As a manager within the veterinary field, we all have those days when we are busting it trying to get things done and look out on the floor, and there your team stands, apparently doing nothing. Our thought is, “why are they not working?” Later, a team member mentioned that another team member had their cell phone on the floor. After someone else tells you that the kennel assistant has been talking all morning and distracting the technicians, it is easy to get distracted by the constant negative conversations. Some of these conversations are venting sessions, and others demand that we express our magical “fixing” potion and “do something!!”.
As leaders, we need to stay focused on the “Big Picture.” We are human, so it is easy to fall victim to the toxic downward spiral of negativity. Here are a few tips to help you stay focused on the “Big Picture.”

  • Assume positive intent before you jump to conclusions! Assuming positive intent is very important. There is always an explanation for every situation. Often, once you hear your team’s entire story, your initial impression of the problem is more in perspective than what you initially thought was happening. So an easy way to stop yourself before you react is to take a breath, count to five, and try to hide the emotions written all over your face. Then start asking questions to find out the whole story.
  • Improve one behavior at a time. If you have a new client care team that needs help with multiple things, focus on one thing at a time. If they need work on scheduling, telephone skills, and reconciling the drawer, stay focused on one task at a time. Master the first skills and then move on to the next. Stay patient with them while they work through this process. It is easy to overwhelm them by asking them to fix everything at once.
  • Complain Up. Never vent to a team member when you are frustrated. Remember to vent to your fellow managers or a mentor. When you vent to a team member, you give them authority over the other team members. Venting can cause inner circles on your team and lead to a negative spiral.
  • Be careful how you help – you need to be able to help all. Here is my caution. Remember that your good intentions can, at times, cause others hurt. For example, imagine that one of your technicians has a bad day, so you buy them lunch to cheer them up. You now have other team members wondering why they don’t get lunch from you when they are down in the dumps. What is good for one needs to be good for all – make sure you do it for all on your team if you start a nice gesture.