experience-based learning. And this retention will improve their…
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Aspire Review

“This was just the tool we needed to get things kick-started. It’s been nothing but positive for us and we’ve definitely become a happier, more productive workplace because of the tools that you provided through your program.” – Jennifer Ballinger, Practice Manager at Pinellas Animal Hospital
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What Your Calendar Says About Your Leadership

One of the best parts of my job is being able to work with veterinary practice leaders as a coach to help them achieve more of their goals, chart their career course, and build stronger, more accountable teams around them.  Each leader is unique. They face different challenges, have different opportunities, and different sets of patterns, habits, and experiences.  After literally thousands of coaching conversations, however, several themes have emerged. One of the most common themes I see is the gap between what a person would like to happen, and what they have planned to make happen. Often leaders will…
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Aspire Review

“They’re actively trying to help each other more.” – Dr. Wendy McGuire, Fischer Veterinary Clinic
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Aspire Review

“It’s no longer about just what the management thinks needs to happen, the whole hospital has empowerment to try to decide the best direction for us to take.” – Joanna Cagle, Foster Animal Hospital
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Aspire Review

“Team leaders are going back and watching some of these videos to see how to attract the right people for our team. We went from having only a couple applicants; ones that we weren’t even really excited about, but they were our only choices. Today when we put an ad out, we’ll get flooded with 20 to 30 applicants within hours.” – Dr. Adam Hechko, North Royalton Animal Hospital
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Aspire Review

“My staff likes that now that we have a vision, it can be hung up in the clinic and we try to go back to it every other week and re-read it.” – Dr. Wendy McGuire, Fischer Veterinary Clinic
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Aspire Review

“We began to listen more, ask more questions, and value our staff member’s opinions a whole lot more than we did before.” – Joanna Cagle, Foster Animal Hospital
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Aspire Review

“I can have my new team leaders look at these videos and review them. Then we can have great conversations about where we’re going and what we’re doing.” – Dr. Adam Hechko, North Royalton Animal Hospital
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You’ve Never Seen This Day Before in your Veterinary Practice

As I was getting on the shuttle bus to head to the rental car lot from the airport, I must admit I didn’t pay much attention to the driver.  I greeted him and asked how he was, but I was more focused on my own thoughts. His response changed that for me. He said, “I’m doing great and I have never seen this day before.”  That started a conversation that led me to learn a little bit more about this man. At the age of 68, he had a tremendous optimism about what the day might bring, the people he…
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This Year, Change How You Think

It’s the time of year when most of us decide to do some things differently.  There’s something powerful about a new year as we assess our lives, our business, and even our relationships with others. The prospect of a new year lends itself to a fresh start.  The reality is many of the intentions to behave differently in the New Year will not result in sustainable change. To really change what we do, we must change how we think. Let’s take the ever popular lose weight and get in shape resolution.  Anyone who’s been to a gym in the first…
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Three Ways to Become More Successful this Year

We’ve all seen the statistics on New Year’s Resolutions.  About 45% of people make a promise to themselves for how they will do things differently in the coming year.  Then, only 8% of people consider themselves successful at keeping their resolutions beyond a few months. The good news is that close to half of resolution-setters feel that they achieved at least part of their goal.  Resolutions are about causing a behavior change. In many ways, our job as a leader is to help ourselves and others make those same behavior changes. Let’s look at some ways we can set ourselves…
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Resolutions Really Can Make It Past January

It’s that time of year when so many of us are trying to keep the New Year’s resolutions we made.  Most of us who make them have already broken those promises. And if you believe the research, those of us who have managed to keep them for the first few weeks, or months, will soon abandon those behavior changes we were so enthusiastic about.  It’s also highly likely that next December we will set similar goals for change. But once again, we will allow them to fade into things we wish we had done. Why is it that behavior change…
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Management vs. Leadership – Or is it?

It’s hard to work in the area of developing leaders without addressing the issue of management versus leadership. Much debate has been had about what each of these words means and which one is more important. Recently, I’ve even heard a lot of discussion about the issue of individuals leading too much and not managing enough. One example of that is a recent article from Harvard Business Review that states: “Big picture only” leaders often make decisions without considering the constraints that affect the cost and time required to implement them, and even when evidence begins mounting that it is…
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4 Reasons Why You Need a Coach

Whether you are a new manager or a seasoned leader, a good coach can take you from where you are today, to where you want to be tomorrow.  Coaching can help move anyone closer to their full potential. Despite the many benefits of coaching, most leaders do not have a good coach.  But why?  Coaching comes with a cost, both in fees for the coach and in time.  Plus, a good coach can be hard to find. Many practices struggle to find a coach that matches their culture, needs, and vision.   And let’s face it, effective coaching can be…
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Leaders Change Perspective, That Changes Everything

A leader I am working with recently pulled me aside and said, “I want to thank you for changing who I am.” While hearing a statement like that is one of the most satisfying things I can experience in my line of work, it’s completely untrue. I didn’t change anything about how the leader acted. All I changed was the person’s perspective. They did the rest. Our actions are driven by our thoughts. Anytime you can help someone shift their thinking, you can help them choose different actions. Too often, leaders or managers focus exclusively on the actions we would…
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Creating a Culture of Client Service

I go through the day interacting with many people and rarely stop to evaluate those interactions. In any given week, I might visit ten or more businesses as a customer or client. From getting gas, buying lunch, dropping my child off at school, visiting the doctor, or buying toothpaste from the pharmacy. . . I have multiple opportunities as a customer to be wowed. However, I’d have a difficult time pinpointing the last time I had an exceptional customer experience. Similarly, it’d be tough for me to recall the last time I had an awful customer experience. Am I walking…
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3 Questions to Find if Your Practice is Sustainable

Some of the most educated, experienced practice owners I know still drive their hospital by looking in the rearview mirror. They use information from last month, last quarter, or last year to direct the future of their practice. That might have worked when we were dealing with old technology and a simpler economic situation with far fewer variables. We don’t live there anymore. If you want to know if your practice will be successful in the future, ask these three questions. Are your people accountable? Change happens fast. People who are connected to the vision of your practice and accountable…
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A Vision for Your Practice, Or Just Blah Blah Blah?

Recently, I was working with a practice and facilitated a discussion with the team. I asked them several questions. Do you know where the practice wants to be in a few years? Can you tell me what success looks like for this practice in the future? Can you describe the vision of the practice? It was evident they had no idea what this practice wanted to be when it grew up. Therefore, the team didn’t know how they could help get it there. When I met with the practice owner, I shared what I learned. The people in this practice…
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What’s Your Definition of Success?

Last night, as I was telling the kids goodnight, I noticed that the movie Tin Cup was on television. I’m not a huge movie buff, but that’s one of the classics in my opinion. I walked in during the scene where Roy McAvoy has his chance to win in the U.S. Open golf tournament. Rather than play it safe, he decides to risk it all to make the shot of a lifetime. No one could understand why McAvoy was throwing away the win, but he simply had a different definition of success. What success means to us determines how we…
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Create Boundaries by “Chalking the Field”

I was working with a leader recently who wanted the people on her team to treat their relationship with her differently. She was approachable, compassionate, and empathetic to her team. Because of this, they began to share every trouble, woe, and bit of drama in their lives with her. This often happened when there were pressing business issues that needed to be discussed instead. The question many leaders face is how to build a productive relationship with their team. A relationship that they can learn about the things that are important to their employees. They can learn about their employees’…
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Why People Don’t Do What You Say

Sometimes, we forget how much influence leaders have. And as leaders, we often leave much of that influence completely unused. It’s easy to get so focused on the outcome we want, that we miss the opportunity to help our employees make changes that are best for them and the practice. Are you communicating in a way that increases commitment, or just expecting it to happen in spite of you? Consider every meeting we lead, conversation we have, and interaction in which we are involved. Those events will either have a positive impact, a negative impact, or no impact on the…
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That’s Not Fair

I often get the question about how important it is to treat everyone fairly in your practice. I usually respond with a question. I ask, “Do you mean fair, or do you mean the same?” These are two very different things. Fairness is a subjective term and is based largely on the perception of the individual. The first thing kids say when they aren’t getting what they want is, “That’s not fair.” The truth is, it’s just different than what they want. Many people believe fairness means everyone in the practice receives the same things. In my experience, that is…
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How to Deal With the Words “It’s Not My Job”

One of the most telling things I hear when working with employees in a practice is, “that’s not my job.” It’s one of the sentences that drives managers completely nuts. Managers interpret this as, “I don’t care about the practice. I’m just here for the paycheck.” Often though, as managers, we train people to think that way and then reward them for doing it. Usually this is not on purpose, but we reinforce it with the language we use and our relationship with employees. Even during the interview process, we focus on the job duties and performance measures. But what…
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Fire People Like a Leader

The hardest thing most managers will ever do is fire an employee.  In almost every instance, we are telling a decent person that they no longer have a job.  Sure, there is the occasion where someone deserves to lose a job because they have done something ethically wrong.  However, many times it is simply a poor fit with the role or the culture. When this happens, we have to terminate a good person doing a bad job.  For a practice to grow, we need great talent and sometimes that means making changes to our team. Here are some things to…
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Breaking Bad Leadership Habits

A while back, my wife mentioned that we needed a new kitchen faucet. Ours was 15 years old, leaked on occasion, and wasn’t very easy to operate. Three kids can wear a faucet out pretty effectively. When we went to look at them, she really liked the new touch faucets. These are the ones that cut off and on with just a touch of your hand. I bought one, brought it home, and installed it. Then the kids proceeded to play with it for hours. Somehow it survived that early test and we have grown used to simply touching our…
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Signs You’re a Bad Boss

I read an article in The Wall Street Journal titled Five Signs You’re a Bad Boss.  This article listed some of the signals that show your people just aren’t that into you as a leader.  The article made me think about all the subtle signs that managers miss about how they need to improve.  The Wall Street Journal had a good list, but I wanted to add some of my own observations.  After working with hundreds of managers, I’ve compiled three more warning signs that you are a bad boss. You get mostly good news. Your people have learned all…
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Bad Leadership Works

One of the toughest challenges I’ve faced working with leaders is how many of them outwardly appear to be successful.  Yet, they have spent much of their time using fear, intimidation, and a draconian approach to managing others. There are far too many examples of people who lead the wrong way and reap the rewards for doing so.  Using fear and aggression is the quickest path to behavior change. Organizations often celebrate leaders who hit their targets without taking a closer look at how they made that happen.  Sometimes, managers who are getting results using a big stick are promoted…
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3 Ways Managers Kill Engagement and Crush Motivation

Very few managers show up to work thinking, “Today I’m going to cause my team to disengage and demotivate them.”  Yet, many managers spend a great deal of their time doing exactly that. It may not be their intention, but if you observe them, talk to their teams, and look at the results they cause, it is exactly what happens.  So, how do managers create the gap between what they want to happen and what they actually cause to happen? If you watch them, you will notice how their actions ultimately create different results from the ones they want. I…
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4 Things a New Manager Should Know

I often get to work with practice owners who are entering into a leadership role for the first time. This is some of the most rewarding work I do. There is no handbook on leadership and many of us struggle tremendously at first. Owning a practice grants us some authority and all of the sudden we are accountable for not just what we do, but for what others on our team do as well. Here are 4 things that I share with all new leaders. 1. Your new authority gives you an opportunity. . . and nothing else. Sometimes new…
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Listen Like a Leader

Several years ago, I was working with a leader who moved into a new role. I was invited to attend the dinner where he would meet his new team for the first time. It was one of those three-hour meals with way too many forks. Throughout the dinner, I was amazed at the way the new leader used that opportunity. While I didn’t time him, I’m pretty sure he talked for at least two and a half of those hours. His team learned his life story, leadership philosophy, professional successes, and every detail of his hike through a rainforest. At…
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5 Steps to Make Sure Your Team Building Is Not Wasted Time

I get a lot of requests to do team building. Often, after initial conversations with the practice owner or manager, traditional “team building” is not what I end up delivering. At least it’s not the only thing I end up delivering to help the team become stronger. First, I learn more from the practice’s leadership about what they hope to improve following the team building event. Put simply, what is the goal for change? Many practice owners and managers want a behavior change on their team. However, they themselves are a big part of why the team operates the way…
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Building Relationships 2.0

Back when I was building the website for my business, my web designer suggested I improve my “web presence.” He proposed that I should join Twitter in order to do this. My first question was, “What the heck is Twitter?” Then, he mumbled something about where I lived and a rock. My second question was, “Why?” Candidly, I didn’t understand the “why” even after his explanation. I’m sure that was mostly my fault. However, he did intrigue me enough to look at Twitter and see what it was all about. Here’s what I learned. Building a business is about building…
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Trust and Leadership

There have been scores of books, blogs, and articles written on the importance of trust in leadership. Most experts, authors, gurus, and thinkers agree that without trust you cannot lead. You may be able to herd, coerce, corral, or even intimidate, but you cannot lead. While leaders everywhere would probably agree with this, there are very few who know how to define and build trust. I say “define” because it’s almost impossible to build, create, or work towards something we cannot define. How we define trust has everything to do with how we set out to create or influence it.…
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If You Stop Learning, You Stop Leading

I began working with a new practice recently. The owner of the practice impressed me during our first discussion. He spent much of our first conversation sharing some of the things he learned as a leader in veterinary medicine. I was intrigued by how eager he was to improve his leadership skills, even though he was already very accomplished. I compare this with other practice owners and managers I have encountered during my career who stopped learning about leadership a long time ago. It’s a pretty consistent truth, in my experience, that the leaders who focus on learning and getting…
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Help, I’ve Fallen and I Can’t…Nevermind

One of the attributes I noticed in nearly every great leader that I’ve worked with is that they know how to get back up after they fall. I don’t think they fall any less than the rest of us, or any less hard. But they don’t lay there very long. I actually believe that leaders make more mistakes than most people, they just recover faster. Leaders are constantly pushing limits, challenging themselves, and trying new things. And often without the benefit of watching someone else do it. They are living in those places where mistakes are part of every day.…
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Does Your Team Take Risks, or Play it Safe?

Adult humans aren’t very good at taking risks. I say adult humans because kids are fantastic at it. When my son played baseball as a kid, I watched players who hit triples refuse to stop at third base. A triple wasn’t their definition of success, a home run was. Even when the coach told them to hold at third, half pretended not to hear and headed for home. Now granted, these are 8 year olds, so the chances of getting thrown out at home are slim. However, the complete comfort with the risk was still fun to watch. It’s a…
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Do Something, Even if It’s Wrong

Every now and then I like to take a quote and look at what it really means in our lives, our businesses, and our quest to be more effective leaders. Quotes can be valuable tools for us to think about things differently. Recently, I came across a quote from Thomas Jefferson and thought it would make for a good discussion. “If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.” As I think about some of the best leaders I’ve worked with, they’ve been followers of this way of thinking. One of the…
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Your Daily Leadership Scorecard

The more I learn about habit change, the more I become a fan of the daily scorecard process I use for myself and many of my coaching clients. I have found that people are much more effective at making changes in their actions and habits when they use a tool for daily awareness and conscious choices. These types of tools help us decide how we want our day to go and track the results we want to achieve, instead of looking back on the day and wondering where it went. The right tools can promote using our choices, goals, and…
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What If We Rated Leaders Like Uber Drivers?

I took an Uber ride recently, something I’m sure many of us have done. As I was rating the driver after the trip, I started thinking about how leaders might be different if their team rated them after every interaction. What would that kind of consistent feedback cause most leaders to do differently? Imagine an app where immediately after a coaching session, review, or meeting, a manager could look at their phone and say, “My team gave me a 2 for that meeting.” Or “That employee gave me a 3 on my coaching.” While it’s not likely we would see…
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Are You a Better Leader Than a Second Grader?

When my son was in second grade, I attended a parent-teacher conference at his school. The teacher shared with me a new system they were using to evaluate the growth and performance of the kids. As I glanced over the evaluation form it struck me that things don’t change all that much from second grade to the adult world when it comes to what matters most. The parameters they were evaluating for 7 year olds are much the same as the ones most organizations use to evaluate their leaders, whether they are written down or not. Take a look at…
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3 Ways to Measure Leadership

I started my independent consulting business, 4th Gear Consulting back in 2009 because I thought we needed more leaders. As I’ve worked with veterinary practices and teams, I continue to learn what is driving our collective lack of leaders. As a rule, when it comes to leadership, we aren’t very good at defining it, setting expectations around it, coaching for it, measuring it, or being responsible for it. We often measure leaders by outputs that are not representative of leadership. We have not adapted to use the new tools and concepts available to us to better define and measure leadership.…
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The 8 Vectors of Organizational Change

When I was in college, I initially wanted to be an engineer. I remember learning all about vectors in physics class. A vector is an arrow that represents direction and force. As I work with practices to help them manage change, the same concept comes into play. When a practice wants to change, leaders must manage all forces that affect it. Leaders also need to ensure that they exert pressure all in the same direction. Many times, practices concentrate on one or two vectors. The remaining vectors actually push back against the very change they are trying to initiate! There…
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If You Want People to Change, Buy Them a Cup of Coffee

I visited a Starbucks recently, which I don’t do often. But I was on my way to a practice and thought I would get coffee for my ride. As I pulled up to pay for my coffee at the drive-through window, the cashier told me that there was no charge. The person in front of me had paid for my coffee already. What?? I was stunned for a moment as I tried to comprehend this. I would never be able to thank the person in front of me and I had never even met the person! Yet, they had bought…
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It’s Time to Change the Way We Change

There is a common theme that we see in veterinary practices today. Change. Change is hard and always happening. Often we change too much and too fast. We don’t leave time for one change to stick before we mix it up again. Sound familiar? Many team members in your practice are concerned with the rate of change. They often feel like change is never ending. They feel they can’t keep up with the pace. Often, your team feels the change burnout because we leaders forget to be the change we want to see. Instead, we get caught up in creating…
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If You Want to Change Your Practice, Start With These 3 Steps

Most of my work focuses on helping practices go from where they are to where they want to be. I always work hard to make sure that the changes I assist practices with are sustainable. This means that the leaders in the practice are the ones to drive the change, not me. Here are three critical steps to make lasting change in your practice: 1. Clarify Where “There” Is Many of the leaders I work with recognize that they are not where they need to be. However, they have not yet clarified what the new destination looks like. They see…
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3 Things to Remember When Leading Change

A lot of the work that I do with veterinary practices revolves around helping them manage change. If a hospital plans to be successful for longer than a month or two, change will be necessary at some point. One of the first things I do is help them stop thinking about managing change and start thinking about leading it. Managing sounds like it’s just about sending out an email, changing a few processes, and completing some tasks. A practice can do all of that well and fail miserably at making any change happen. Leading change implies that there is much…
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Becoming a Better Coach: The Journey Happens at Their Pace

This article is part five of a five part series about coaching. Each part explores a different element of what it takes to be an effective coach. Learn how to empower your team to help them accomplish more than they ever imagined. If you master these skills, you can consistently build outstanding teams that provide top medical care and extraordinary client service. Get ready to establish your practice as THE only place to go in town. Not by your prices or equipment, but by how well you coach your team. Several years ago I coached a practice owner who seemed…
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Becoming a Better Coach – Have More Faith Than They Do

This article is part four of a five part series about coaching. Each part explores a different element of what it takes to be an effective coach. Learn how to empower your team to help them accomplish more than they ever imagined. If you master these skills, you can consistently build outstanding teams that provide top medical care and extraordinary client service. Get ready to establish your practice as THE only place to go in town. Not by your prices or equipment, but by how well you coach your team. In the 1960’s, a study was performed to determine the…
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Becoming a Better Coach – Understanding and Setting Goals

This article is part three of a five part series about coaching. Each part explores a different element of what it takes to be an effective coach. Learn how to empower your team to help them accomplish more than they ever imagined. If you master these skills, you can consistently build outstanding teams that provide top medical care and extraordinary client service. Get ready to establish your practice as THE only place to go in town. Not by your prices or equipment, but by how well you coach your team. I briefly talked about goals in part one of this…
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Becoming a Better Coach – Creating Capability

This article is part two of a five part series about coaching. Each part explores a different element of what it takes to be an effective coach. Learn how to empower your team to help them accomplish more than they ever imagined. If you master these skills, you can consistently build outstanding teams that provide top medical care and extraordinary client service. Get ready to establish your practice as THE only place to go in town. Not by your prices or equipment, but by how well you coach your team. “Because I Said So” Recently I caught myself uttering the…
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Becoming a Better Coach – Making It About Your Team

This article is part one of a five part series about coaching. Each part explores a different element of what it takes to be an effective coach. Learn how to empower your team to help them accomplish more than they ever imagined. If you master these skills, you can consistently build outstanding teams that provide top medical care and extraordinary client service. Get ready to establish your practice as THE only place to go in town. Not by your prices or equipment, but by how well you coach your team. The Definition of Coaching The word “coach” originated from a…
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Who Needs Employee Engagement Anyway?

Employee engagement is one of the terms you hear a lot these days. Most everyone agrees that if you want your practice to grow, you need engaged employees. It’s important, though, to ask the question why. Engagement for engagement’s sake doesn’t drive growth, profits or accountability. However, the actions you get from an engaged team, do. Veterinary work is challenging and stressful sometimes. But, there are hospitals that are able to do this work in a fully engaged environment with great people. They exist across different geographies because I’ve had the good fortune to work with some of them. For…
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The 3 C’s of Employee Engagement

Leaders are thinking more and more about employee engagement. And if you take a look at the research published on employee engagement, you can see why. Workplaces with more engaged employees are more profitable. They are more productive and have better client service. They change faster, easier and attract and retain better talent. One study showed that highly engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave for another job when compared to disengaged employees. I’ve worked with many veterinary practices and can conclude the following: Practices with highly engaged employees are happier places and have less stress. There is more…
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3 Employee Engagement Tricks That Don’t Really Work

It seems almost foolish, really. We put people in our practice and tell them what to do. We pay them to do it. And we expect them to be fully engaged and committed to doing what they are told. But that rarely happens. They usually show up engaged on the first day. Yet, in a mere few months, things almost always go downhill. We wonder why they aren’t performing like the superstar we thought we hired. Some practice owners and managers then start trying incentives. For veterinarians, it may be a better ProSal agreement. For the rest of the staff,…
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3 Tips for Increased Employee Engagement

Imagine a veterinary practice where employees feel fulfilled. They are ready to take on challenges, and want to contribute to its future success. A place that’s educational and engaging. Several studies show that places with engaged employees are more profitable and productive. They change faster and have lower attrition rates. The studies also proved that highly capable and talented people want to work and stay at these types of workplaces and they attract better talent. In the Towers Perrin study from 2004, 66% of highly engaged employees reported that they had no plans to leave their company, while only 3%…
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Hire Great Leaders, While Avoiding the Wrecks

One of the questions I hear time and time again from practice owners and managers is “How do I hire the right leaders for my practice?” First, as a practice, you have to define your culture. Many organizations hire leaders that represent the culture they want to have, not the culture they currently have. That’s a great decision, as long as you are willing to give the new leader the freedom to actually help make those changes. That can become a bit of a conflict if you are the practice leader because, consciously or not, you created the culture that…
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3 Reasons Not to Hire the Candidate You Really Like

As I work with practices one of the things I evaluate, while helping them achieve greater success, is their talent. I often come across an individual who has been performing poorly for quite some time, but whose manager has not taken any real action to help the individual perform better, or to help them find a better fit somewhere else. When I ask the question “Would you hire them again tomorrow?” there is usually very little hesitation in getting the “no” out. Often we can trace poor hires back to flaws in the recruiting process that allowed them to become…
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Don’t Just Recruit Leaders, Attract Them

A lot of organizations I’ve worked with over the years have been concerned with finding and bringing in new leaders to help the practice grow and thrive. Unfortunately, some are hesitant to address why the current and previous leaders have failed in the first place. Recruiting great leaders is certainly something that can help a practice succeed, but bringing them in and having them leave or flame out only sets things back further. Instead of focusing on finding new leaders to help your hospital grow, invest in becoming the kind of place that great leaders flock to and want to…
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If Your Practice is Fully Staffed, It’s Time to Start Recruiting

Who is your next superstar employee? If you can’t answer that question you probably have a recruiting mindset that says, “we recruit and hire to fill openings.” This is the thought process most hospitals have. Finding great employees with a deadline looming and an overworked team clamoring for a warm body can lead to mistakes and high turnover. A proactive recruiting process that is focused on finding superstars, no matter what your staffing situation, helps you maintain a strong talent pipeline. It actually reduces recruiting and hiring time and allows you to avoid the chaos that can happen when a…
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Work-Life Balance Is A Myth; Plan for Work-Life Harmony Instead

Leadership isn’t easy. Being a great leader means you’re at your best when your team is around. It means you show up fully engaged and serve as a role model for how others work, how they communicate, how they solve problems, and the kind of attitude they choose. If you are leading others, or really, showing up at your best in anything, you had better be prepared to bring it. Interestingly enough, many of us think we can simply “bring it” on demand. Often, we are able to for a short period of time. We can usually muster the energy…
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Leadership at Home Matters Too

Sometimes the work that I do can be the most satisfying job imaginable. Awhile ago I was working with an organization and one employee told me that she is not only a better leader at work, but she feels like she is a better leader at home as well. She mentioned that one of her kids told her that she never yells at them any more. She even got a little emotional as she thanked me for helping her become a better mom too. The truth is, she did all the work; I was simply a catalyst. She raised a…
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Your Business Plan is Only as Good as Your Personal Plan

I’ve had the good fortune throughout my career to work with some incredible leaders. But for every great leader I’ve been around there were dozens of individuals who could have been great leaders and never were. I’ve known many people who have had the skills, the knowledge, and the experience to lead people effectively, but they never put a personal plan in place to get there. Most veterinary hospitals have a plan. Big or small, established or brand new, there is usually a plan of some sort that says, “Here’s how we will get to where we want to go.”…
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Great Leaders Have Great Habits

Some of the best leaders I have met during the course of my work are brilliant people…most aren’t. Some of them possess an almost supernatural ability to connect or inspire…most don’t. What often sets them apart from the leaders who could have been great and weren’t, was their choice of habits. Great leaders have great habits. There’s a quote by Calvin Coolidge that says ,“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world…
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Developing Leaders: A Process That Works

I recently asked a leader what his process was for developing leaders in his hospital. That question was followed by some crickets and then, well, more crickets loosely disguised as an answer. It’s ironic that we have a process for so many things that mean much less to our success than the development of leaders. There are several reasons for why there is often not a clear development process, but the biggest one seems to be “we don’t know how to do that.” Maybe it’s because it is people oriented and that makes it feel soft and squishy, while operations…
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What A Leadership Development Program Should Teach

I’ve had the opportunity to build leadership development programs for many different kinds of organizations. Occasionally people ask me about the most important things that a leadership development program should focus on to get results. Many programs feel good to the practice, because they are doing something for their leaders, but may not drive results. There are some concepts that I have found are part of the most successful programs. Success through others is different The biggest shift in thinking that people have to make to become great leaders is realizing that their individual success only happens through the success…
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How to Identify a Great Future Leader

Leading Through Influence In order for any practice to get stronger, it needs to continuously develop leaders. The future of the organization depends on its ability to either create or recruit leaders who can help it grow. The leaders in an organization are its future. They are responsible for creating the culture, establishing direction, and effectively engaging employees to move in that direction. Leaders are also charged with creating the strategy for developing additional leaders so that the future of the practice is secure, not just the present. Some veterinary practices may have formal leader development programs, some have informal…
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How to Make Your Leadership Intentional, Not Accidental

“What does the mentor get out of a mentoring relationship?” This question came up during a workshop I delivered once to a group of leaders. One of the leaders in the room said simply, “I get to give something back.” I encounter a lot of leaders who, at some point in their career, focus not on what they can accomplish for themselves, but what they are able to help others accomplish. That sentiment is at the heart of what makes a leader great — but the sentiment alone doesn’t accomplish much. In order to really have a significant impact on…
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Are We Investing Our Time, or Spinning Our Wheels?

One of the most common questions I get when I am working with managers who are trying to make a shift in how they lead themselves and others, goes something like this: “How am I supposed to do all of this other leadership and people stuff when it takes all of my time just to get my daily tasks accomplished?” It’s a valid question as long as your perspective is that leadership means doing more. The question goes away when you think about leadership as not what you do, but how you do it. What that common question sometimes illustrates,…
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Are You Accountable for Your Team’s Future?

I love college football and watch it every weekend during the season. One game in the past stood out in particular, not because of a crazy play or huge victory, instead I was struck by one of the comments from the coach. He said “I’m disappointed in myself and how we came out to play. When you play like that, you’re just not mentally where you need to be, and that’s my fault.” Think about the level of accountability in a statement like that. How many leaders do you know take accountability for the mindset of their teams? In my…
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Are You Limiting Growth?

I worked with a practice manager once who would make her mind up and then spend lots of time and other people’s effort finding and creating data that would support her decision. She highlighted virtually any piece of information that backed up her thinking, while she quickly dismissed any competing statistics. Her actions were limiting growth of the practice. She wanted to be right, more than she wanted to lead. Many of us climb to the top of a hospital, or start our own, for the very same reason. It’s more fun to be in charge and make decisions than…
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Is Your Practice Ready To Be Better?

Will your practice be different this year than it was last year? Different this quarter than it was last quarter? People focus on the pace of change, but often the problem is actually driving change that lasts. If you want to know if your practice is ready to be better in the future than it was in the past, ask yourself these questions. Are my people capable of more? As a leader, one of your biggest jobs is ensuring that, over time, your people are capable of accomplishing more. You only have a few levers to pull as it relates…
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Future Thinking Can Change the Game

There is a scenario that happens fairly often in my work with veterinary practice owners and managers. I ask them to tell me about the past, where their practice has been, what has happened recently, and what their current challenges are. They can usually talk for quite a while explaining the past and even longer as they talk about their current situation and the issues they are facing at the moment. I get incredible detail about the people and problems that are keeping them from achieving success. Then I ask them about their future. What often comes out of that…
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Creating a Culture of Accountability

When I hear someone use the phrase “hold someone accountable”, they usually mean punishing someone for not doing their job well. They are using the term “accountable” to represent the consequences for what they failed to do, or what they did incorrectly. If we only think of accountability as what we do after someone screws up, we never actually establish an accountable culture. Instead, we will build a culture where people fear taking risks, making mistakes, and trying new things because of the “accountability” that is actually “punishment.” The first step to making any change is to define what the…
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Culture is Local

I was speaking to a group of practice owners and managers recently and one of the questions that I received following my presentation was “How do I create the culture that will drive success in my local practice when the culture in the company that owns the practice is different?” I think I gave a long rambling answer of some sort but I could have answered in one short sentence. Culture is local. I have worked with many organizations where the culture differs dramatically from manager to manager or hospital to hospital. That’s because different leaders build culture differently. Walk…
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Culture Change is…Possible

Culture Change is…Scary Watching culture change happen within a practice is something that makes a lasting impression. There are many hospitals that don’t understand why culture is so important and many more that want to change it but don’t know how. I’ve even read articles that suggest it may not even be possible. Culture change, to most practice leaders, seems too big, too unwieldy and too slow to be worth the trouble. That’s why many resort to more familiar tactics like, re-organization, re-engineering, a new training program, anything to avoid tackling culture change. At least if those things don’t work…
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3 Reasons Why Culture Change is Hard

A lot of the work that I do with veterinary hospitals is around culture change. Most practices have the potential to be more successful if their environment is one that causes the people in the organization to fully commit to its mission. The right culture, along with the coaching and connection that happen in the organization, is the key to creating that kind of commitment. Many practices though, attack culture change the same way they would a introducing new procedures or technology. They use a linear, process-oriented approach that is applied across all of the affected employees. Culture change is…
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5 Ways Questions Can Make You a Stronger Leader

As I work with practice owners and managers to support them in their development, I find myself discussing the importance of good questions a lot. When we get right down to the tactical changes that leaders need to make to be more effective, increase the capability on their team or change the culture of their organization, asking great questions is usually a crucial part of those changes. Questions are one of the most powerful tools a leader has to inspire, develop, support and engage their team. I don’t subscribe to the theory that there is a secret to leadership, but…
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How to Lead Sustainable Change

Most people think change is hard. I hear veterinary practice owners and managers consistently frustrated with the speed and success of change within teams. They describe teams as resistant to change, stuck in their ways, and comfortable with the status quo. They also describe situations where individuals or teams are forced to change, but then, relatively quickly, return to their previous habits or patterns. It’s exhausting for leaders to work to create change – only to expend energy all over again because the change didn’t last. There are two kinds of change you can lead: reactive change and sustainable change.…
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Don’t Wait for a Breakthrough, Create One

Success doesn’t happen in a straight line. Neither does growth, achievement, progress, wealth, happiness, or any other of the things people often work their entire lives for. Instead, these things often come with a series of forward steps along with a number of setbacks, challenges, and derailments. None of the leaders I’ve worked with, who feel like they’ve achieved any of these things, would suggest they got there without a series of both failures and breakthroughs. The secret to success for many leaders is that they learned early on to create those breakthroughs for themselves when they didn’t happen naturally.…
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3 Questions to Ask Yourself as a Leader

It’s been said before that leadership is not about having the right answers; it’s about asking the right questions. Many people hear that and picture leaders thoughtfully posing deep, introspective questions of their followers, asking questions that cause them to think differently and ultimately come to the right conclusions on their own. That’s a great way to cause people to examine and be proactive about their decisions. What might be more important though, are the questions the leader asks his or herself. Every leader I’ve ever worked with who is getting great results and driving real meaningful change focused on…
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Are You Ready to Lead?

I use quotes sometimes when I conduct workshops, give keynote presentations, and even when I’m coaching veterinary practice managers or owners one-on-one. They are often a great way to create a change in perspective very quickly. They allow us to, for an instant, see the world through the lens of another person. That helps us evaluate our own lens with a little bit more objectivity. It only lasts a few seconds; then all of our own experiences, biases, and convictions swoop back in to put our thinking right back where it was before the little vacation. Sometimes though, a moment…
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