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Defining Your Veterinary Team Culture

March 7, 2018

Yes, You Really can Define Your Veterinary Team Culture

Many veterinary hospitals have amazing and talented medical personnel. What sets your hospital apart from the one down the road is your culture.

Culture is incredibly important because it sets the tone for everything from how the team interacts to the kinds of hires made to how customers are treated.1

In addition, according to the AAHA study in 2016, the culture and relationships within a veterinary practice may have a significant impact on its overall success.2

What exactly is “team culture?”

Team culture is concerned with how the team coexists. Examples include policies and procedures, hierarchy, reward system, acceptable behavior and dress code. Team culture often depends on its traditions, or lack of them.

While managing a clinic in Denver many years ago, I would have described their team culture as competitive, yet, family oriented. The team was always striving to improve (attending CE, in-house training, gaining AAHA accreditation). Even though there was a definite hierarchy, with one veterinarian owning the practice, they supported each other like a close-knit family. I thoroughly enjoyed working with the team and helping them achieve their next level of development.

Think about your team’s culture? What feeling do you have when you walk through the door in the morning? How about in the afternoon? In a “good culture,” you may feel “connected,” “supported,” and “appreciated.”

As an exercise, write down the traditions your team experiences. Or better yet, take our monthly poll where we ask this exact question.  Some ideas may include attending continuing education, holding potlucks or BBQs, or supporting each other in personal and professional growth.

Example of one clinic’s culture

One animal wellness center that I worked with developed a cool concept. They call it their “DEER” Charter. Their focus is continually around these ideas whether it’s the day-to-day activities or a focus for new hires.

Diversity = understanding that we all have varied backgrounds and “stories.” It takes this variety to fill in the gaps and make a team work well.

Equality = all team members are treated with fairness and with the ideal to seek first to understand then to be understood.

Empowerment = team members are trained and empowered to be fully engaged assets in the veterinary hospital, supported in critical thinking and follow through.

Respect = for pets, pet owners and team members.

Ways to Build Team Culture

When you take a group of independently talented people and create a team in which they can merge their talents, not only will a remarkable amount of energy and creativity be released, but their performance, loyalty and engagement will be greatly improved.3

While there are many variations, there are some core components for building a great culture.3

  1. Focus on a team-oriented organization, making it a core company value and empowering people to make decisions and accept responsibility for the results.
  2. Provide serious team goals that carry weight and value.
  3. Encourage informal teams for accomplishing tasks rather than having every decision scrutinized by upper management.
  4. Cross-train employees so that when they understand the other areas in the clinic, there will be more appreciation for other positions as well as knowledge to make decisions which benefit the clinic as a whole.
  5. Provide appropriate team resources to help fuel success in all aspects.

From an article in Entrepreneur, “Culture is not something you put in place and expect it to stay forever. It takes work. You need to nurture it. You also need to give it the freedom to evolve. If you cling too tightly to your culture, you risk smothering it. Protect it, yes, but understand that your culture will shrink and swell — and that’s okay so long as it maintains its core.”1

Obviously, establishing your culture also involves the people in your organization. They go hand-in-hand.  So once you have an idea of the culture you want, the people must fit into it.  This means evaluating the people on your team to see if they are a good fit for the culture.  But that’s a whole other blog – perhaps next week’s topic!

Yours in Healthy Team Culture,

Rebecca Rose, CVT

 

Resources

  1. The 8 Essential Steps to Building a Winning Company Culture. By Monica Zent. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/239475
  2. AAHA Study: Culture Can Make or Break Veterinary Practice’s Success. Summary of Culture Piece:  https://www.veterinarypracticenews.com/aaha-study-culture-can-make-or-break-veterinary-practices-success/  Full report:  https://www.aaha.org/public_documents/professional/resources/aaha_2016_state_of_the_industry_presentation.pdf
  3. 5 Ways to Build an Extraordinary Team Culture. By Peter Economy.  https://www.inc.com/peter-economy/5-ways-to-build-an-extraordinary-team-culture.html