Practice Management News and Views from around the World – February 2017

Little Kids – Big Dogs

Mitigate Mistakes with Practice Protocols

From an article by Tracy Dowdy and published in her website blog

Many veterinary professionals have a mistake-phobic mentality and believe mistakes reflect stupidity or incompetence. However, mistakes do happen and how they are dealt with—whether among the team or with a client or patient—is what really matters. Team members should always conduct themselves with integrity, showing they are striving to do the right thing for both the practice and the client. Mistakes are, in fact, opportunities to learn and develop. All team members should consider these principles to help prevent mistakes and manage them when they occur.

Every practice should have Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)—written instructions outlining the steps for routine practice activities—to ensure consistency in training methods to provide quality services and products to clients and patients.

Practices that do not have written SOPs face many pitfalls, ranging from a chaotic workflow and unproductive team members to inconsistent client service and patient care. When practices create and implement specific, carefully crafted SOPs, team expectations are clear, orderly systems followed, and mistakes dramatically reduced.

When mistakes are made repeatedly, sometimes without anyone realizing, the reason frequently is lack of training in the practice’s SOPs. Mistakes are made more often because of lack of training than lack of ability. Every practice should have SOPs in some form because they are the first step toward avoiding many mistakes.

A culture of honesty is valuable in a practice because a lack of transparency (eg, keeping secrets) causes problems and mistakes do not get corrected. Make team members want to be honest by emphasizing how client service and patient care could be negatively affected and how dishonesty can hurt the practice owners. Include honesty as a core value in the team member handbook to show it is taken seriously.

Practice leaders should welcome team members who admit their mistakes and encourage them (eg, with praise) so more team members also feel comfortable owning up to their mistakes. Give team members the opportunity to heal psychologically, learn from their mistakes, and improve skills such as decision-making and communication.

In Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success, John C. Maxwell shares that some of America’s most successful entrepreneurs made huge mistakes before making their fortune. For example, Mary Kay of Mary Kay Cosmetics, who is known as “America’s Greatest Woman Entrepreneur,” filed for bankruptcy early in her career but learned from her missteps and built her company into a multibillion-dollar corporation. If practice leaders want team members to admit mistakes and improve performance, they must open the lines of communication and build a culture of honesty in which team members are not afraid to admit errors and always want to right any wrongs.

Consider creating a Client Experience Share Time as a routine agenda item at every team meeting that allows team members to share client interactions, both good and bad. Encourage everyone to participate—more involvement can help team members feel confident about sharing mistakes and triumphs. Remember, these are learning opportunities in which open, honest communication is essential, with no repercussions for anyone who shares a negative experience.

Enhance the learning experience by asking team members who interacted with the client to share their role in the experience. How did their involvement impact the client experience? What could have been done differently? Conclude with suggestions for better ways to handle the situation and resolve the issues.

Conclusion

Mistakes are always going to happen, particularly in the fast-paced environment of a veterinary practice. However, ensuring the practice does as much as possible to help team members avoid making wrong decisions or acting inappropriately, then acknowledging mistakes that do occur, discussing the details of the incident, and helping the team focus on improvement will create a better working environment for team members and clients.

You can click here to visit Tracy Dowdy's website

Three Communication Tips Every Leader Needs to Know

From an article by Adam Gale published in the Management Today website

Leadership cannot exist if you don’t know how to bring people along with you. We asked silver-tongued Ted Talk maestro Simon Sinek for some pointers

At first glance, communication is the chartreuse feather boa of leadership skills: a garish, fluffy triumph of style over substance. Surely a sound grasp of strategy matters more than a big mouth?

Yet try to imagine a great leader who’s also a hopeless communicator, and you’ll draw a blank.

Great strategies and brilliant ideas mean little if no one understands them. You could be the very embodiment of the authentic, purposeful, innovative, open and supportive culture that your firm needs, but it will do you no good if you never leave your corner office.

Someone who knows a thing or two about getting a message across is author and TED Talk maestro Simon Sinek (his talk Start With Why is the third most viewed on the platform). Here are his top tips for using communication to be a better leader.

Everything you do is communication

If you think the only messages you send are the ones you’ve carefully crafted and then bcc’d to the company email list, think again.

Every decision you make tells your employees something, for good or for ill.

Sinek contrasts the divergent career paths of toxic high performers (we all know the type) on the one hand and on the other those nice but often overlooked team players who make the office a more pleasant place to be, but don’t break any records for individual performance

‘If we promote a bastard, it’s basically saying to the rest of the company we don’t care if you lie, cheat or steal, so long as you make your numbers you’ll do just fine here,’ he says.

‘If we recognise honesty and integrity as conditions for working in our company, it’s also a piece of communication: no matter how good your numbers are, if you lie, cheat and steal you have no place here.

’Think carefully therefore about the messages your actions might be sending out. If you’re not sure, ask people. Listening is the other half of communication, after all.

The Tortoise always beats the Hare

Let’s say your team is languishing creatively. They’re disengaged and rarely speak up, but you know they’ve got more than they’re giving. The missing ingredient could well be psychological safety -  you want them to feel safe, so they can bring their whole selves to work (particularly, in this case, their brains).

Short of ordering them to feel safe, how can you communicate that?

‘As social animals, we respond to our environment. If the boss walks in and says you’ve missed your numbers for the third quarter in a row, if you don’t pick them up I can’t guarantee your job, how excited and inspired are you going to be? If the boss comes in and says you’ve missed your numbers again, are you okay, I’m worried about you, then that’s the kind of environment that makes us feel safe,’ explains Sinek.

‘It’s about consistency vs intensity. Intensity is going to the dentists twice a year. Consistency’s brushing your teeth. What’s the value of brushing your teeth for two minutes? Nothing... unless you do it every single day.’

The practice of good communication – and indeed good management – is therefore little and often. ‘You walk into the office and ask someone how they are and you actually care about the answer. You get yourself a cup of coffee and without asking get one for your colleague. You hold the lift door open even though you’re running late for a meeting. That’s the practice of leadership. What’s the impact? Once, nothing. Twice, zero. But I promise if you do these little innocuous things over time people will start to trust you more and you can create an environment where people care about each other.’

A word of warning though: just as you can improve a culture with microbehaviours, you can also make it worse with bad habits.

Don’t Try too Hard

For leaders, communication often means persuasion. You need your team to buy into an idea or strategy, even though you know they have their doubts. Or you’re making a business deal and you need to convince the other side it’s worth it.

Language matters in persuasion, as does medium: some people won’t respond to a given message if it’s phrased formally and delivered in writing, but will react if it’s informal and comes during a chat in the kitchen.

But adapting the message only goes so far. Some people just won’t budge. ‘Don’t try to convince them,’ says Sinek. ‘If they’re addicted to sweets, who am I to tell them they should eat spinach?’

Instead, find the people who are already interested, and focus on them. ‘It’s the law of diffusion of innovations. I don’t care about the majority, I care about the early adopters and innovators. If I can get 15-18% of them to see things a certain way, there’s a tipping point and everyone comes along.’

You can click here to visit the Management Today website

Why are Businesses Embracing the Cloud Now More Than Ever?

From an article by Gemma Maroney published in the Small Business Heroes website

Any business, no matter its size, needs to find ways to maximise productivity whilst minimising costs.

This is the central driving force behind the shift to cloud technology.

Moving to the Cloud removes the need for businesses to maintain expensive on-site infrastructure, providing an unprecedented degree of flexibility compared to on-site solutions, and offers significant savings as well.

Cloud technology has seen an enormous upsurge in recent years, with uptake predicted to rise from 78% to 85% of businesses in the near future, but what’s driving this, and where does this trend lead?

What makes the cloud so attractive? In broad strokes, cloud hosting is a way to outsource your business’s processing requirements: you can access a set of remote servers to handle all the heavy lifting – all you need is an internet connection, instead of needing to sink a great deal of money into onsite infrastructure.This allows for important technology to be delivered as a service, a model which empowers small businesses with all the tools of much bigger corporations.

Think of cloud services as a water tap, where you only pay for what you use, instead of having to dig your own well.

Why is now the time of the cloud?

The quality of a cloud service depends upon the client’s internet connection; even the slickest, most streamlined solution is rendered clunky and unusable by an outdated 2Mb connection. With the advent of superfast broadband across the UK, however, more and more businesses have access to the high-bandwidth services that enable seamless cloud connectivity.

In turn, the wider availability of cloud services is driving competition between providers, resulting in faster innovation and more competitive pricing than ever before. In addition to this, the mobile revolution is having a significant impact on the way employees work; now that more than 70% of UK residents own a smartphone, businesses are seeing the widespread application of BYOD (Bring Your Own Devices) working practices, and by allowing employees to integrate their smartphones as part of the business’s telecoms structure, cloud solutions let employers take advantage of this to boost productivity

As WiFi calling becomes more established, it becomes increasingly important for businesses to merge their communications packages into a single unified se

What does the cloud have to offer?

A big benefit of the cloud is the consolidation of services into a single package, and many providers offer an end-to-end service wholly owned and operated by one company. This allows for full support at every stage of the journey, and also allows for infrastructure to be standardised for maximum stability – many cloud services now offer 99.99% uptime.

This is possible because cloud service providers can run multiple servers at once, with backup “mirror” servers in case one should suffer a malfunction.This enables businesses of all sizes to benefit from the security and reliability that a multi-server setup provides, without having to make the substantial CAPEX investment required to create their own system.

Operational expenses are also reduced, as there’s no need to maintain costly on-site equipment; 55% of businesses moving to a hosted platform reported that their IT team’s workload was drastically reduced, allowing them to focus on other issues.

What’s next for the cloud?

One of the most exciting capabilities of cloud technology is the ability for users to access powerful digital systems on demand, paying only for what they need. For example, Google Cloud’s Compute Engine allows users to utilise their enormously powerful systems at an hourly rate, with brands like Spotify taking advantage of services such as BigQuery to crunch enormous sums of data at high speed.

Adobe has taken a similar step, and now provides access to its software through the Adobe Creative Cloud – users subscribe monthly, instead of purchasing programs upfront, which grants them access to Adobe’s online infrastructure (although programmes are still run on the user’s computer, they are able to store and sync their files across multiple devices using the Adobe Cloud).

Cloud computing also directly facilitates the development of the Internet of Things (IoT), the term used to describe “smart” everyday objects that all join together into a global network: in Bristol, for example, the entire city has been turned into an IoT testbed with the Bristol is Open project, with thousands of different systems feeding data back to a central computer for analysis.

Projects like this demonstrate that cloud computing is destined to become ubiquitous, as it makes it easier for businesses and individuals to access powerful technology – as the benefits of cloud solutions become ever more obvious, it is set to become the norm rather than the exception.

You can click here to visit the Small Business Heroes website

More Razzmatazz

From an article by Winston Marsh and published on his website blog

Years ago I was part of a service club and was charged with building the membership of clubs within the region.

When I had a look at what membership offered I realised it was pretty good, and once people went along to a meeting a couple of times and got involved they enjoyed the activities and became happy participants.

The problem was that, on the first visit, a potential member was turned off because the current members were so busy doing their “thing” they never thought to involve the newbie.

To the new casual observer there wasn’t much happening.

They had a negative perception.

I could see what we needed to do was put more life into activities, to create more razzamatazz.

We needed to wind up the wick a little so that new people could see the life and vitality in the club making it something of which they wanted to become part.

We had to make sure they got a positive perception.

And so it is with many businesses I see.

The business, and the people in it, may be very good at what they do but to an outsider they don’t look like they are good at doing it.

They go about their business methodically but never give an indication of their skills and professionalism.

They don’t show any flair.In a nutshell, the products and services the business delivers may be fantastic but the team do nothing to create the perception of being a great outfit.

Quite simply it’s not the product or the property that creates a great perception of your business… it’s your people who create the perception of a great business.

It’s those little human touches you and your team deliver that get your customers, clients or patients thinking your business is the best on the block.

So here is the question.

What do you and your team members do to make sure people get a great perception of your business so they want to tell others about you and what you do?

You can click here to visit Winston Marsh's website

Managers: Can the problems you’re seeing be traced back to your leadership?

From an article by Christine Scarborough published in the DVM360.com online magazine

Practice managers: How many times have you arrived at the veterinary hospital with a plan only to spend your day fighting fires instead?

Maybe the vet’s upset that Fluffy didn’t receive her insulin before closing yesterday. Or maybe you learn that the oxygen was left on overnight and you don’t have enough for the five surgeries scheduled that day.

How do these things happen? Before you give in to the knee-jerk response—“Somebody didn’t do their job!”—take a moment to consider the state of leadership in your hospital.

Here are six questions to ask yourself to uncover potential areas for improvement:

Am I upholding quality standards?

I saw red flags once during an interview for a technician job I was trying for, but I chose to ignore them. For example, the practice owner, a well-established and well-liked veterinarian, kicked off our meeting by offering me a frozen daiquiri. I declined, but the blender whizzed to life as he made himself a refreshing drink and I sat waiting for the interview.

Not surprisingly, things went downhill from there. Within the first hour of my first day on the job, appointments started arriving, and because the owner (and only doctor) was on vacation, these patients were for me!

Most were simple things like suture removals and heartworm tests, but things eventually got more complicated. A puppy with parvo came in, and although I received medical advice from the practice owner over the phone, I was unsettled that I’d been advised to keep the puppy overnight instead of sending it to another hospital.

The next morning, my fears were confirmed when I learned that the puppy had died in our clinic. I’m still haunted by guilt.

Other standards of care were similarly (and appallingly) disregarded and after learning from an assistant that my experience was “par for the course,” I reached my limit. After speaking with the owner (and being threatened that I would be professionally blackballed), I filed a complaint with the state board.

As a leader, if you aren’t upholding patient standards, you are doing a disservice to your clients, your patients, your team and the profession as a whole.

Once you start a cycle of taking shortcuts or allowing substandard care, you create a culture of mediocrity and perilous negligence that is passed from team member to team member.

​Am I Being Mentored?

School may have taught me veterinary skills and principles, but Liz Grainger, currently the practice manager at South Point Pet Hospital in Belmont, North Carolina, taught me about real-world application at my first job as a technician (no, not the job above). Liz was there for me from the beginning, showing me the ropes, passing on knowledge, providing encouragement, challenging me and helping me recognize my potential to learn, do and be more.

She knew that the more effort she put into helping me succeed, the better off the patients and the rest of the team would be.

Her influence made me a better version of myself and a better leader.

Everyone, regardless of how long or how little they’ve been in the profession, can benefit from a mentor’s encouragement and advice. If you don’t have a “Liz Grainger” in your life, do what you can to get one.

Am I a mentor?

On a related note, are you a “Liz Grainger” to someone else? If not, find someone you’d like to champion. It’s been 19 years since my first job, and I clearly still think about Liz’s impact on my life to this day.

Maybe someday, your mentee will write about you.

Am I respectful?

I can vividly recall one hospital where I witnessed instruments thrown in surgery and an empty cat carrier chucked across the room. It was the kind of place where the practice owner’s mere presence brought palpable tension.

At another hospital, the hospital owner routinely cursed at and belittled the team in front of clients. Once, he even put his hands on me in a fit of anger.In response to these disrespectful behaviors,

I became paralyzed by fear and lost confidence in my medical skills and decision-making abilities. Patients, clients and team members were affected as a result, because I was too preoccupied with trying to figure out why these things were happening and how I could control or stop them for the sake of myself and others.

As a leader, it’s OK to be upset and discuss your frustrations, but you must keep it respectful. If you find yourself reaching a boiling point, take time to cool down before speaking.

Patients deserve to be in an environment that encourages learning, growth and open dialogue.

Do I shut up and listen?

One veterinarian I worked with had a listening problem. All concerns and passionate new ideas brought to her by myself and others fell on deaf ears.

Eventually, we grew tired of being ignored and stopped voicing them, simply going along with the status quo.The doctor would have benefitted from the advice Ernesto Sirolli, a sustainable development expert, gave during a 2012 TED talk: “Shut up and listen.”

According to Sirolli, “The passion a person has for their own growth is the most important thing. If you listen to that person who has passion, you can find a way to help that person.”When you’re faced with a team member who is dealing with a work-related issue or who wants to voice concerns or ideas on how to improve something in the hospital, shut up and listen.

Understand that because the team member is bringing something to your attention, he or she is passionate enough to care and make things better. Express empathy and open your mind to possible solutions. Get your ego out of the way and avoid taking things personally.

When you take the time to truly listen to others, you’ll be amazed how much more effectively you’ll function as leader. The end result is a team that feels valued and trusted to provide quality patient care.

Do I take ownership?

In the book Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALS Lead and Win, authors Jocko Willink and Leif Babin relate lessons learned during tours in Ramadi, Iraq, to the business world.

As the book explains, “All responsibility for success and failure rests with the leader.”If there are communication gaps, you need to bridge them. If your team isn’t united behind a common goal, it’s up to you to unify them.

If your team doesn’t have the resources it needs, it’s your job to provide them. If someone on the team isn’t doing what’s expected, it’s your duty to find out why and to devise a plan to turn that around.

If a team member needs additional training to perform his or her job well, that’s your responsibility too.

If that same underperformer doesn’t improve, you must remove that person from the team and hire someone else who can get the job done.

Now what? If you couldn’t answer affirmatively to all of the above questions, don’t beat yourself up. Take actions to turn things around for you and your team.

However, a perfect score won’t guarantee smooth sailing. You may still spend your days fighting fires, but at least you’ll be less likely to be the cause.

You can click here to visit the DMM360.com website