I ask. I get CRICKETS! Veterinary Team Communications

February 7, 2017

A medical team meeting in the hospital

Sometimes it can be difficult to get the veterinary team to communicate and open up when asked to engage. “I ask my team, ‘What do you want?’ and all I get are CRICKETS! What do I do?” asked a veterinarian owner after a presentation talking about leadership and empowerment.

That is not an uncommon comment. “I get CRICKETS!”

I have a few suggestions for managers and owners who can relate.

Give the team time to ruminate and then respond.

Before you ask your team to engage in an open conversation, remember your team may want to ruminate on the topic and formulate their answers. Few team members will jump into an answer (but you know the two that will and they tend to DOMINATE the conversation whenever they have the opportunity).

If you are going to have a meeting on Thursday in which you ask the team to participate, give them an article on the topic Monday along with a few questions you will be asking during the meeting. In this way, the team understands the topic, can formulate their answers and be willing to speak their mind .

Even though the dominating team members will pipe up, systematically ask all the team members for their input. If you have a large team, divide them into smaller groups (3 to 5 people), identify a scribe that will relay the conversation, and set them up for engagement success!

Create a safe place to engage.

Team members won’t speak up if, in the past, they were told, “That has been tried before and it was a failure!” Or, “We can not implement that because …. (you fill in the blank).” When you ask the team to offer their suggestions, DON’T SHOOT ‘EM DOWN!! Allow your team the courtesy of listening, without immediate judgment. Give them time to “toss out ideas and determine what will stick, later.” Remember to listen when you ask them to speak.

Start with Low-Risk Conversations.

Don’t seek engagement the first week in regards to embezzlement or team members behaving badly. I guarantee you will get CRICKETS! Start with Low-Risk topics.

Consider creating a suggestion box, or creating a weekend photo session with clients and their dogs with the Easter Bunny, or designing a value statement, together. High-Risk conversations may include the incorrect count of a Class III drug or creating a policy on drug screening. Start with small, “safer” topics and transition into more involved conversations as your team begins to build trust and open communication skills.Be sure to thank them for speaking up.

Follow through is CRUCIAL!

There is nothing more demoralizing than asking your team for their input and not taking ACTION! Consider how you (as leader or manager) will record the conversation, identify who is accountable for bringing project/task/event to fruition and check on the progress.

If you ask your team to engage and offer their input without any intention of follow through, you have just set everyone up for failure. Take ACTION! Show your team you are willing and able to engage with them and take their suggestions seriously.

Yours in veterinary team communications,

Rebecca Rose, CVT

Rebecca Rose, CVT is the founder and president of CATALYST Veterinary Practice Consultants. She has 30 years of involvement in the veterinary industry, including experience as a veterinary practice management consultant, a practice manager at two AAHA-accredited animal hospitals, and as an award-winning veterinary technician.