As a practice owner or future veterinary practice owner, you will be responsible for leading your team. Veterinary practices with positive leadership are more likely to have effective management, rewarding cultures and productive teams. While some people naturally have excellent leadership skills, all practice owners and managers can learn to become better leaders.
Traits of an Effective Leader
By embracing these 6 leadership traits, you can begin to drive success in your veterinary business and team.
Provide a Vision
Providing a vision for your entire veterinary team is the single most important role of the practice owner. Share your goals for the practice, so employees can share in the common effort. When team members know the vision and goals of the practice, they are more focused and understand how their individual role helps to drive the success of the business. Consider implementing team meetings, so you have a dedicated time to share the vision and answer questions from the staff.
Establish an Organizational Structure and Lines of Communication
Your organizational structure will vary depending on the size of the practice and number of employees. Take time to research different organization charts online to find what works best for you practice. The organizational chart should outline the chain of command and protocols for effective communication. Team members need to understand whom they report and whom they should go to with questions or concerns.
Establish lines of communication and a system for sending out news. Many practices find it helpful to use email or hospital newsletters to share announcements and information on minor issues. Face-to-face meetings are necessary to discuss important issues or convey information that is sensitive or may result in questions. If you recently purchased the practice, have a good understanding of how the former owner communicated with the team. If the former owner relied on face-to-face meetings and you are going to utilize more email, be sure to inform your team and set proper expectations.
Be a Role Model
This is very important! As the owner and doctor, you have a huge influence on the culture of your practice. Your staff will look to you as the leader to set what is acceptable and expected. Practice owners that display outbursts of anger, make snap decisions with little regard to the outcome for the staff, or demonstrate inconsistencies in client service will not be as respected by the team. But leaders who work hard and are courteous to their team, provide consistent, quality care for their clients and are transparent will gain respect for the staff and naturally encourage others to do the same.
Inspire and Motivate
The definition of leadership is to “inspire, influence and guide others to participate in a common effort.” Good leaders don’t just bark orders or hand out commands with no explanation. Instead they use effective communication and motivation to help their teams take action. To inspire and motivate your team, ask for input from employees, keep team members informed, give timely and specific feedback. Find ways to empower your practice staff by ensuring training needs are met and they have the tools to effectively do their jobs.
Delegate and Empower
Good leaders surround themselves with the right people in the right jobs. Having the “right” team allows you to lead rather than just manage. For veterinary practice owners, this starts by hiring an effective manager or administrator. Depending on the size of the practice, an office manager, a practice manager or a hospital administrator is the highest management position. Practice owners need to begin the process of effective delegation and empowerment with this individual. When hiring for this position, make sure the candidate has the right skills for the job. Hire someone you can trust and can help lead the team.
Effective Time Management
Part of being an effective leader includes effective time management. If you spend most of your time fielding complaints and reacting to problems, this may be a sign that you are not delegating effectively or empowering team members. Find articles or blogs that provide free tools on improving your time management.
As a practice owner, you will have roles beyond “veterinarian.” You will be the boss, the decision maker and the doctor. Learning to be an effective leader, choosing the right team and empower your employees to do their best work will help you and your practice be successful.