Trust, Culture and US Marine Corps

February 28, 2018

What does trust, veterinary team culture and the US Marine Corps have in common anyway?

by guest blogger, Denise Mikita, MS, CVT

Team CultureI recently watched a short three minute YouTube Interview where Simon Sinek was asked about the US Marine Corps “circle of safety.” His answer was amazing and powerful.

What if all companies had this philosophy?

He started out explaining that young recruits are initially scared and aren’t sure they can hack it. For the first few weeks they try to prove to the drill instructor that they are worth it, that they are strong.  This certainly sounds like new hires, especially people who have just graduated from a technician program or veterinary school. They want to prove that their education was meaningful.

Sinek continues that the cadets are then put in situations, on purpose, where they will fail by themselves in order to teach them that their success is dependent upon each other. In essence, they are creating a culture with intent where people rely on each other rather than themselves.

Paradigm Shift

What the Marines find are that these folks begin to cheer for one another and care about the success of each other. So much so that when heroes are asked why they risked their lives for their comrades, the answer is “they would have done it for me.”  Sinek explains that this is the circle of safety, where there is “the absolute confidence that someone will be there for me, so in return I will be there for them.”

Does your facility have this type of trusting culture, where you can always count on your co-workers? My guess is that it will be found more when discussing medical procedures and taking care of patients, and less when dealing with other issues that occur in hospitals.

The interesting part of this scenario is that Sinek states that it’s the quality of leadership and the environment created that determines if the feeling of safety occurs.  It’s not about hiring the best people, but rather it’s creating a safe environment for people to excel in.  After all, culture is either created through design or by default.


How many hospital invest in quality leadership? It would be interesting to see what portion of the Continuing Education budget is spent on the “softer skills” like team development, communication and training for trust and leadership.

Hopefully the Practice Manager is hired for his/her leadership skills, and then given the leverage to use these skills. After all, managing is not leading.

Just like the Marines, team members should have the training and environment in order to build confidence in themselves as well as instilling a sense that their own success is dependent on the people around them.

Maybe the way to approach the team is truly as a team. Sinek ends his interview with a powerful shift in thinking where “I,” “me” and “my” are no longer in the vocabulary, but rather “we,” “together” and “us.” While the hospital may not be a military facility, certainly this concept of supporting each other can be put into practice to develop a culture of trust in one another.

Denise head shotYours in a culture built by trust,

Denise Mikita, MS, CVT


Denise has been a CVT since 1997 and has worked in a variety of positions:  small animal clinics, executive director of the Colorado Association of Certified Veterinary Technicians (CACVT), Denver Zoo hospital, and Executive Assistant of CATALYST Veterinary Practice Consultants.