Veterinary practices with positive leadership are more likely to have effective management, rewarding cultures and productive teams. Although some individuals have natural talent and excellent leadership skills, all practice owners and managers can learn to become better leaders.
ROLES OF THE LEADER
Make sure you fulfill the following critical roles of a leader to drive the success of your practice.
Provide a Vision
Providing a vision for the entire healthcare team is the single most important role of the practice owner. Employees cannot be expected to participate in a common effort if they don’t know the goals of the practice. 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.
Establish Effective Organizational Structure and Communication Protocols
Set up a clearly defined organizational structure which includes an organizational chart outlining the chain of command and protocols for effective communication. Members of the healthcare team need to understand who they report to when they have questions or concerns. To facilitate effective communication and efficiency, develop communication protocols. Many practices find it helpful to use email, hospital newsletters, and memos to augment their one-on-one communication and staff meeting interactions. The type of communication method utilized should be appropriate for the content of the message. Memos are fine to convey 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.
Be an Effective Role Model
Demonstrate the behavior desired from the rest of the healthcare team. Practice owners that display outbursts of anger, make snap decisions with no regard to the potential outcome for the staff, demonstrate uncaring attitudes, show favoritism for some employees, withhold information from the staff, procrastinate on important decisions, tolerate lack of accountability, demonstrate inconsistencies in client service or fail to listen to their employees will not be as respected by the team and likely will not be as successful in achieving their business goals.
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 directives with no explanation. Instead they use effective communication and motivation techniques to facilitate action by their teams. Leaders that inspire and motivate their teams solicit input from employees, keep team members informed, give timely and specific feedback regarding job performance, ensure training needs are met and hold employees accountable.
Delegate and Empower
Good leaders surround themselves with the right people in the right jobs. This facilitates being able to lead rather than manage. For 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. All too often, veterinary practices don’t have a practice manager with the necessary skills for their position or the practice owner unwittingly sabotages this person’s success by overloading them with responsibility or neglecting to empower them to achieve practice goals.
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. Read some books or articles on time management and create action steps to improve.