28 Sep Team Talk: ‘How to develop a strong team in every area of your practice.’
When you were a child dreaming of becoming a vet, I bet you weren’t thinking about how you were going to create the correct pricing structure, build and develop the perfect client journey, create a marketing strategy, and control payroll and suppliers, let alone manage a team of very different individuals.
Building a successful veterinary practice today is not just about having great vets or the right products. Clients expect efficiency and good service, and the practice needs the correct processes to ensure sustainability.
If you are one of nature’s wonders, good at everything, good for you, you truly are a rarity! If you are a mere mortal like the rest of us, or you would like to grow and develop your practice to be more than a ‘one-man band’, you will need a strong team to ensure you can deliver the experience you want and the standard of care your patients and clients deserve.
Good leadership is about creating a business that flourishes without the need for your constant involvement. Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) and business metrics are important for business effectiveness but, they are not the be-and-end-all. To make a real difference, you must build a happy, harmonious, and high performing team.
Any team with the right people and the right input and direction can learn to become high performing. It’s about inspiring and changing people from the inside out – including yourself, an intrinsic and organic process that takes time and effort to nurture.
These types of leaders build cultures and teams based on trust and the genuine caring of others. They are not driven by bottom-line profit for its sake but create value by making a difference and by making the world better.
So, where do you start?
By following a framework, such as our Vet Dynamics tried and trusted ‘FLAME’ formula, you can commence the exciting, sometimes challenging journey of achieving the team of your dreams.
Flow & Trust
The one thing all practices have in common is that they are made up of people.
People are the heart and soul, creating the energy, activity, and flow in any business. The better the people, the better the practice.
Your team are the single biggest expense every month, but also your practice’s lifeblood… it is critical that you have the right people on your team.
Emotionally intelligent leaders understand the importance of balancing their team, and they consciously work hard to maximise the contributions from each person within the team.
Creating alignment between an individual’s talent and their role is key. When an individual is in flow, they solve challenges and see opportunities at a different level. However, if a team member is not in the right role for their natural energy, it is not just a missed opportunity; it can actively detract from your success. An individual not doing the right role can lead to frustration and disruption to the team and can be a drain on your valuable time and focus.
To achieve team success, you must ensure that your team is in flow and that people are in positions that leverage their individual natural energy for maximum success.
This kind of valuable insight doesn’t have to be driven by pure intuition anymore. With so much riding on getting the right people in place to support your dream, I often wonder why leaders leave so much to chance when there are useful tools available that can make a massive difference to you and your team.
Profiling tools such as Contribution Compass can give leaders the tools they need to help identify candidates that will fit in the team not just from a skill set perspective but at a human level. In addition, these tools can provide a better understanding of how best to interact with individuals to get the most out of them and where people’s natural characteristics sit.
This valuable insight allows leaders to better manage their people, helping them to contribute more value to the role they are in and be happier with the interactions they have with their colleagues.
Why would you not give it a go?
However, this is just the start; in order to progress your people from a group of strong performing individuals to a high-performance team, flow alone is not enough. To truly progress, a culture of trust must also be built and nurtured.
To do great things on a consistent basis, people need to be in a supportive environment with leaders & peers they can trust.
All too often, leaders spend little or no time purposefully building trust in teams. Trust starts with understanding how each person contributes value (Flow) to the team, the customers, and the business overall, but can only truly flourish with an active approach to communication and alignment on a common goal/vision.
This brings me nicely onto:
Legacy & Purpose.
Is everybody on your team pulling in the same direction, moving towards the same agreed goals and targets with progress towards these visible to all?
In my experience, the purpose of a practice is best found by asking, as a team, why you are doing the work you are doing? What problems are you solving, or what movement are you championing? If you do not do it, what are the consequences? Who loses? Why do you all show up for this practice and not another across town?
Digging into the morals, ethics and beliefs of a practice can help deliver a purpose worth going to work for. If you cannot define it, then you have some work to do.
Chances are, your practice can already point to some values-based decisions made. Nevertheless, your decisions can become pledges and come to life when you make a choice intentionally based on the values you have consciously set.
Better yet, develop a process that will ensure you always factor in your purpose (your WHY) and principles when making decisions.
Developing a team purpose is essential in helping teams define their WHY and building a culture, a way of working together to achieve that purpose.
As a leader, the goal should be to actively encourage and facilitate, where necessary, team members working together to classify the way they will work and interact with each other, the ‘rules’ they will abide by to achieve the purpose.
The goal is to create a visual manifestation of both purpose and culture that can be displayed in the team’s workspace. Developing and nurturing these two things will help any team to be more focused and aligned and will provide each member with the confidence, motivation, and empowerment to excel.
Autonomy and Accountability
Autonomy gives employees the freedom to own their work; accountability holds them responsible for their actions and results.
Both are needed when building a strong functioning team. People (the right people) want autonomy over their work but also desire accountability, so there can be no ambiguity about when they are meeting and exceeding expectations and when they are not.
Accountability gives you a way to measure success.
To be effective, employee accountability needs to be clear and meaningful.
- Clear accountability—Expectations are communicated, observable, and measurable. Your team knows what success looks like, and there is no question about whether their performance meets expectations.
- Meaningful accountability—You have a specific, understood plan in place if expectations are not met.
We would be naïve to suggest you and your team will get it right every time. In order to have a balanced team built on equality and trust, there must be a consistent approach when it comes to setting and then managing and measuring performance expectations.
The plan for managing a team member who is not performing should be clear and goal-based, with the aim of helping the employee get back on track whilst also providing clear consequences if improvement does not occur within a specific time frame.
Purposefully balancing employee autonomy and accountability is the key to producing a work culture that creates employee engagement with the right kind of results. It may be a bit of a balancing act at first, but practices that are committed to it find themselves achieving new levels of success.
Mastery and Progress
Mastery is usually seen as mastery of something outside of ourselves instead of being an ongoing, internal growth process.
It’s no wonder our ideas about mastery tend to be externalised. Our training, development, and educational systems focus on learning about things, not the nature of things.
We learn what to think, not how to think. We learn what to do, not how to be.
We learn what to achieve, not how to achieve. We focus on what and rarely ask why. We fill up our ‘knowledge buckets’ but rarely consider understanding it or applying it more effectively.
In your practices, this external pattern continues. As leaders, you receive recognition for your external mastery. Revenue, profit, and cost savings are some of the measures of your external competencies. Few people would question the value of achieving and measuring external results, but where do the external results come from?
Great teams understand mastery comes from being brilliant at the basics, understanding what these are for your team and then making sure that these are measured on a consistent basis.
A key skill to developing mastery includes holding meaningful meetings built on clear communication with the right people, with the right contribution profiles attending. This enables the right people to take ownership for agreed actions and creates a positive culture of accountability for results that everybody is happy to sign up to.
Engagement and Energy
Today more than ever, businesses rely on the energy, commitment, and engagement of their teams to survive and thrive.
According to Gallup’s ‘State of the Global Workplace’ report, only 15% of employees worldwide are engaged in their jobs – that is 85% of employees who are apathetic or worse actively dis-engaged, a scary statistic that you do not want to be included in!
The good news is I am not going to give you another list of things you need to do to avoid this, because engagement & energy are things and will come naturally if you focus on the areas I have outlined above.
Use the right tools, set up the right practices, get the right people and build and articulate your vision and purpose.
There is nothing more rewarding than the days in your practice where everything seems to be effortless; everyone seems to find that extra gear, there are smiles, there is a purpose and a buzz about the place. Simply put, it’s magic.
Sadly, there is no ‘Fairy Dust’ that you can ‘apply’ to your people to transform them overnight into a happy, harmonious, and high performing team, but there are steps you can take that will make a massive difference.
You deserve more magic days, put the work in to achieve them, and I promise you it will be worth it.
Wishing you every success.