Today's Veterinary Business

AUG 2018

Today’s Veterinary Business provides information and resources designed to help veterinarians and office management improve the financial performance of their practices, allowing them to increase the level of patient care and client service.

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44 Today's Veterinary Business Community I claim no expertise or train- ing in life coaching and personal development, but I do know that the personal side of life trumps the professional. What happens when the white coat is off is far more im- portant than when the white coat is on. With that in mind, I suggest we take a different approach to the annual review or professional development discussion. White Coat Off We should start any discussion of professional development with at least a check to find out how things are going when the white coat is off. The recent Merck Wellness survey told us that 1 in 6 of our colleagues has dealt with suicidal ideation, not to mention that brilliant veterinary nurses are staying in our profession only seven years on average. Let's include some frank, mean- ingful discussion about wellness before broaching the topic of professional development. If things are not going well when the white coat is off, things likely won't go well when it's on. These conversations can be simple: "How are you?" "How's your family?" "Are you sleeping well?" "Eating well?" "Exercising?" "How are your fur babies?" If the answers are, "I've got two kids in day care, the minivan is in the shop, I'm struggling to pay my student loans, I had to drop my gym member- ship, and my cat is sick," why even attempt a performance review? It's time to back up the bus and recognize what is most im- portant in daily life. Lend an ear, offer resources like your practice's Employee Assistance Program, or join the American Veterinary Medical Association's Wellness and Wellbeing community on LinkedIn. Encourage colleagues to ask for white-coat-off help. Reaching out is to be encouraged and honored. Credit is owed to my friend and colleague Dr. Jen Bruns, who first described for me the white coat off/on concept. It puts so much of the workplace into better perspective. If we acknowledge and support what takes place with the coat off, our efforts to support success with the coat on are far more meaningful. White Coat On Professional development discus- sions, if they take place at all, typ- ically occur during performance reviews. In large organizations, these are the dreaded annual reviews. In smaller practices, they tend to be more informal and sporadic. In H.R. circles, the data is pretty clear that these discus- sions do not result in the desired outcome: happier and more pro- ductive associates. Why don't they work? So many reasons, includ- ing a lack of trust involving the reviewer, questions of compen- sation, wrong key performance indicators and more. Reviews are often one-sided — the boss tells the employee what he can do better — as opposed to a two-sided approach of open, trusting, frequent dialogue and follow-through. Sadly, reviews are too often stressful, intimidating and artificial, and they don't benefit either party. Old-school command-and-con- trol performance discussions do not work. Command and control results in one of two things: compliance or defiance. Neither is ideal. The goal should be a shared partnership in which both parties want the best for each other, their team, the pets in their care and the practice. Yet annual reviews persist. The only thing worse, perhaps, is no review at all or a complete absence of feedback, particularly for millennials, who crave regular feedback. Wouldn't it be better if employer and employee held frequent, constructive, trusting conversations in which both worked to build a happier and more productive workplace? If all is well when the white coat is off, then we can dialogue on helping more pets, improving client compliance, fostering better teamwork, increasing client satis- faction, supporting team member retention and encouraging career success, all resulting in a workplace that we enjoy going to every day. (Well, almost every day.) Be a Mentor, Coach and Sponsor The mirror tells me I've reached an age at which I better have Most of life — family, activities, community involvement, growth — happens when our white coats or scrubs are off. In my experience as a mentor, mentee, coach, educator, friend and sponsor, I see most organizations focusing on the white-coat-on (i.e., professional development) side of the ledger while short-changing the far more important white-coat-off side. I've also heard this described as the "human doing" vs. the "human being." Catchy. Community CREATIVE DISRUPTION By Bob Lester, DVM Let's get personal Understanding when the white coat is off or on is a key to successful personal and professional growth. Continued on Page 46

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