Practice Management News and Views from around the World – March 2016

10 ways to live a happier life – according to animals

Eat a Frog a day- Top tips to stop procrastinating!

From an article by Caroline Crowe Veterinary Coach and Mentor - and published on her blog

Procrastination, deferring or avoiding taking action or doing a task, affects everyone to some degree or another. It can be a hard habit to break. You may recognise the feeling that you are drifting away from the task at hand or constantly looking at your inbox wanting an email to come in to give you a legitimate excuse, the moving of tasks from one to do list to another, the feeling of knowing you should be doing something but you just don’t do it. This may lead to missed deadlines here and there or letting someone down every now and again, but chronic procrastination can be like a disease and can really hinder your progress.

Firstly recognise and admit that you are procrastinating and putting things off.

Then understand the reasons behind your action or inaction, as each cause will require a different approach to tackle it

Is the task:

​Too Boring or Too Difficult? 

To be motivating a task needs to be challenging enough to stimulate your interest but not so difficult that it’s demoralising. If there’s too little challenge to the task it is easy to feel unmotivated to start. If there’s too much challenge, it can be difficult to know where to start.​

​Too Time Consuming? 

Are you putting it off as it requires large blocks of time and the next time you have such blocks of time are at the weekend or not until next week? So in away there’s no point in starting. Perhaps ask yourself…Does it really have to all be done in a big block? Exactly how long will it take you? Often we overestimate how long things will take. Instead, break the task into different components or chunks that require less time. This will always be possible, no matter what you might first think. It may not be quite as efficient to do it this way but its still better than not doing it at all.

​Too Big a Job?? 

Break the task into small manageable chunks, identifying an end for each section. Concentrate on one part at a time and remember to reward yourself at the end of each part

​Lack of Knowledge or Skills?

What do you need to put in place? What do you need to do to take action? Do you need to ask for help?

​I Hate Doing It?

Does anyone really enjoy filling out a tax return form? Probably not, but for some it’s far too easy to make some tasks bigger than they actually are. This feeling is then reinforced every time you walk past that pile of papers, or move the same task from one list to the next. Instead focus on the finished outcome and what it will bring you, see the task as a means to an end that you really want. The feeling of relief when the tax return is done for another year.

​Perfectionism?

Is a fear of getting it wrong or making a mistake holding you back from taking action in the first place? Worried that if its not done properly, it can’t be done at all? Unfortunately life isn’t perfect, recognise when you are using words such as “should”, “ought”, “must”, ask yourself what standards are acceptable and then take action, give yourself a break, go for 85% rather than 100%-find a level you are comfortable with

​Look at the people you spend time with

Are they action takers and doers or more than happy to put things off until tomorrow? We adapt our behaviour to fit in with the people around us. Mix with action takers, feed off their energy and you’re more likely to kick yourself into action.

Procrastination is reinforcing, every time you delay, it reinforces your negative attitude towards the task, every time you put off doing something you dislike you strengthen the habit of not doing, you practice avoidance instead of participation, you avoid acquiring the training and skills you need and in turn hinder your own personal growth.

Inspired by the book by Brian Tracey “Eat the frog” one great technique to develop the “just do it” attitude is to eat a frog a day!

  • Turn your task/to do list into frogs, and make a plan every day to eat one.
  • Don’t get distracted by the brightly coloured fun looking frogs (aka the easy tasks, the quick wins) but choose the ugliest, most revolting and smelly frog (aka the “difficult” ones, the ones you have been putting off. Is it a conversation with your boss, or phoning a difficult client or filling in that tax return?).
  • Pick one, Close your eyes and gulp it down, you don’t have to think about it, don’t have to chew it over, but instead grab it by its back legs and get it off your l

Once you’ve done it, note down how you feel, so you can remind yourself of the benefits of taking action. Then don’t forget to reward yourself, choose a reward that fits the challenge and makes doing it worth while.

So what are you waiting for……

You can click here to visit Carolyne Crowe's website

6 coping mechanisms for life as a veterinarian

This reader was moved by a colleague's suicide to share his emotional coping mechanisms for veterinary students, associates and long-time DVMs.

From an article by staff members of the DVM360.com websiteThis letter was received by dvm360.com in response to coverage of a veterinarians suicide. It has been edited for publication:

I don't claim to be an expert on all of the potential factors that lead one to suicide. I am amazed however as to why it seems a mystery to people the factors that lead more of us in the veterinary profession, as opposed to the other medical professions, to such an end. The sheer number of stressors in our profession coupled with us being such an earnest and compassionate group makes us shoulder a considerable burden to our detriment.

School is where it starts

I have pre-vets, vet students and veterinarians on my Facebook page, and I can see from their posts the evolving considerations they face. From the self-imposed, almost frantic, rush to get to vet school, to the institutionalized pressure and poor support veterinary students undergo, to the realization after graduation that some clients aren't going to be very nice or appreciative of your efforts.

Veterinary school is where a lot of pressure comes to bear and where a lot of preconceived notions are instilled that radiate all through our careers. I joke that I only recommend vet school to people I don't like—really not something any sane person would want to go through twice. While I knew vet school would be difficult, what surprised me was the lack of support and caring: “Well, you're in, congratulations. Hope you survive the experience.” The schooling is already grueling and I'll admit the competitiveness amongst the students themselves was rather surprising and off-putting. You see that mirrored in the isolated single doctor practices throughout the country.

Vet school emphasizes students being perfect and knowing everything at the drop of a hat. When you get out, everything in our veterinary magazines exhort the same thing: Be perfect in your communications. Do things this way or you're wrong. Don't do things that way or you're wrong.

You're not perfect

If you read the advice columns and/or Consumer Reports, you'll find that when a scenario is presented a veterinarian or a veterinary team member are shown to have not been perfect in the way they handled a situation. Well, guess what, we aren't perfect, and while I agree we can all improve and strive for better, I think we are killing ourselves in this vain and mythological perception of perfection.I'd like the opportunity to make a crazy claim: We're all human. Accept that. Some clients will like you, some won't. You can't possibly cater to every single whim and expectation clients place on you. It’s impossible. Yet the message out there is that we can. And that, especially with the younger vets, is what’s putting undo pressure on all of us.

What I tell myself

Here are a few things I have picked up as coping mechanisms:

  • You can't go home with the clients. They are adults. You have given them everything they need to make things better. It is up to them. You are not the only one involved in making everything work out perfectly.
  • You can't care more than the client. Well, you can, and you will. But, ultimately, you can't. Because there lie dragons and you will make yourself crazy.
  • You can only do your best. That's it. And that's a lot. It may not always make every resolution end well, but if you can say you did your best, then you're done.
  • There are things you can control and things you can't. You don't worry about the ones you can change, just go ahead and change them. And you don't worry about the things you can't, because you have no control over them. Let it go. Don't worry. Or, at least, don't worry so much.
  • Just because an owner is mad about something does not mean that you did something wrong.
  • It's okay to say “no.” You do not have to do everything for everybody. Find your balance. So many people, from our own clients, our employers, to rescue groups, to humane societies, want something from us. There are only so many hours in a day. Make sure you give time to yourself and your family. We're so involved in taking care of others, we forget to care for ourselves.

I wish I had the answers for the succubus of depression that so many people have to deal with. This profession is difficult to say the least. I hope many out there are reaping the rewards of being a veterinarian. If, however, you find that not to be the case, find outlets away from the job.Take care of yourselves. Take care of each other.

You can click here to visit the dvm360.com website

The VPMA inaugurates new president

The Veterinary Practice Management Association (VPMA) entered its 23rd year as a society with the inauguration of a new president. Renay Rickard, Practice Manager at Kernow Vet Group in Cornwall, took over the reins from past president Howard Brown during the SPVS-VPMA Joint Congress at the Celtic Manor Resort on the 30th January.

Renay has been a long-standing member of VPMA and has served on the VPMA Board for 3 years. Much of her time on the board has been spent overseeing the regional VPMA groups, which directly support the members with CPD and networking.

The focus on the association’s grass roots will continue during Renay’s presidential year. She commented, “Part of my mission this year is to help our members to be more resilient and proactive in their roles in practice, as there are challenging times ahead. We’ll do this through providing support and information directly at a regional level but also nationally through our webinars, and our joint CPD programme and Congress with SPVS.

“I also want to promote the idea of practice management as a career choice, particularly amongst the Veterinary Nursing profession, which is obviously close to my heart. The VPMA is supporting the College of Animal Welfare’s Head Nurse congress this year and I’m looking forward to presenting to the delegates there on just this subject.

“My aim is also to promote the concept of the management of the practice being the responsibility of every team member in some form or other and to encourage them to get involved. After all, running a veterinary practice is a team sport... not an individual event! The benefit isn’t just to the practice; the team can become be more involved in decisions that affect them, which can relieve anxiety. And of course, it helps the mental wellbeing of the practice manager and other senior members of the management team to know they are not alone, there is a team behind them!”

Renay’s insights into the veterinary profession and the role of the practice manager reflect her journey into practice management at Kernow Veterinary Group. After joining Pelyn Veterinary Practice in 1985 directly from school as a Youth Training Scheme trainee, she went on to become the first veterinary nurse to be trained by the clinic. She progressed to the role of Head Nurse in 1989 before becoming Practice Manager of Pelyn Veterinary Group in 2004. In 2014 the group merged with two other practices to form Kernow Veterinary Group, the largest independent practice in Cornwall. Renay is now the group’s overall practice manager, managing 90 staff members over 4 sites.

Her employer, Nicky Paull, herself a past president of the British Veterinary Association, under whose watchful eye Renay developed her management and business skills, was delighted to witness Renay’s inauguration. She commented, “Renay is a fantastic role model for showing that, with drive and determination, just how much you can achieve. The whole team at Kernow Vet Group is very proud of seeing Renay take on this fresh challenge and look forward to watching VPMA continue to thrive under her leadership.”

We Are All Salespeople. Use These 3 Techniques to Become a Better One.

From an article by Matt Mayberry published in the entrepreneur.com website

You may not have the title of a salesperson, but it’s imperative that you polish up on your skills and become a better communicator to win in business and in life. Whether you run your own company or currently employed by one, there is a good chance that at some point throughout the day you are spending time doing sales related work. All of us, regardless of job title or influence, do some type of sales on almost a daily basis.

Parents spend a significant time trying to sell their children on to make their bed, do the chores and study for the upcoming test. A startup entrepreneur spends a significant time trying to sell their idea and newly founded organization to investors and other key players that can help them to advance the process of growth.

A CEO or leader of a big organization is constantly spending a significant time trying to sell the company’s vision to employees. An employee who works for a company is spending a significant amount of time trying to sell their skill set so they can land a promotion and move up the corporate ladder.

Sales is the oxygen to your business growth and success. Without it, there will eventually be no business. It’s impossible to grow anything without sales.

Here are three ways to become a more polished salesperson.

1. Always lead with questions.

Some of the best communicators that I have ever come across would always lead with questions. I have written a lot about the importance of questions, and it also certainly applies to becoming a better communicator and salesperson as well.

In your next sales meeting or interaction with someone, try to lead the conversation with great questions. Do your research and come prepared with great questions ready to be asked.

When you ask good questions, you are doing two things that will help you in the long run. Number one, you display a sense of humility that will always serve you in a positive way. Number two, you will start to receive key answers that you would normally not have been able to find out. There is nothing more powerful on both sides when great questions are asked. Lead with questions during every interaction from here on out.

2. Change your perception about sales.

I can’t tell you how many people I have encountered that had nothing good to say about sales. They couldn’t understand why anyone would want to do such a thing, or that being in sales meant that you couldn’t find a job anywhere else.

To succeed in sales, you must first change your perception about sales. Instead of looking at it as a negative, start viewing it in a totally different light. Sales is all about serving and helping others get to where they want to go. In sales, you only succeed when you help others succeed.

It’s quite difficult to succeed in sales and successfully sell your product or service if you keep telling yourself how much you hate sales and never try to change your negative perception of what sales really stands for.

3. Be obsessed about being a master at solving problems.

This one can be a total game-changer. Become obsessed about solving problems and providing real value in the marketplace that makes you different and unique from everyone else. The most successful salespeople don’t look at it as a sale, they look at it as an opportunity to solve a problem. They are completely obsessed about becoming a master at solving problems.

Look for ways to double the value you are bringing forth into the marketplace and to your prospects, and then direct all of your time and energy towards solving real problems. When you start to solve problems and become known by being a problem solver before someone labels you a salesperson, your business and life will transform.

Becoming a more polished salesperson and working on your communication skills will help you a whole lot more than just succeeding in business. Even though you may not have the title of a salesperson, we are all in sales to an extent.

You can click here to visit the entrepreneur.com website

Two Words That Will Kill Any Conversation

From an article by Marshall Goldsmith published in the LinkedIn Pulse website

It doesn't matter how friendly your tone is or how honey sweet you are in a conversation, when you start your sentences with one of these words (or both), the message to your recipient is "You are wrong."

What are these conversation stopping words? They are "No” and "But.”

These words don’t say, "Let's discuss this" or "I'd love to hear what you think about this" to people. They say, unequivocally, "You are wrong and I am right." If your conversation companion is also dedicated to his need to win at any cost, you will have a potential battle on your hands. The result? Nothing more can happen that will be productive.

Are you interested in a little test to see how competitive your co-workers are? Try this. For one week, keep a scorecard of how many times each person uses "no" or "but" to start a sentence. You will be shocked at how frequently these words are used. And, if you drill a little deeper, you'll see patterns emerge. For instance, some people use these words to gain power. You’ll see how much people resent it, consciously or not, and how it stifles rather than opens up discussions.

I use this technique with my clients. Practically without even thinking, I keep count of their use of these two little words. It's such an important indicator! If the numbers pile up in an initial meeting with a client, I'll interrupt him or her and say, "We've been talking for almost an hour now, and do you realize that you have responded 17 times with either no or but?" This is the moment when a serious talk about changing behavior begins.

If this is your interpersonal challenge, you can do this little test for yourself just as easily as you can to gauge your co-workers. Stop trying to defend your position and start monitoring how many times you begin remarks with "no” or “but." Pay close attention to when you use these words in sentences. For example, "That's true, but..." (Meaning: You don't really think it's true at all.) Another oldie but goodie is "Yes, but..." (Meaning: Prepare to be contradicted.)

Along with self-monitoring your behavior, you can also easily monetize the solution to this annoying behavior to help yourself stop. Ask a friend or colleague to charge you money every time you say, "no" or "but." Once you appreciate how guilty you've been, maybe then you'll begin to change your "winning" ways!

You can click here to visit Marshal Goldsmith's website