Welcome 2020!  A new decade is a great time to look at the past for what we can improve and plan for the future.  But, doing the same old thing year after year seems to be ineffective in implementing permanent changes.  I gave up on New Year’s resolutions many years ago because they were more like “wishes” than a plan. It’s time to take a new perspective.

Recently my husband and I purchased one of those Tetter inversion devices.  Sitting for long periods of time at a desk creates some serious “kinks” and hanging upside down does help get us back in alignment.  It also gives me some time to think with a remarkably different perspective – hanging upside down by my feet!  

We tend to keep looking at our business, our team and our clients from the same perspective year after year. As veterinary professionals we see things colored by our knowledge, our biases and our daily experiences.  But what if we flipped that upside down? 

Consider looking at a visit to your practice from a patient’s point of view.  I realized this was possible as I hung with my head 6 inches off the ground.  What would you see, smell or feel? 

First lots of feet, perhaps a slippery floor, a big, cold metal platform (scale) you were expected to willingly step and then sit on.  Burrr! Lots of noisy phones and strangers talking. Unknown other animals. The smell of cleaner that burns your super sensitive nose and the pheromones of pets that were nervous just like you.  If you are lucky the strangers have treats, if not they just move you from place to place with little consideration for how scary this all is. They invade your personal space and poke in some very uncomfortable spots.  You try to show them how nervous you are by moving away but they just hold you tighter. Hummmm. Let’s flip this on its head and acknowledge the feelings of our patients and handle them with respect for their emotions.  Take the classes and learn about low stress handling and Fear Free visits. It is worth the effort.

What if we look at our practice as a client?  Since I no long work in a practice I have become a client…believe me it is different!  Clients come from all walks of life with different levels of education, implicit biases, limited medical knowledge and lots of bombardment from slick marketing hype.  Instead of talking to them from the world we live in, we must communicate with them in the world they occupy. 

I have a lot of medical knowledge picked up from my BS in Animal Science and 30 years of working around veterinary medicine, but even I have experienced my veterinarian “talking over my head” when discussing my dog’s medical issues. Unlike most clients, I will stop him and ask him to back up and explain.  Traveling around the country teaching veterinary teams communication skills, I have asked thousands of students,” How many of you have had a client come to your practice who cannot tell if their DOG is male or female?’ 100% of my attendees raise their hands!!!  This is a wakeup call for medical professionals to understand the ignorance – not stupidity, but IGNORANCE of our clients.  

We are all ignorant of something.  I can’t write computer code, lay bricks, fix the car I drive daily or wire a house.  I had clients who could do all those things. What if we inverted our perspective to see people who are smart in their work, who just want to be respected, appreciated and explained to in a way they can relate, based on their knowledge base and not ours.  I bet we wouldn’t have to worry about those negative reviews or clients constantly saying “no” to offered care. 

Practice Owners and Managers, can you “invert” to when you were new in your career?  I hear lots of millennial bashing as a consultant, but I tend to push back at those “boomers”and Gen X ‘ers who have forgotten what they were like when they were kids.  You see I am a Boomer. I was 13 when I was part of a “sit in” so girls could be allowed to wear pants to school. I was 15 when the Women’s movement started, kids protested Vietnam and “Make Love not War” was the catch phrase of the day.  My husband had hair to his shoulders on our first date. My parents nearly had a stroke! 

Kids are always disruptive, and to older generations who are settled – a pain in the neck.  I recall this quote

“If the whole world depends on today’s youth, I can’t see the world lasting another 100 years.” 

…Socrates

Yet, here we are. 

So, let’s step into those “young people” shoes, remember what it was like before our mentors and life taught us some hard lessons, and help them learn to be good employees and citizens of the world.  I look back at my 23 years as a manager and am so proud of the “kids” I hired. Nine of them are veterinarians that are practice owners, several are human doctors and lawyers, others have careers in technology and business.  Many of them started in the kennels and went on to be leaders in the practice. Others were “duds” and they got fired. Just like today. 

Flip the “I am the boss” perspective to “I am the coach” point of view and see how your team will bloom.  Invert the light from you to them. 

So, let’s start 2020 by standing on our heads.  Step outside the norm. Open your mind to change and new ideas in technology, mindfulness, coaching and communication.  Embrace new ideas in medical care, nutrition and patient emotional wellbeing and see how the new decade can be a vast improvement for you, your team and your clients.

If you need help with any of these ideas – lets hang out!  It’s what I do. 

Cheers!