Today's Veterinary Business

JUN 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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53 June/July 2018 • TODAYSVETERINARYBUSINESS.COM • Equal air time: Everyone has the right to participate in the conversation and contribute to the final product/decision. • Non-judgmental, respect- ful listening: Team members don't interrupt. • Timeliness: Respectful of others' time and schedules. • Right to pass: Acknowl- edgment that any person in the group might not have anything new to contribute to the conversation or might need more time to think. • Engagement: Being fully present for the group and the conversation. TRUST Once psychological safety exists in the workplace, our animal health care teams can build vulnerability-based trust. It occurs when members of a team are com- pletely comfortable being trans- parent and honest with each other and can freely admit mistakes, ask for help and say, "I'm sorry." Necessary to build a great cul- ture, this trust is developed when people really get to know each oth- er. Vulnerability is an uncomfortable concept for many individuals; they are afraid it will put them in a posi- tion where they can be emotionally hurt, judged or perceived as weak by their fellow team members. When vulnerability-based trust is established, the need to hide weaknesses or mistakes evapo- rates as each team member can be accountable for their performance without fear of shame or ridicule. This shared belief leads to a deep bond between teammates, with the belief that each person has each other's best interests at heart. This concept allows team members to focus on the collective good, which in turn creates a deep- ly positive culture. Trust is built slowly and deliber- ately in a non-threatening way. One trust-building activity is described in Patrick Lencioni's "The Advantage." During this exercise, each person answers simple questions about their early lives. Examples might be where they were born, where they grew up, who they grew up with and what is one memorable child- hood moment? By learning about our teammates' foundations, we can better appreciate some of the traits that manifest in their adult selves. SHARED VALUES Creating a unified culture requires an understand- ing of the team's common values and goals. These collective beliefs influence how we do our work and how we interact with one another. Here is an exercise I have used with my own team, as well as with clients' teams as a consultant, in determin- ing the values that unite and define workplace culture. In written and confidential format, every member of the team answers the following question: "What are the top three words you would use to describe the personality of your animal hospital?" The words are then combined into common terms (example: educator and teacher). From these words, the team chooses the top four to six shared values that best describe the organization's identity as shared by the team. These words define the organization and are used to govern every aspect of the hospital, from hiring and firing to personnel development and busi- ness strategy. It is important to note that core values might transform with a lead- ership change. This exercise should be repeated after such changes or every three to five years. Create a Culture Map Actively managing culture requires that hospital leaders have a clear understanding of what they want their culture to represent and to accomplish. One way to help create a framework to reinforce the culture that you want is to create a culture map. As described in an online Har- vard Business Review article "Don't Let Your Company Culture Just Hap- pen," a culture map consists of three components: outcomes, behaviors, and enablers and blockers. Outcomes help to paint of pic- ture of what you want your culture to embody. Start by describing what type of culture you don't Dr. Wendy Hauser is assistant vice president of veterinary relations for the Crum and Forster Pet Insurance Group. She represents the American Ani- mal Hospital Association in the American Veterinary Medical Association House of Delegates. want. For example, an undesirable culture would employ individuals who were not accountable and who performed the minimum work possible. Conversely, you would want an environment in which employees were fully engaged, felt valued and knew they make pos- itive contributions to their teams, clients and patients every day. The second stage of the culture map is to think about behaviors that would be represented in each of the two outcome scenarios. Employee behaviors associated with the first scenario might be fin- ger-pointing, taking a wait-and-see attitude, ignoring or denying that it was their job to complete a task, lack of enthusiasm, not showing up for work, and quitting. Actions of the team members in the second scenario would include employees who consistently go above and beyond, laughter, smiles, willing- ness to ask for help, and comfort in admitting mistakes. An attitude of friendliness, caring and com- passion is pervasive throughout all aspects of the hospital. The final stage in mapping culture is to consider what would enable positive culture and what is preventing it. According to the au- thors, enablers and blockers should be considered within four categories: Incentives: Financial and emotion- al rewards that occur in a positive environment. These might include fair and appropriate compensation and benefits, and a bonus structure that rewards an employee's con- tributions toward hospital success. This also might include flexible working schedules, team celebra- tion events and even a heartfelt thank you at the end of the day. Contexts and rules: To enable a great culture, team members need autonomy to respond to the chal- lenges that present each day. Em- powering employees by including them in decision-making processes and creating a psychologically safe workplace will foster an environ- ment in which differing opinions are valued, heard and used to make best decisions. People: By using the hospital team's shared values, hiring managers can make great decisions by identifying new hires who will support and reinforce the hospital culture. Leaders: In a healthy emotional culture, leaders model the emo- tions that they want reflected in the group. Leaders should under- stand that they set the mood for the day through a phenomenon called "mood contagion." Identified by Daniel Goleman and other social scientists, it refers to the observa- tion that people "catch" feelings from others. The most contagious emotion is laughter, followed by cheerfulness. Fortunately, irritabil- ity is less contagious and depres- sion least of all. Once enablers have been iden- tified, evaluate where the barriers, or blockers, exist. Strategize with your team to create daily activities and experiments that will help to drive small successes. Build on these successes to create tactics to help de- velop the desired hospital culture. 2 3 When vulnerability-based trust is established, the need to hide weaknesses or mistakes evaporates as each team member can be accountable for their performance without fear of shame or ridicule.

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