Picking up Poop

June 22, 2017

Picking up Poop – Veterinary Leadership 101

My dog has reached the age where he walks and poops.  I have seen this many times over the years and am sure the reason must relate to arthritic changes and the inability to stay in one spot and “assume the position.”  However, this makes yard clean up less a simple one-stop task and more like a scavenger hunt.  While on patrol in my back yard I began to think – How many times when I was managing a practice did I stop and pick up poop?  The answer – every time I saw the need.

As a consultant, you get to visit lots of practices – some are clients and others are stops on a speaking tour for manufacturer’s representatives.  Yes – I am considered a “value added service.”  During my visits, I can observe veterinary teams in action.

In some practices the dynamic is amazing.  The team members are happy, engaged and purpose-driven champions for animal health.  In others, I see conflict and division.  The “Front vs. Back” war is in full swing.  The owner is micromanaging the manager and the manager is in turn being negative towards the team.  Jobs are defined and heaven forbid that anyone move out of their assigned “area.”  Work gets done but usually the culture is undesirable.  The team members often take the opportunity to vent to me.

As I listen to the complaints a consistent theme begins to develop.  Lack of true leadership.  These team members are frustrated because the owner or manager is not working with the team – merely overseeing them.  The hierarchy is at play.   Leaders don’t push from behind but lead from the front.

I am sure you are wondering what all this has to do with picking up poop.  If as a leader, you are not willing to pitch in and help with the dirty jobs when your team needs you, then you are not showing leadership.  My veterinarians would often fold laundry or grab a spray bottle and clean a cage.  The front office team was never too busy to help stock food.  And as the hospital administrator, I was never too busy – or to good – to pick up poop.

Leaders – you are observed every moment by your team.  Are you setting an example of pride in your practice?  Of true team work? Of servant leadership?  If not – you are not a true leader.  Leaders set the tone.

The morale to the story is simple… If you are not willing to pick up a turd… you might just be one.

Yours in Veterinary Team Development,

Debbie Boone, CVPM

After being an active veterinary practice manager for 23 years, Debbie decided to share her experience and began her business, 2 Manage Vets Veterinary Consultant. In addition to writing and speaking, she has been thrilled to work with many wonderful veterinary practice owners and their teams to improve practice culture, work-life balance, customer service, and profitability. Debbie has been a CATALYST Referral Partner since its inception.
Learn more about Debbie.