I spend a lot of my speaking and training time working with managers and practice owners teaching them how to be a good leader. This is certainly important. It struck me that even with good leaders, veterinary practices end up with some less than stellar staff members. Some come from poor hiring with little preparation and unclear expectations. But others have all the pieces in place and still get they get duds. It is easy to blame the business. Maybe the training wasn’t up to par. Maybe the systems were nonexistent. But maybe some people just don’t know how to be a good employee.
So, I thought I would share some insight on what it takes to be a good employee. Hopefully, this will help set both employee and employer up for success.
The first thing about work is – show up. I don’t mean just attend and be on time, although that is a must. I mean mentally and physically show up willing to do your best to help your patients, your fellow staff members and the practice be better than they were without you. Often, staff members rely on the ideas and direction of the leadership and just move through the day. The exceptional staff member puts thought into their work and seeks ways to make it better, faster or smarter. I have always believed in hiring smart people and allowing them to use their brains to make the practice a better place. Care for the practice.
Second – Remember it is not about YOU. The people around you deserve to have the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes sharp remarks are made in “the heat of battle” that means no more than your fellow worker is hungry, frustrated, exhausted or just plain feeling overwhelmed. Maybe your manager is not answering your 10 pm text because in the few hours she is off work she would really like to connect with her family rather than answering a question that could have easily waited until the next workday. Respect others time off. It will wait. Your client is not giving you a hard time because they don’t want to care for their pet but perhaps, they are battling a financial crisis or a human medical issue. Empathy for others is the core of being a good HUMAN. Be considerate. Be kind. Be forgiving. Care for others.
Third – Communicate don’t ruminate. If something is bothering you, respectfully speak up and ask that person questions. Stories have two sides… yours, theirs and the truth. Seek the truth without telling yourself the story that makes others the bad guy and you the victim. You are only a victim if you allow it. Don’t accuse – ask. Care to communicate.
Forth – Learn! Learn! Learn! You don’t have to wait to be taught. Watch how others do things. Go online and find training. Read books and magazines that help you improve your skills. Then – teach others. Knowledge not shared is wasted. Power does not come from hoarding skills or information – it comes from generously sharing what you know so others can learn. This then frees you up to reach for higher goals and growth. Always learn. Care to learn and share.
Five – Choose a positive attitude. Yes, attitude is a choice. Neuroscience teaches us that the brain does not know the truth from a lie. If you tell it, you are excited to go to work and be with your team and patients – you will be. If you tell it, you dread the work it will seek anything possible to confirm your dread. Smile. It releases a chain reaction of return smiles. Give someone a compliment. It will make them happy, but it releases endorphins in your brain that also make you happier. Care to be happy.
Finally. Remember that your actions are the signature you put on your job. Poor quality work follows you so even it if is mopping the floor do it with pride. If you find yourself doing less than stellar work because it is work you don’t feel is worth your effort then find something you are passionate about and offer to do more of that. In every business there are tasks that we love to do, tasks that we are OK doing, and tasks that we loath that must be done to make the business run. I personally hated writing payroll. But as the manager it was part of my job and my staff really wanted to get paid. So, I wrote payroll. And I wrote it early so they could go to the bank at lunch, as perfect as possible and kept meticulous track of benefits so I could compensate the team correctly. In 19 years, I never missed writing a payroll. I paid my vendors on time too. Not because I liked it but because it was necessary to do the job well and it mattered to others. Sign your work with pride. Care to do it well.
Understand that in a business all ships sink or rise on the performance of the people who work there. If you get the people right, the success shows up. If you desire to work in a #unicornculture then be a part of building it. Only the employees have control of the culture. Will you lift others up or will you tear them down? Will you learn? Will you teach? Will you be kind? Will you give your best? WILL YOU CARE? EVEN IF IT IS NOT RECIPROCATED?
If you need to leave – give a notice. This professionalism reflects on your ethics -even if your employer doesn’t deserve it. This one IS about you.
I hope everyone reading this gets to work in the job of their dreams like I do. Just remember any job deserves to be respected. Work is a privilege. Joy comes from work that matters and what we do matters a lot.