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Louise S. Dunn
Louise S. Dunn, a former practice manager, is a speaker, writer and founder of Snowgoose Veterinary Management Consulting, which provides technical assistance to practice teams to meet their strategic plans. She attended Hartford College for Women, Trinity College and AAHA’s Veterinary Management Institute at Purdue University. She is Fear Free certified.Read Articles Written by Louise S. Dunn
Across any profession or trade, managers share a common struggle: finding ways to motivate their team to achieve a common goal. In veterinary practice, motivating the team is critical for delivering excellent patient care, client service and business success. Motivation plays a role in performance, efficiency and productivity, as well as attracting and retaining team members.
Unfortunately, there is no gas gauge that indicates when motivation levels are low, but there are some positive and negative indications. A lack of motivation often shows up as poor quality of work, negative body language, clock watching, absenteeism and apathetic or negative attitudes. These factors ultimately create a horrible work environment for the team. On the other hand, a highly motivated team is a high-performing team. Motivation equates to taking the initiative, supporting each other, accepting responsibility and exhibiting energy. When you have motivated team members, you have people working at their full potential. This creates a great work environment.
While you might be able to determine where you team lands on the motivation gauge, filling the tank may not be a simple fix. A Google search can lead you down the rabbit hole, revealing endless ideas, tips and tricks — some backed by data and others that are not. Some results offer five, 12 or even 34 effective ways. At this point, one may be experiencing a lack of motivation to even try. Instead, focus on three key areas: the locus of control, “atta boys” and compensation.
Locus of Control
The locus of control is how much control people feel they have in their own behavior and over the things that happen to them. Some people believe they have control (internal locus of control), and some believe luck, fate or other people control their success and experiences (external locus of control). This is important because it demonstrates that one type of person possesses a growth mindset, internal drive and self-efficacy. The other will pass responsibility to other people and dwell on feelings of victimization. While this centers on an individual’s point of view (and therefore requires unique action steps), there are ways managers can help people increase their internal locus of control.
- Establish a psychologically safe environment to discuss concerns and study actions. For example, conducting a debrief following challenging interactions can help identify opportunities for improvement and allow your report to be better prepared when faced with a similar situation down the line.
- Encourage a growth mindset. Provide all members of your team opportunities to gain competence and grow their skills and knowledge (e.g., stretch assignments, learning opportunities, mentoring).
- Provide autonomy at work. Trusting team members to perform their jobs by not micromanaging every step they take will go a long way. This requires the manager to communicate clear expectations and build a culture of open communication.
Managers must understand their potentially negative role in reinforcing the locus of control in others. This happens when managers stereotype strong versus weak performers. Stereotyping results in biased actions and impacts attitudes, which is reflected in the Pygmalion effect. This concept posits that our expectations of others lead us to act in a way that make those expectations more likely. For example, a team member with an external locus of control may appear to be helpless and lacking accountability, thus being labeled as a poor performer. As a result, the manager might develop low expectations for this person, lose patience with them more easily and refuse to delegate tasks of high importance to them. This will reinforce the person’s beliefs about themselves and set them up for failure.
On the other hand, a team member with a strong internal locus of control is labeled as a hard worker and driven to succeed, so the manager readily offers opportunities for advancement. When a manager is aware of the locus of control and how it affects job performance, they can change their leadership style and motivate team members to realize their full potential and deliver excellent performance results.
The phrase expresses encouragement, support, approval or admiration for a job well done. But, of course, there are many other ways to convey this support. All too often, team members feel underappreciated and undervalued. There is a need to recognize the effort and acknowledge the work of a person or team. Giving an “atta boy” has far-reaching effects:
- Promotes behaviors you want in the workplace.
- Increases job satisfaction.
- Motivates the individual to stay longer at the practice.
- Improves productivity.
- Fosters better teamwork.
However, there is a right way — and less-than-optimal way — to offer kudos. Saying “thank you” over your shoulder as you run out the door will not motivate the team after a tough day. Taking the time to speak to the person individually, send a written message, announce in a team meeting or give a gift or bonus are all appropriate ways to express gratitude and encouragement. Keep in mind that one method might be more powerful than the others depending on the situation. Consider going a step further and include the partner or family in receiving your message by sending a note or a small token of appreciation to the home because the family will also appreciate the praise for their loved one.
Intentionality will also bolster your messaging — be specific about what was done well and quick with the praise. Waiting for a performance review to praise a person for a job well done is not a powerful method. It’s too little, too late. Simply saying “thanks” without being specific misses an opportunity to encourage desired behaviors and give positive feedback on a person’s performance.
While it is important to understand that not every kudo requires a gift, it is critical to remember that different people prefer different gifts. Not everyone will be impressed with a coffee shop gift card. Some might prefer company swag, a gift card to a local restaurant, paid continuing education or paid time off.
The options are endless, so why not ask? Send out a team survey and list appreciation ideas. Ask the team to rank their favorites and give more ideas, then keep that information in their personnel file to use when it is time to extend a little extra appreciation.
Let’s face it: We all like to hear that we did a good job or that our efforts are appreciated. The struggle is making it timely and relevant — and watching for daily opportunities to deliver kudos to every team member.
Paying someone for a job well done seems like a no-brainer. But compensation and benefits packages create angst for most managers. How much is enough to incentivize a person to perform to their fullest potential? The goal is to be transparent about how the business determines compensation levels and provide benefits desired by the various generations on the team.
Paying a fair living wage is the start of a motivational compensation and benefits package. While compensation won’t necessarily be motivational, it does play a role. For example, when team members feel inadequately compensated, they tend to perceive unfairness in the work environment, leading to demotivation. And regardless of employee handbook statements about disclosing wages, word still goes around. People on the team know what others are paid, which can destroy motivation for some team members.
Just like gifts, benefits are not valued the same way by every employee. Survey the team to find out how different benefits provide value and motivation. Switch from providing a one-size-fits-all package to a cafeteria plan where each team member can choose specific benefits that meet the organization’s budget and satisfy the individual’s needs. For example, the business sets the benefits package at a particular dollar amount and lists all available choices. The 23-year-old nurse will choose different benefits than the 55-year-old nurse because they are in different life stages. One might want child care, while the other prefers elder care. One might need tuition reimbursement, while the other desires a contribution to a pension plan. In the end, they both receive a package valued at the same dollar amount but with different benefits.
When contemplating how much in compensation and benefits is enough to motivate the team, consider this sage advice posted on LinkedIn: “A salary increase makes you happy once a year. A healthy workplace keeps you happy throughout the year.” Do not rely on money as the only motivational tool; incorporate an emphasis on the locus of control and atta boys into your toolbox.
Motivating the team is not a one-and-done action. It should always be running in the background of daily activities. Think of it as a daily dose of wellness care or a daily bath.
Motivational speaker and author Zig Ziglar said, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing — that’s why we recommend it daily.”
Incorporate motivation into your daily regimen. Make it a habit to encourage your team to deliver excellent service to every patient and every client, every time.
This article has been submitted for RACE approval of 0.5 hours of continuing education credit and will be opened for enrollment when approval is granted. To receive credit, complete the quiz here. VetFolio registration is required and free. Tests are valid for two years from the date of approval.
Please enjoy this CE article courtesy of Today’s Veterinary Business. Louise S. Dunn, the founder of Snowgoose Veterinary Management Consulting, addresses why motivating team members is critical and how to accomplish it.
After reading this article, you will understand best practices for motivating a team.
Motivation through the locus of control requires the manager to:
A. Give away any control over activities and let people manage themselves.
B. Control or do more oversight of a person performing their duties.
C. Help a person build more control over their behavior and the things that happen to them.
D. None of the above.
The Pygmalion effect refers to situations where high expectations lead to improved performance and low expectations lead to worsened performance.
All of the following are benefits to saying job well done, except:
A. It promotes behaviors you want in the workplace.
B. It improves productivity.
C. It hampers teamwork but motivates individuals.
D. All of the above.
Which of the following is key to saying thank you to a team member?
A. Include a gift card.
B. Be specific and timely in giving a kudos.
C. Back it up at review time with a bonus award.
D. All of the above are necessary for delivering a powerful “thank you.”
Paying a high salary is the only tried and true method for motivating a person.
Compensation transparency means:
A. W-4’s are posted in the breakroom at the end of every year.
B. Team members have a clear understanding of how compensation is determined and what they can do to earn a higher pay rate.
C. Disclosing coworkers’ pay rates only when asked by an individual.
D. None of the above.