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

Side by Side

When you say Coaching or Mentoring – what do you really mean

From an article by Adrian Pratt published on his Veterinary Business Consultancy website

As the profession moves forward in the personal development that we sorely need, have you noticed that the terminology is changing as well?

Words like development or support in job adverts and articles are being replaced with better sounding words like coaching, mentoring and consultancy. It’s especially important as vet businesses strive to differentiate themselves in the race to recruit new vets or to describe their company culture, values and space for personal growth.

However, as I speak to colleagues who operate in the coaching space, see adverts for academies or courses and indeed as I promote my consultancy services to vets and companies, I’m noticing a worrying trend. As a profession, we seem to be using coaching and mentoring interchangeably and this is a problem, because they’re very different activities and its all about one thing.

The amount of input from the facilitator and the client.

In a coaching or mentoring relationship there are generally two parties. Both provide input to the conversation, but depending upon the activity, one side provides more input than the other.

In a classic Harvard Business Review article in the spring of 1973, Robert Tannenbaum and Warren Schmidt described a continuum of leadership and management styles. They used a simple diagram to illustrate different styles of leadership and how much influence the boss or employee contributed to the discussion. It’s a seminal article to read as part of any leadership journey and a must read for managers seeking to understand how to empower and motivate staff.

The same continuum can be used to illustrate the relationship between consultancy, mentoring and coaching, so I’ve redrawn it below to help frame this discussion.

In my consultancy business, I’m paid for my expertise and knowledge in the field, for problem solving or I’m paid to do something that clients can’t do themselves. That’s how I add the value and it’s a directive process led by me.

In a mentoring relationship, the mentor provides advice and guidance and may well provide some coaching in addition, but that’s not the primary role. It’s a 50/50 relationship where the mentee assimilates the advice and synthesizes something new with it.

In coaching, advice isn’t given and the primary objective is to help a client improve performance to reach a goal. A coach will operate in a non-directive manner by asking questions and using various different tools to help the client draw out or crystalise their own thinking. Skills and independence are assumed in the coachee and you often find a secondary benefit of increasing self awareness.

So when we use mentoring and coaching interchangeably, we inevitably change the relationship between the facilitator and client.

When most people think of a coach, they think of a classic sports coach that helps develop additional skills. This is training and skills acquisition and not the kind of coaching I’m talking about. If you think of more recent coaching examples, e.g. Dr Steve Peters with cycling stars like Sir Chris Hoy or Victoria Pendleton or Dr Dave Aldred coaching Jonny Wilkinson. It wasn’t their ability to do the sport that was important, it was their coaching skill that unlocked the potential of the athlete to perform.

I’m absolutely sure that this is an innocent mistake made by well meaning people when seeking to describe the support given to their teams, but it sets up a potential mismatch between employees and their employer and perpetuates one of our challenges in developing ourselves as vets. We find ourselves asking the question, “What could a non-veterinary coach know about my world and therefore do to help me?” We limit our thinking and performance.

It doesn’t matter what a coach knows about your world, because they’re not there to help you with advice. They’re there to help develop your performance and that’s a skill in it’s own right.

So if you are an employer, consider what you’re offering and if you’re a job seeker or employee, consider what you need. Sometimes the support you need is knowledge based, to grow your capabilities and become consciously competent at doing something in your job role. That means you need a mentor. Other times, you’ll be consciously competent already and you need support to improve your performance or to meet a goal. This is a coaching need. Without a goal to work towards, coaching doesn’t work.

Many vets I know would benefit from coaching, either personally, as a small business owner or for building and developing teams. I know I benefited from both a coach and a mentor at my old job and in fact I still do. It’s our blind spot and we owe it to ourselves to recognize this and act on it.

You can click here to visit the Veterinary Business Consultancy website 

​5 reasons women give for not owning veterinary practices - and why you shouldn't let them stop you.

From an article by Melissa Magnuson published on the website

When I retire from owning my practice, I hope to hand the reins to a non-corporate buyer. But I may struggle to find a female veterinarian to take my practice. Although more women are entering the profession, there’s a lack of female veterinarians embracing practice ownership.

Sheryl Sandberg’s book 'Lean In' talks about how women often set themselves up for failure by staying on the outskirts. Let’s not do that. Here are my arguments against five common reasons women give for not owning practices:

1. “I want a more flexible schedule with more time for children and family.”

Owning a practice makes my schedule flexible. I can go to my children's school events because I can designate myself "out of the office" when necessary. Being the owner does entail hard work when I’m in the office, but it also provides more leeway than if I worked for someone else. (Plenty of associates complain about bosses who don’t respect their need for family time.) Having power over your own schedule does have benefits.

2. “I don’t want to work 100 hours a week.”

I’ve worked 100 hours in a week once—during my internship. I spend approximately five hours per day for a total of 30 to 60 hours per week seeing appointments four days per week. That adds up to 20 hours of appointment time, and the rest is business time. My associates are responsible for 30 to 35 appointment hours per week, and they work with the clients much more than I do.

With my flexible schedule, I can work at night tying up loose ends after I spend quality time with my kids before they go to bed. If I need a short week because of outside commitments, I take it. If I have to spend additional hours launching special programs, I work more that week and get it done. Considering I am a working mom, my schedule constantly changes. Owning my practice gives me the freedom to choose where and when I work.

3. “I’ll burn out.”

Running a business is something new everyday. Sometimes it’s medical questions, customer service decisions or marketing ideas. Each day brings variety and the opportunity to learn something new and open up channels with experts in many different fields. My career fulfills me.

4. “I can’t manage people.”

I don’t believe I’m good at managing or accounting—so I hired a great practice manager and accountant. Medicine, customer service, selling, marketing and teaching are my fortes. I stick to my strengths and hire people for the other areas.

Two years into practice ownership, I learned a valuable lesson. I had been doing all my bookkeeping because I was convinced I couldn’t afford someone to do it for me. After stewing in frustration and falling behind on my bookkeeping, I hired someone. She completed six months of bookkeeping in eight hours. I was convinced it would take me weeks to complete, and it cost me $160. This taught me that I don’t have to excel at everything and if I hire experts where I need them, it costs me less.

5. “I have too much student debt.”

If you have good credit and pay your loans, you can buy a practice. Veterinarians have the highest payback rate on loans than any other profession. I was surprised how easy it was to get approved for my practice loan. I applied to three banks and received three loan approvals with just 10 percent down. I still had veterinary school debt, but I had been paying it every month. In the long run, practice ownership will be more lucrative for me than working for someone else.If more female veterinarians buy practices, we’ll have more women to serve as mentors. They’ll serve as models that women can venture into practice ownership to reap the benefits of flexibility, work/life balance and a higher income.

Melissa Magnuson, DVM, is owner of Canobie Lake Veterinary Hospital in Windham, New Hampshire, All Pets Veterinary Hospitalin Nashua, New Hampshire, and Greenland Veterinary Hospital in Greenland, New Hampshire.

You can click here to visit the website  

"The Right Time" Is a Myth. Here's How to Make Every Time Work for You.

From an article by Shakir Akorede published on the website

"It's not yet the right time."

By telling yourself this, you kill your dreams from coming to fruition. Life is too uncertain to wait around for the "right time."

Time means different things to different people. To a procrastinator, time justifies inaction. To a go-getter, time has no other meaning than a tool to achieve constant missions.

Want to break away from limitations and turn success a usual habit?

Consider giving these practicable tips a try.

Understand your dream.

Dreams are not always what you see during sleep. Sometimes, they're the thoughts that take away your sleep. Whichever, the first step of turning your dream into reality is to understand its metaphors. Arianna Huffington said, "Our dreams are, and always will be, a gateway to another world, a timeless journey to other inward dimensions."

Dreams are a tool of self-discovery, which is why you have to dream big. Then, take a step further by setting clear goals that are informed by thoughtful decisions. As such, you end up making every day count as you turn it to the "right time" with ease.

Set achievable goals.

With a dream, you're probably going to live a purposeful life. But, if you want to be sure, you have to set a list of time-bound, feasible goals. Remember, it's one thing to have ambitions. It's another thing to have realistic aspirations.

Research shows that people abandon their goals because they are too big to handle. According to Michael Hyatt, no one can really focus for more than five to seven items at a time.

Setting broad goals is thus a recipe for losing focus and accomplishing very little. Instead, focus on a handful of goals that you can repeat almost from memory.Setting complicated goals is daunting.

So, it is better to try clear and compelling goals that will always motivate you.

Storm out of the comfort zone.

Psychologists tell us how comfort kills, and there's no denying that.

If you are like most people, you'll find endless pleasure in leisure activities. You'll never want to go the extra mile. Unfortunately, this is why the right time has never dawned.

You have to untie yourself from the comfort zone if you want to start making things work on a daily basis. Yet, science says not everything outside the comfort zone is always good. To be on the safer side, learn the Yerkes-Dodson law of performance. It's a key for optimal success with lesser anxiety.

Replace fear with unshakable confidence.

All the tips above are great, but none will work if fear runs through your vein. The fear of failure, criticism and, sometimes, rejection will continue to make all days a "wrong day."

Jacqueline Whitmore explains how to build confidence. One of the many ways, according to her, is speaking in an assertive voice. Further, thinking and acting in positive ways and taking up challenges are a great way to defeat fear.

Stay inspired.

Sometimes, it only takes one line of inspiration to set your day on the right path of success. There is also something so awe-inspiring in the success stories of others. To that end, read books that talk about success and start imitating the way to daily success.

Likewise, daily inspirations provide the impetus for successful days. If your mind isn't inspiring, enough, try listening to others.

Time and tide will never wait. Understanding this, successful people take actions, irrespective of the time and occasion. If you want to be an all-time achiever, you must stop waiting for the right time.

You can click here to visit the website

The Top Ten Management Myths

From an article by Stefan Stern published on the Management Today website

The World of Management is blighted by fads, fiction and falsehoods. Stefan Stern, author of Myths of Management, sets things straight

1. There is one right way to lead or manage

Don’t fall for the zealots who claim to have cracked the 'one right way'. Situations change, and businesses are all different. You have to judge the situation and adapt your behaviour accordingly.

2. The Robots are coming to take your jobs

The predictions sound scary – 25% of jobs! No, it’s 45%! But everyone is guessing, really. We have always adapted to the arrival of new technology and we will again. We need more robots, not fewer. We will work with them, not be beaten by them.

3. Leadership is more important than management

The leadership industry talks a good (and expensive) game but work is about completing tasks, getting things done. That’s what managers do. The distinction that is drawn between leadership and management is overdone. We need both, and bosses need to be able to do both.

4. Be yourself – it’s all about authenticity

When you step up to a new role just being yourself may not be enough. You have to grow and improve. 'Authenticity' could be an excuse for laziness. Don’t be a phoney but don’t limit yourself to one limited way of operating.

5. People hate change

Bought any new clothes recently, or a new car, or moved house? People can cope with change. They may even like it. What people don’t like is unnecessary or stupid change, imposed from above. Involve people in change and they may be quite happy about it.

6. Big data will fix everything

Numbers do not tell the whole story. Judgment is needed too. And no boss can get hold of 'perfect information' fast enough. So don’t hide behind data. If you torture it for long enough it will confess to anything.

7. The boss with the best strategy wins

Big ideas are fine. But someone has to put them into practice. A business with an average strategy that does things really well beat a competitor with a clever strategy but which cannot 'execute'. Just get on and do things well (that’s quite a good strategy).

8. It’s tough at the top

Bosses have more autonomy, much better pay, drivers, PAs, business class (or first class) travel, nice hotels to stay in, and deference from colleagues. This is not a tough existence. It’s much tougher lower down, and bosses should never forget that.

9.Leaders are born not made

Everyone can better at leading and managing. Beware 'natural' leaders who think they have little or nothing to learn. We are all a work in progress. Leaders are usually made, by experience, and not born ready to lead.

10. Annual appraisals help you manage performance

Management should be an ongoing (if interrupted) conversation, not an annual punch-up and recrimination session. Don’t wait all year saving up resentment. Drop the appraisals and talk normally to each other.

You can click here to visit the Management Today website

Why we don't hate meetings anymore

From an article by Marshall Liger published online in the website

Team members complained about my veterinary practice's meetings before I came on board. Here's how I fixed them.

For the first two weeks in my role as hospital administrator at Bees Ferry Veterinary Hospital, all I did was “hang around” on the floor, observing operations and getting to know everyone. I discovered that clients were experiencing unreasonable wait times and service that wasn’t reflective of the amazing reputation the hospital had established over the years. What did I do? I tackled staff meetings.

'The meetings had become a waste of time ... '

First, I asked for regular planning meetings with the owners, sometimes several hours long. I needed face time with the practice owners, but the entire team didn't have to sit through things like that.

Then it was time to tackle the monthly staff meetings. Closing the hospital for two hours is expensive, so this time needed to be used more wisely. The meetings had become largely a waste of time during which people expressed negativity and nobody instituted any structure. Here's what I changed:


I now run each of these monthly meetings with an agenda that is displayed for all to see. I present issues that need to be addressed and also a solution or plan to remedy the issue. For example, we discussed the extended wait times and then explored ways to better schedule appointments and better staff the hospital.

I started talking to the team about statistics and benchmarks that backed up the plan so they could understand my reasoning. Today, clients rarely experience an inappropriate wait time, thanks to a trained team that understands what I have taught them about scheduling strategies and time management.

More participation.

I also made these monthly meetings engaging through interactive activities and not just top-down instruction.

Team members are given topics to present to the group. This encourages them to learn something new and then share what they learned with their teammates. For example, I assigned a veterinary nurse the topic of ectopic parasites, and she prepared a wonderful presentation for the staff. Clients and patients benefit when all team members, regardless of job description, are better educated.

Team members who've been assigned special projects also present updates to the group (under my supervision). An example is the weekly audit of patient reminders. Our reminder service, Boomerang Vet, provides me a spreadsheet of patients from the week prior that don’t have proper “future reminders” set up. I review this audit with one of our veterinary assistants and he corrects the errors. This spreadsheet used to have upwards of 20 patients a week on it. Today, the average is only five to six a week.

I've used the monthly meetings to teach the team about the importance of patient reminders, and a team member gives them updates on any trends he and I are seeing and how well the team is doing.

More feedback, less internal complaining.

I share positive (and negative) client reviews at meetings. When I first came on board, the post-visit client surveys were largely negative. Now, they're almost all positive, and I love being able to show the team all the compliments clients give them. They earned them!

In addition to positive client feedback, the team can also compliment each other during the month by dropping a shout-out in a locked box in the break room. We end each meeting by presenting all of the shout-outs and congratulating the recipients with praise and fun prizes (anything from candy to gift cards and maybe even something silly like a squirt gun!).

Sharing my own inspiration.

I regularly study the lessons of a personal development coach named Brendon Burchard. I've used several of his YouTube videos in staff meetings and require every new hire to watch the videos and discuss them with me. The videos I've chosen teach lessons in people skills and mindfulness. I believe it's important to provide veterinary staff with these lessons so they learn to better communicate with each other and with our clients. They learn that communications include spoken and unspoken forms. They learn that they are in control of their thoughts and the energy they project into the environment.

I think it's important to motivate and inspire at these meetings, as long as it can be done without compromising hospital operations or patient care. A team that respects its leadership will provide even better patient care and be proud of their accomplishments.

You can click here to visit the website