Being in the world of veterinary management since 1987 has given me a long-term perspective on how our profession has changed. It is truly incredible how far we have come. But in all those years one thing is consistent…” it’s lonely at the top.”
I grew up as the boss’s daughter, so I was always in a different position as I worked in our family restaurant. That was my normal. Just a little “apart”. When I first went to work in veterinary medicine, I was a part of the team for the very first time in my working life. I loved it. I went to lunch with my co-workers, attended wedding showers and talked about life problems with people who were my peers. One of my co-workers even helped me move. I don’t think she realized it was on the 3rd floor! When I left and returned a year later, I came back as the Hospital Administrator and things were different. Many of the same folks, but now I was their boss.
I have never been a “hard ass” as a boss. I don’t believe it is effective in leading a team. But I was still in charge of enforcing the rules. Since I had been in a position like this most of my life the transition was not hard, and I maintained a nice balance of boss and friend with our team. It helped that they were awesome people and the vast majority didn’t need much direction or correction.
I have always had sympathy for the great tech or CSR who was promoted to a leadership position, most of the time with little to no guidance or training, who now had to monitor the work and behavior of those who, just a few days prior, were his or her contemporaries. The switch is not easy.
Often in veterinary team support groups I read “rants” about managers or bosses. I empathize with those people who are subject to the bad behavior of their supervisors, but I also feel bad for the managers.
They have no one to talk to.
Often, they are the only person in that role in the practice. I can tell you from 23 years of experience as a Hospital Administrator of a 5 doctor practice and then a COO of an 11 doctor group, this is a hard job. You are doing your best to be the buffer between owner and team and sometimes client and team. You take most of the heat.
A typical day could start with someone calling out sick and the rest of the staff is now fussing because they are shorthanded. The new kennel attendant stopped up the drain in the back (we need a plumber), a computer in treatment is acting badly (call support) and a client is upset and demanding a refund for something she OK’d on an estimate (find the doctor and tech and investigate) ….all before 9:00 a.m.
Your doctor doesn’t like the new surgical gloves even though he OK’d the cheaper price when you went to him for approval. You still must write 25 paychecks before noon and at least 20% of the staff didn’t make corrections to their timecards so you have to chase them down before you can start. The order that UPS just dropped off came in with a busted bottle of Rescue, so you have to get on the phone with the distributor for a replacement. Your team is supposed to give you a list of all their pets so they can get their free preventive, but it is still incomplete, and the rep is coming by this afternoon so it has to be completed. In the meantime, you are taking phone calls from reps who want to come by to show you a new….(fill in the blank) and phone solicitors that your CSR’s missed triaging trying to sell you advertising. Of course the clients who will only speak to you have called needing boarding reservations and your practice owner wants you to work on her Rotary project. Having Fun Yet?
Most of them are doing the very best they can to juggle all the balls. Unlike the rest of the team, they have no peers to share their stress with…but they take it home, often working more hours than the practice owner.
As a manager I treasured even the small things my team did for me. I still have a small clay dog one of my groomers brought me from a trip. We haven’t worked together since 2005 and it still means so much to me that she considered me on her vacation.
But kindness is more than gifts.
A small word of appreciation when you have a great “tech week” and are rolling in the swag your manager provided would be nice. You have no idea how many phone calls and strings she pulled to get you that stuff. How about a high five when they step in and save you from that client that is verbally ripping you to shreds? It would certainly help them feel that all that abuse they just took to protect you was worth it.
We should always be kind to each other. Every position on the team is equally important. Yep – that CSR is as important as that DVM – without their skills at the front desk clients never come in and doctors have no patients.
The next time you consider fussing about something your manager forgot or you think she didn’t do fast enough, step back and ask yourself, if you were in her shoes what would you need for someone to do to help you? And then go do that. You will both feel better for it.
Happy Valentine’s day – Sending you much Love!
If you are a manager who is feeling overwhelmed, give me a call. I am happy to be your coach and guide.