Practice Management News and Views from around the World – June 2015

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What makes a great decision maker?

From an article by Ian Dickson published in his UnlockSuccess website

We all have to make decisions.. Often all day long. Sometimes we make good ones, sometimes not so good!. Making decisions can be extremely difficult, tiring and stressful.

However, for some it seems to be a breeze and they make great decisions quickly, clearly and successfully. So here are a few tips that great decision makers do to ensure their choices are the right ones more often than not.

Capture Information.

They are good at understanding the appropriate level of information they need. Not too much (or they never decide) and not too little (or the risk of making the wrong choice is too great).

Have a focus

Their decision making is based on some clear criteria for their whole business or organisational map. One good one is ‘Is this a value-creating outcome?’

Take their time.

Good decision makers decide when the time is just right. Sometimes in the moment, other times after consideration. And even sleep on it, maybe, when pushed by others and then, sometimes, owners of the issue make their own decision in the meantime.

Keep others informed.

When a decision is pending, good decision makers keep those involved in the input and outcomes of their pending choice in the loop. They value those people by following through and communicating well.

Aren’t afraid.

And decisions are there to be made and not ‘toyed’ with. Prevarication here is often the worst option. Worse even than making the wrong choice…and is one of the biggest frustrations to those involved.

Involve others.

By working with others in a constructive way, the together decisiveness builds confidence in the leader. Often, as part of the information gathering cycle, opinions are sought as information and valued. Ideas off the wall from others can regularly provide the best choice – so they do not miss the opportunity.

Are accountable

Through making the best choice at the time, great decision makers know they, and they alone are accountable. That is the role they have chosen and the burden they carry – no one else gets the blame.

Know their limits.

Sometimes decisions are outside the scope of an individual. The best one’s know where the boundary of their choice making lies and pitch their level of accountability accordingly.

Show commitment.

Once the decision is made, the best decision makers stick with it with their full energy and focus. Making a decision and not following through is the worst possible sort of decision.

Learn from their mistakes

Reviewing the performance of a decision is a vital part of developing and honing those skills. Great decision makers develop a formal or informal process with which to measure the calibre of their Decision Making outcomes.

You can click here to visit the UnlockSuccess website website

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Make Your Team Feel Powerful

From an article by Harrison Monarth published in the Harvard Business Review

Research has shown that helping others feel more powerful can boost productivity, improve performance, and leave employees feeling more satisfied on the job. A study conducted by Yona Kifer of Tel Aviv University and published in Psychological Science found that employees were 26% more satisfied in their roles when they had positions of power.

Feelings of power also translated to more authenticity and feelings of well-being, the researchers found. Power made the subjects feel more “true to themselves,” enabling them to engage in actions that authentically reflected values they hold dear. This subjective sense of authenticity in turn created a higher sense of wellbeing and happiness.

And yet Gallup research has found that an astonishing 70% of American workers aren’t engaged or committed to their employers. Gallup estimates the cost of their apathy at between $450 billion to $550 billion in lost productivity per year. I’m guessing those workers aren’t feeling all that powerful.

While it would be great to think we could just repeat a mantra each morning to facilitate these wellbeing-enhancing feelings of power, another global study conducted by Gallup found that among some 600,000 workers across several industries, leadership support, recognition, constant communication, and trust were essential to creating a thriving environment where front-line employees felt they had the autonomy to make a real difference in the organization. In other words, to instill a sense of power in people for sustained engagement you need the support of the entire system.

In contrast, overly structured management-driven empowerment programs that are coupled with continuous improvement initiatives don’t work, according to researchers from the University of Illinois, as employees tend to feel such programs are often forced upon them without their input on the initiatives’ usefulness.

Instead, the researchers found that even the least powerful employees will commit to finding ways to make their organization more efficient if given the autonomy to make decisions and execute the improvement measures they find most useful. Managers are advised to act more as coaches, giving direction and support, and trusting that frontline employees, who are the experts on the ground, know better which improvements ultimately work in the best interest of the organization. The study, by Gopesh Anand, Dilip Chhajed, and Luis Delfin, shows that employees will be most committed to the organization when they feel their day-to-day work environment is autonomous and when they trust leaders to have their back. These feelings of power and the reciprocal trust in leadership in turn lead to proactive behaviors by frontline employees, as they’re likely to take charge in continuously seeking ways to improve their day-to-day work practices that lead to organizational efficiency.

While a company-wide effort of making employees feel autonomous and trusted yields the greatest benefit in employee commitment, managers can start with their own team members. Encouraging others to share their unvarnished views on important issues, delegating and sharing leadership, assigning managerial tasks, communicating frequently, and allowing for mistakes to serve as learning opportunities can all empower employees and develop them into independent thinkers who aren’t afraid to take risks and actively contribute in moving the organization forward.

It isn’t necessary, or indeed possible, to elevate every member of staff to a leadership position. But a good manager can offer choices that lead to empowerment, no title required. While we know that people instinctively crave higher status, M. Ena Inesi of London Business School discovered that agency is just as important. She primed study participants to feel either powerful or powerless. They then had to choose whether to shop at a nearby store with fewer options, or a store that was further away but which offered considerably more options. When participants felt powerless, they craved more choices. The participants who felt powerful, however, were content to have fewer choices. “You can imagine a person at an organization who’s in a low-level job,” Inesi said at the time.“You can make that seemingly powerless person feel better about their job and their duties by giving them some choice, in the way they do the work or what project they work on.”

People need to believe they have a sense of control over their situation, particularly in times of change and uncertainty, or they may adopt what psychologist Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania termed “learned helplessness,” where they basically stop trying. In a similar vein, Harvard psychology professor Ellen Langer conducted research on mindfulness and ‘choice’ and found that giving people choices over their environment actually extended life by years, according to her studies conducted among the elderly in nursing homes.

Tom Peters once said, “Leaders don’t create followers; they create more leaders.” Giving your employees real autonomy and helping them feel more powerful is not only your best chance to buck the trend of disengagement and apathy; it is at the heart of competitive strategy.

You can click here to visit the Harvard Business REview online

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Why is no one listening to you?

From an article by Alex Malley published online in


The workplace is full of it. Competing to have your voice heard over the rest is one thing, but actually being listened to presents an even greater challenge – especially when you’re positioned on the lower rungs of the ladder.

In the midst of the politics, personalities and pretext, attempting to successfully deliver your message to its intended target can be like trying to sink a basket with your eyes shut. You feel like your only choice is to shoot and hope it sinks in, and when it doesn’t you’re left feeling disheartened, perhaps even undervalued.

Out of frustration, many people facing this problem will default to the misguided strategy of saying what they think people want to hear in order to feel like they’re making a valued contribution. Or, even worse, they’ll ignore their instinct and join the bandwagon of popular opinion.

Please don’t do it!

Simply agreeing with other people will serve you absolutely no purpose. It will limit your personal and professional development and, believe me, certain individuals will start offering you the opportunity to be heard only out of their anticipation of your support for them.

Instead, focus on building your personal reputation and brand as someone who is collaborative, respects other people’s opinions, but clearly has a mind of your own and isn’t afraid of expressing it. And before you post your comment “sure, that’s easy for a CEO to say”, trust me, I didn’t get to where I am today by always taking the popular side. I experienced my fair share of deaf ears and closed doors as I was climbing the ladder, but I never let this deter me from articulating what I truly believed was the right course of action. Naturally, speaking my uncensored mind from a young age rubbed some people the wrong way, so I quickly learnt I would need to improve how I expressed myself. I vividly remember working hard at that; doing so made a significant difference. I began to earn respect and, whether my colleagues agreed with me or not, I had their attention.

Here’s how I did it:

One size doesn’t fit all

Not everyone likes to receive information in the same way. For instance, some prefer quick, to-the-point messages, while others go for the in-depth conversation that covers all angles. This is why it’s important to understand the individual you’re speaking with and mould your delivery accordingly. Observation is key in this: watch how they respond to others next time you’re in a meeting. What sort of delivery do they seem to respond to best? How do they deliver their own messages? I also see great value in attending external communication development sessions conducted by organisations such as Toastmasters. Objective, professional input can be extremely beneficial to your personal growth and confidence in this area.

Be a collaborative individual, not a compliant groupie

Pack mentality can be rife in any business. While it’s important to find a way to work with people, hear out and respect their opinion, you will never be truly listened to or earmarked for a leadership position unless you maintain a level of independence. Going against the flow once in a while because you believe it’s truly necessary is a character building exercise. Don’t shy away from the challenge.

Put time on your side

Picking the right time to speak is imperative. Eagerness and impatience to get your message across can often misguide you on this: you rush into it, speaking when the person isn’t paying attention. Again, observation is key in timing. Watch for those moments during the day when the person seems to be relatively undistracted, then engage. Timing applies in meetings, too. I commonly let people exhaust themselves with conversation before making my contribution towards the end of the discussion. Edifying yourself with everyone’s perspectives before sharing your own will help ensure you deliver a comprehensive and pertinent message.

Earn it

As you’ve likely heard before, respect is something earned not given. Being a reliable and consistent performer in all areas of your role can have a marked influence on earning the respect of the people around you and, in turn, their ear. Maintain a positive focus even when times are tough or seem unfair, and if you raise a problem with your manager, do so constructively by offering a possible solution. Nothing is viewed in isolation when it comes to your performance in the workplace.

Less can be more

Have you ever been in a meeting situation where someone takes an eternity to reach their point? Long-windedness is a sure-fire way of losing your audience. I’ve always been an advocate of making your point and backing it up with a concise and well-founded explanation. People are often pressed for time, so ensure you use it wisely. Also, be conscious of people’s body language while you’re speaking: it’ll tell you if you’re going on too long.

Combining these five points will not only take you a long way to being heard, but also a long way in not being forgotten. Remember: take being respected over being liked any day of the week.

You can click here to visit the Linked-In Pulse website

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What makes you special?

From an article by Rebecca Tudor published on her CatalystVets website

Success comes in all shapes and colours. You can be successful in your job and career but you can equally be successful in your marriage, at sports or a hobby. Whatever success you are after there is one thing all radically successful people have in common: Their ferocious drive and hunger for success makes them never give up.

Successful people (or the people talking or writing about them) often paint a picture of the perfect ascent to success. In fact, some of the most successful people in business, entertainment and sport have failed. Many have failed numerous times but they have never given up. Successful people are able to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and carry on trying.

I hear this all the time, “We practice better medicine”.

Really? Is practicing great medicine even really that hard? Yes, when you first get out of school, learning all the real world medicine can be a challenging task. After a few years though do you really think your hospital is THAT much better than the one down the street at the practice of medicine?

I probably have a few people pretty mad at me about what I just wrote and yes, I agree you do practice better medicine than the guy down the street who has not upgraded his treatment protocols since the early 80’s.

What really makes your hospital special is the way your team makes your clients and their pets feel. Your hospital’s customer service is what can truly separate you from the animal hospital down the road.

My team and I have had a few great and not so great customer service experiences lately. In one week, Nicole visited a hospital and stood in the lobby for 4 minutes before someone at the front desk acknowledged her. At another hospital she was placed on hold for 9.5 minutes (no, that is not a typo) while calling to check in on a patient of ours. These may have been isolated incidents- the hospitals may have been very busy but this is NOT GREAT customer service as a matter of fact it is not even good customer service.

Not to be all negative, we have many GREAT customer experiences and one this week was a practice manager agreeing to come in on a Sunday to discharge a surgical case of ours because the owners live 2 hours away and were going to be driving back by the hospital on Sunday. It made me feel great that she was willing to come in let alone how appreciative the owners were that they did not have to make an additional trip.

Please don’t think I am saying you need to be open on Sundays but most people don’t bother going the first mile let alone the second mile! What she did was a great example of doing more than what is expected which is how GREAT customer service should be defined.

Great medicine should be a given, but if you really want to make your hospital stand out from the one right down to road, you better figure out a way to deliver the BEST consistently GREAT customer service you possible can!

You can click here to visit the CatalystVets website

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Seven Tips To Greater Productivity

From an article by Diederik Gelderman published on his TurbochargeyYourPractice website

Undoubtedly you’ve heard this before;

We remember –

  • 10% of what we read,
  • 20% of what we hear,
  • 30% of what we see,
  • 50% of what we see and hear,
  • 70% of what we say,
  • 90% of what we say and do.

The fact is that this is just not correct.

The problem with these, like most simple solutions to complex problems, is that they are wrong. We all learn in different ways and at different paces.

The optimum way to learn and retain information depends on ‘the content, the context, and the learner’.

So in effect, there are many, simple ‘tips’ that can be used to help improve yours and others’ productivity and performance. Here are seven key points to greater learning and better productivity from new research conducted by Cisco Health.

Avoid multitasking.

Our short term memory can be easily overloaded and transfer to long term cognitive control is a serial process.

Pay attention to one thing at a time

Pay attention to one thing at a time for between 45 to 90 minutes and see that task through to completion. 40% of all traffic accidents can be attributed to inattention

Build on prior knowledge.

We learn best when we can attach new ideas to old understanding. So build knowledge one stepping stone at a time. Never try to advance to quickly without a solid foundation.

Create a depth of learning.

By not only attaching relevant data but making the lessons personally meaningful. The more personally relevant the learning is to you, the more likely you are to retain the information. So where ever possible, find some way to attach some personal meaning or relevance to all new learning and all new ideas.

Apply the ideas….soon.

How often have you attended a conference or training that is so packed with session after session that there is no time to process? You end up with great handouts but little hands-on.

So as soon as you get back to your workplace, put aside some dedicated time to put in place an Action Plan to ensure that you implement and take action on what you’ve just learnt.

Don’t tell to teach.

At your practice, when teaching and training others, design a structure that allows participants to discover their own lessons. This process is called metacognition or thinking about our thinking. I use stories from unassociated industries to allow participants to draw their own comparisons and cross-contextualize what they learn to the Veterinary industry. Remember: what we say as educators, trainers and mentors is not nearly as important as what students say to themselves.

Leave plenty of time for conversation.

This may seem a bit of a foreign concept and maybe even appear to be a time waster. However time for ‘the trainees’ to talk to you their trainer as well as between and amongst themselves significantly improves learning outcomes.

As an example, the Academy for Neurosciences uses long breaks between sessions to allow participants to ‘download’ lessons through conversations with each other and have quiet time with their own thoughts.

You can click here to visit the Turbocharge Your Practice website

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