Practice Management News and Views from around the World – November 2018

So God made a Dog

7 Tips for Engaging with Non-Responsive Clients

From an article published on the DVMelite website blog

Some veterinary clients are easy to engage with. They are naturally talkative. They genuinely enjoy friendly banter and are open about their pets. Unfortunately, not everyone is this easygoing. Some people tend to shy away from engaging in conversation. This can make it incredibly difficult to obtain the information you need about the patient you are treating. The problem is, what a pet parent doesn’t bring up could negatively impact their companion’s health, not to mention the rift it can cause between them and your practice.

If you’re stumped for how to draw quiet clients out of their shell, here are a few tips for doing so that can produce meaningful conversation in the process.

Be personable.

Some people need to warm up before they’re comfortable entering a conversation. Make your veterinary clients feel welcome and at home. Even if you’re having a busy day, make an effort to slow down and make a personal connection. This may mean coming out of your own comfort zone, but if you want to build those relationships, it’s something you have to do.

Find a common ground.

It’s much easier to connect with someone you have something in common with than with a complete stranger. Talk about yourself a little. Share some stories about your own pets, hobbies or passions. You’re bound to find something you can both relate to and when you do, it’ll open the door to much more natural and comfortable conversation.

Make the exam room a judgment-free zone.

Often times a pet owner feels embarrassed to reveal the reason they’ve had to bring their pet in. For instance, perhaps something the owner did ultimately led to his or her pet’s illness or injury. Regardless of who is at fault, the fact is the pet is there for treatment now, so in the end they did the right thing. Encourage clients to be honest by reminding them that after many years in the industry, you’ve seen just about everything. And when the client finally does open up, don’t judge.

Dig deeper and be specific.

A client may not be purposely withholding information, but instead may simply not realize it’s pertinent. The deeper you dig and the more detailed you get with the reasons why you’re asking certain questions, the more details you’ll get in return and the more likely you’ll be to get to the root of the problem. Asking the right questions and encouraging open, honest and in-depth answers may spur additional related information that can be helpful in treating the patient.

Be gracious and thankful.

When a bashful client finally comes out of his or her shell and opens up, show them how much it means to you. Thank them for their contributions. Complement them on how well they’ve articulated the information you requested. This builds rapport and creates a stronger foundation on which to establish a positive doctor-client relationship.

Relay similar stories.

If possible, drawing a correlation to another client or patient (without naming names, of course) with a similar situation can set a nervous client at ease. And when they’re more comfortable, they’re more likely to share information. For instance, if you suspect a dog may have eaten something she shouldn’t have, you might say: “Last week we had a German Shepherd in who ate a bunch of coffee grounds.” That might prompt the client to admit, “Yeah, I think Tonka might have gotten into the garbage.” If you don’t have an actual story, you may need to fabricate some of the details, but it’s a means to an end.

Follow up.

Don’t let the communication end in the exam room. Follow up with all of your veterinary clients, but especially the ones that are more difficult to connect with. You can do this with a phone call or even just a quick email reminding them that you care about their pet and you’re there if they need you. This can go a long way toward establishing those lifelong connections that are so important in your practice’s ongoing success.


You can click here to visit the DVMelite websit

4 Ways to Eliminate Employee Negativity

From an article by Amanda Donnelly and published on her website

Remember Doug and Wendy Whiner from Saturday Night Live? I love the skit when they sat down next to Danny DeVito on a plane. Do you have employees like this on your team? If so, here are strategies to work towards eliminating their negativity.

Determine validity.

Determine if the negative person has valid concerns. Some employees who develop a reputation for being complainers became that way over time due to their frustrations with poor management or other legitimate concerns. If you can affect positive change in one or more areas, these employees may stop complaining and become less negative.

Don’t give it a voice

Negative employees want people to listen to their complaints and it’s common for them to play the victim role. Do these statements sound familiar? “I couldn’t get my work done because I didn’t have enough help.” “My life is so hard because I don’t have a supportive family.” “The last 2 clients were the worst!” “We don’t get paid enough and no one cares about us.”

Wendy Whiner and Victoria Victim bring everyone down. Practice responses to their negativity that help to eliminate any voice they have. Here are examples:

  • “Sounds like you’re not happy. What will YOU do to changes things?”
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    “Are you feeling unappreciated?”
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    “I don’t agree with your view. Let’s see what we can do to understand more about that.”

Relate consequences of negativity to core values

If team members complain relentlessly about something that can’t be changed, such as the nature of work or they’re being a victim, then confront them about how their behavior is disruptive to the work environment. Point out how they interfere with efficiency and teamwork. Likewise, point out how their actions violate core values such as respect and compassion.

Demand solutions

If you're a manger, let the team know any complaints must be accompanied with proposed solutions. If you are a co-worker of someone who complains, try to brainstorm solutions together and reach consensus on how you can improve the practice.

You can click here to visit Amanda Donnelly's website

Understanding your Unique Team

From an article by Debbie Robinson originally published on the VetDynamics website

The secret to a happy, harmonious team is no secret at all. As a leader, team member or practice owner, all you need to do is focus on learning people’s behaviours. Behaviour differs from person-to-person; it’s subjective, it’s all about perception. Your team’s perception of things like change, personal motivations, and each other’s personality can determine whether their behaviour works with your practice, or against it.

The fact is that people tend to be most motivated, and most successful when they’re able to use their naturally preferred style. People’s behaviours are then dictated by the recognition they get and the successes born from doing something ‘their way’.

The University of California, School of Medicine, demonstrated that the brain needs to work as much as 100 times harder when an individual is using skills outside his or her area of natural preference. More oxygen and glucose is demanded by the brain because it is adapting its preferred way of working. The likely consequence is stress, fatigue, and reduced performance. Although all human brains are very similar, there are small differences in the way the brain organises itself. It is thought that these differences are what cause our unique talents; and these talents are what we as employers, need to tap into to keep our staff happy and productive.

Personal Profiles

Personal profiling typically looks at a person’s skills, characteristics, and traits. If a person is happy focusing on a task or engaging a particular skill that fits with what they like and where they have a natural strength, they are considered to be working ‘in flow’; this is highly beneficial to both you and them. When someone is ‘wired’ to do a particular job, they will progress and perform at their very best. Put simply, ‘flow’ is about playing to people’s strengths and following the path of least resistance.

Personal profiles are particularly useful when recruiting or establishing roles and responsibilities because they can help to highlight behaviour differences in people; this enables practice owners to assign the right person to the job.

You may have heard of HBDI, PRISM or Myers-Briggs; they’re all examples of personal profiling tools. The insights that these profiling tools provide help practice managers and owners to understand their team members better. They identify how to improve productivity and efficiency and provide a more positive, healthy workplace.

Team Profiles

Team profiling is ideal for identifying strengths and weaknesses within a team. It involves much more than merely combining personal profile results. It’s an efficient way of helping individuals ‘achieve flow’ within a team; which is completely different to achieving flow on your own.

Talent Dynamics is an example of Team Profiling; it suggests that there are four main energies and eight ‘profiles’ made up of different amounts of these energies. It teaches that balancing these energies is essential to a successful team.

Team Profiles are good for teams that need to understand each other better and build stronger problem solving and communication skills. They’re effective at establishing collaboration and teamwork as well as developing a commitment to a common purpose and a growth mindset.

The best environment for anyone looking to achieve success is a work environment that nurtures uniqueness. Encourage people to be ‘in flow’ and accept their natural strengths and weaknesses; promoting understanding, self-esteem, and confidence in people. This results in employees feeling emotionally engaged, which is when they can optimise their performance.

Profiling will help you to make better-informed decisions. It provides the building blocks for a dynamic and emotionally engaged team. However, reading the intricacies of a person’s profile is not something you should do alone. Think of it like chemistry; you have a profile, a preference, and a natural strength in specific areas; but when you combine yours with one of the eight other Talent Dynamics profiles, you get a concoction which needs managing. Certain mixtures can explode, fizzle out or achieve nothing at all if handled wrong. It all depends on structuring those all-important conversations in a way that resonates with the unique dynamics of the team in question.

Interpreting ‘flow’ and profile synergy is a skill and needs professional, expert guidance and group facilitation.

Harmony, personal fulfilment, effective communication and a high performing practice are all achievable when you have a better understanding of your unique team.

You can click here to visit the VetDynamics website

What I learned from Franklin Covey

From an article by Matthew Salois published in the DVM360.com website

Veterinary economics isn’t always about big financial trends. Sometimes it’s about drilling down to what you’re trying to do in your practice and trying out a new process, like this one, to get there.

Last month, I wrote about how a focus on short-term wins while pursuing long-term change will help improve veterinarians’ lives today and will also—over time—improve the economic dynamics of the profession. So, whether you're looking to grow market share, boost revenue, reduce employee turnover or enhance the client experience, improving your business requires changing behavior—your own or someone else's. But behavioral change isn’t easy, especially amid the many pressing needs of a busy day.

One framework I’ve used and found helpful is an idea from Franklin Covey called the “Four Disciplines of Execution,” or 4DX. These are four steps to doing things in a new way to achieve goals, even while contending with the urgent and competing priorities of a demanding practice. 4DX defines four key disciplines that lay out a straightforward path to achieving your goals and executing a successful strategy:

Discipline 1: Focus on ‘wildly important goals’

Start by setting a small number of goals (just one or two) to focus energy on—these are your “wildly important goals.” This might be difficult to do—it goes against our basic wiring to be ambitious and manage many things at once—but it’s important to successful execution of a strategy. An economics principle called the law of diminishing marginal returns explains why this is critical: The more you agree to do, the less you can actually get done.

Be clear on what you want to achieve, and by when. A good format for goal setting is “from x to y by z.” For example, “Increase practice revenue by 20 percent by the end of the year.” This approach to establishing your wildly important goal recognizes where you are today, where you want to go, and by when.
This seems simple, but a surprising number of leaders fail to do this.

Discipline 2: Measure success better

Now that you’ve defined your wildly important goals, you need to measure success. There are two types of metrics for this: lag measures and lead measures.

Lag measures describe the thing you’re trying to change or improve—where you’re falling behind. For example, if you want to reduce the number of single-visit clients, your lag measure would track this. The problem with lag measures is that they come too late—it’s like looking in the rearview mirror.

Lead measures focus on the activities most critical to success that help drive lag measures. How might you apply this in practice? If your goal is to increase practice revenue, one of your lead measures could be to increase the number of follow-up phone calls you make to discuss patient progress. Another could be to sign up more clients for their next appointment before they leave your clinic.

Surveying clients about their customer experience could help you identify other lead measures to drive the increased business you’re looking for.

Discipline 3: Keep score to inspire

Next, create a scoreboard to engage and motivate your team. If your lead measure is the number of follow-up appointments made, track and show your progress with a visible display that reminds team members of that important goal—and motivates them to follow through with their own commitments.

Make your scoreboard big, and hang it prominently on a wall where everyone will see it in your back office. When people see how their efforts contribute to a goal, they’re more vested in success. It’s amazing how people behave differently when keeping score. If you’ve ever worn a Fitbit or other fitness tracker, think about how it affects your decision to take the stairs versus the elevator.

Discipline 4: Hold everyone (including yourself) accountable

The fourth discipline is the most crucial: accountability. Schedule brief but regular team meetings to discuss the scoreboard, reflect on how and why the number has changed, and make individual commitments for further action.

The activity of formally examining progress and making decisions together creates accountability and supports teamwork. Team members become accountable not only to the boss, but also to the team as a whole. This dramatically increases performance when working for a common goal.

I’ve experienced success using Franklin Covey’s 4DX approach. However, no matter which tools you choose, the point is to work purposefully and actively on translating your business strategy into action. By doing so, you transform your goals into tangible wins—and bring small improvements to your practice, which build over time into broader success.

You can
click here to visit the DVM360.com website

How Words Impact Your Practice Culture

From an article by Carolyn Shadle and published in the Veterinarians Money Digest website

“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We all learned this as children, but now know it to be untrue. Words can hurt. The words we choose are important in establishing a culture of appreciation and teamwork, and in increasing morale and motivation throughout a veterinary practice. Being aware of how each person’s communication habits affect clients and the team is the first step in building a stress-free work environment.

Neuroscience has taught us that positive communication produces a “feel-good” chemical known as dopamine in the brain of the receiver. Dopamine provides a sense of elation, increases adrenaline, and makes the listener feel confident. Conversely, cortisol is released when an individual encounters a negative message or is put in an uncomfortable or threatening situation. Cortisol generates feelings of anxiety, increases heart rate, and alerts the individual to leave the situation.

Armed with this information, it behooves us to recognize the potential positive or negative impact of what we say.

Criticizing

Beginning a sentence with “don’t do that” or “you shouldn’t” tends to send a negative, critical message. There are many times when you want to tell your colleague or client what not to do, but this misses the opportunity to tell them what you want them to do. Using positive instead of negative terms provides encouragement and possibly new and needed information.

Blaming

“If you hadn’t…then…” is a strategy often used to defend or promote your own desires, hoping the other person will give in and agree. Sometimes blaming is a way to attempt to control another person’s behavior. In either case, it puts the person being blamed on the defensive and may invite an argument rather than a learning opportunity. You may be right in who is at fault, but starting a conversation in a blaming tone will likely thwart an opportunity to get to the bottom of the problem. More important than assigning blame is winning cooperation. This requires continuing communication in which understanding and, perhaps, new learning can take place.

Ordering

“Put this…,” “Don’t leave…” Even delivered in a soft tone, these phrases indicate an order. Most of us don’t want to be bossed around, and we often perceive the person issuing the order as bossy. A more acceptable way to state your wishes is to indicate what it is that you need or want. “I need to be able to find….” Adding how you feel about the situation makes the conversation more personal: “I’m feeling very anxious when….”

Threatening

“If…, then….” Admittedly, you may want to use some leverage to persuade your teammate or client to follow your direction. This system of persuasion, however, creates distance between you and the other person. It suggests that you have power that the other person lacks. In an effort to build a partnership with your client or teammate, you will want to find ways to persuade that don’t invite resistance or opposition. Describing what you know about the impact of certain behavior is more likely to be accepted than resisted.

Scrap the Negative, Accentuate the Positive

To get the dopamine flowing in your clients and coworkers, consider substituting negative strategies with positive messages that will encourage them to want to listen and continue the conversation. In the end, morale and productivity will improve.

You can click here to visit the Veterinarians Money Digest website