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6 Smartcuts for Relevancy

Let’s get comfortable with being uncomfortable by thinking differently, exploring new ideas and serving as active allies.

6 Smartcuts for Relevancy
Being willing to take a calculated risk is a valuable relevancy smartcut.

Smartcuts — smarter ways of doing things — propel us in a positive direction by creating sustainable momentum or eliminating unnecessary effort. When entrepreneur and journalist Shane Snow first shined a light on smartcuts in the business world, he did it to encourage people to think differently. Thinking differently and getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is critical in the ongoing evolution of how we practice the art and science of veterinary medicine.

Our profession is fraught with challenges and yet so much opportunity and potential. A willingness to step outside our comfort zone and be uncomfortable in the face of new ideas and experiences will mitigate the gap between where we are now and where we need to be as individuals and as a profession. This includes how we engage with clients, how we create cultures of inclusion and equity in our workplaces, and how we collaborate to increase diversity in order to become and remain relevant to our clients and teams.

That is the crux of the matter. Do you want to be relevant to the increasingly diverse and talented applicant pool of team members and the clients of today and tomorrow? If yes, read on.

Below are six smartcuts designed to inform us as we navigate the journey of getting comfortable with being uncomfortable by thinking differently, exploring new ideas and serving as active allies. As we progress on this path, we must realize that getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is a luxury that those with privilege can easily step in and out of. Underrepresented individuals and groups must manage the discomfort of marginalization every day.

1. Unlearn

The first smartcut for getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is unlearning what we think we know and tapping into what academic Dr. Carol Dweck describes as a growth mindset. (Read her Harvard Business Review article at bit.ly/2VgHBW9.) With a growth mindset, we make fewer assumptions and embrace learning new things with excitement and open-mindedness.

As we consider the body of all possible knowledge, there are things we know and things we don’t know. With a growth mindset, we are acutely aware that at any given point, there is a vast amount of information and knowledge for which we do not have enough context to realize we do not know. Unlearning coupled with a growth mindset makes space for those unknowns.

2. Educate Yourself

With an open mindset focused on growth and lifelong learning, we continue to educate ourselves. This is the second smartcut to relevancy. As veterinary professionals, education and learning are innate to us. To become and remain a credentialed and knowledgeable veterinary professional, we read journals and absorb the latest research so that we can deliver the highest possible care to those we serve.

As we expand our foundational knowledge and hone our leadership skills with an eye on equity and inclusion, we become better equipped to understand and act upon what is needed to create a truly inclusive, toxicant-free workplace where all team members are comfortable being their authentic selves. This, in turn, leads to a vibrant, fun culture where everyone thrives.

Encouragingly, we can use many tools as we continue to sharpen the saw, including these two valuable resources launched this year:

The Journey Guide’s target audience is veterinary medical associations. A customized version for veterinary practices will be available in early 2022. In the meantime, the association version has many tools and resources relevant for all veterinary professionals and workplaces.

3. Fail Fast, Often and Forward

Being willing to take a calculated risk is another valuable relevancy smartcut. When was the last time you tried something new? Do you encourage your team members and peers to experiment and try new things? Much is learned by failing fast, failing often and failing forward. When we make mistakes and learn from them, our horizons expand and our toolbox of solutions becomes even more robust.

4. View Feedback as a Gift

If we operate in a closed system, we cannot grasp the true picture of our reality. This is because we see things from only one viewpoint: our own. Open systems seek input from a variety of sources. Workplaces in which feedback is viewed as a gift act as open systems with continuous inputs. These inputs help to create the most accurate picture of our reality, so we understand the areas of our business that are strong or need support.

Regardless of your role in the veterinary profession, if you are working in an environment where feedback is not viewed as a gift, the best place to start is by asking for it. The simple question “What’s working well and what could be even better yet?” is a great place to start. Use the question to generate one-on-one feedback toward individual growth and development, as the core topic in a team meeting, or as a simple way to round out the day with input from every team member — “What went well today and what could have been even better yet?” Then, apply the perspectives to your approach the next day.

5. Be Radically Candid

Communication is always part of the solution, and a lack of effective communication is always part of the problem. A powerful model that leads to consistent, effective communication is radical candor. According to author and impact expert Kim Scott, being radically candid is about communicating directly and caring deeply. We can care deeply about others without agreeing with every one of their viewpoints. Radical candor is about being human and giving a damn. Marrying radical candor with a culture where feedback is viewed as a gift leads to a positive work environment and supports our journey to relevancy.

6. Celebrate the Good

The sixth smartcut on our path to relevancy is authentically celebrating the wins. Celebrating what is working well while acknowledging what could be even better supports a culture of reality-based optimism. When we approach our work intentionally and look for the good, myriad opportunities to celebrate present themselves. Seize those moments and celebrate the wins, big and small. For example:

  • Dub “Champion of the Day” the first person to make a grumpy client smile.
  • Make time for gratitude and kindness shoutouts at the beginning of staff meetings.
  • Celebrate the personal and professional wins of all team members.
  • Create shared goals so that your team can track the progress toward those goals. Be open and radically candid when progress is not being made, and celebrate when it is.

Human beings are social creatures. When we understand that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, we can get out of our heads and work together to accomplish great things.

Increasing equity and inclusion in the workplace through those six smartcuts will guide us to invigorating and successful work environments employing diverse teams that mirror the clients of today and tomorrow.

Diversity Toolbox guest columnist Dr. Mia Cary is a consultant, speaker and workshop facilitator. She is CEO and change agent at Cary Consulting, CEO of PrideVMC, the former chief of professional development and strategic alliances for the American Veterinary Medical Association and the former chief innovation officer at the North American Veterinary Community. Her purpose is to activate others to thrive.