My First Veterinary Management Year: A Retrospective

SLC-Circle-3There have been many changes and challenges over the last few weeks at my clinic. Possibly the most important one is that after 22 years my clinic supervisor and partner in crime decided to pursue a different veterinary opportunity.  He was loved by the team and extremely knowledgeable and helpful. His decision came as a shock to the staff, doctors, and the entire company.

When he told me, I was speechless. I kept wondering if I can lead this team on my own. Who will make the schedule, helped monitor controlled drugs, and the list went on.

We were also due for a quarterly team meeting. I decided to have the meeting without him, leading our clinic all by myself.

Of course, my manager wanted to observe the meeting and then meet with me. Nervous and frazzled, as I am before every team meeting (no matter how much I prepare), the meeting was a success. Multiple people noted the dynamic change in staff morale and enthusiasm. Employee engagement and clinic pride is at an all time high. I feel liked, trusted, and respected. After the meeting some of the staff mentioned what a nice meeting it was, even without my cohort, their chief, as he was nicknamed.

I stopped dead in my tracks and  wondered how did I accomplish this?

Simultaneously, I have been reading The Leadership Challenge  for the AVMA Future Leaders Program.  I cannot say it was easy, but with prior experience and perhaps a natural ability, I focused the year on building trust, empowering my staff, and increasing morale. It worked. Unknowingly, I employed many techniques in this leadership bible. The techniques are simple and they work.

While I employed some, I have not employed others and decided we as a clinic need to hit the basics this year: values, vision and mission. However, when discussing with my manager, there would have been no way to get buy-in from the staff on this last year. In fact, in January participation in an employee award survey was only 50% (versus 100% this June).

While company management is very happy with my progress, a scary fact was brought to my attention. My work load may not improve once we replace our clinic supervisor. In fact, the more staff look to me as a leader, the more projects I will undertake.  As someone who values change and continuous improvement (an important trait of a leader), this is a necessary evil. Prioritization will be my main survival skill. I am up for the challenge. Very little is as rewarding as when staff comes to you and states, “I came to you because you listen and get things done.”

This year I have surprised myself and learned that if you truly care about your work and your people, many management strategies may come naturally.

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