I ask. I get CRICKETS! Veterinary Team Communications

August 6, 2020

Veterinary team engagement can be a challenge.

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-nothing!”

I have a few suggestions for managers, team leads, 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 (my large animal tech shining through) 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. Acknowledge their input, “I appreciate your idea in putting together a Gratitude Jar. That sounds like a win/win suggestion.”

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.

Now is a great time to view our FREE SMART Goal course in designing and bringing those ideas and projects to completion!

Yours in engaging veterinary team meetings,

Rebecca Rose, CVT

Join us for Dimensions in Veterinary Management an adventure in managing from the Heart! The Fall 2020 Cohort begins September 2nd.