Workplaces thrive in a culture of gratitude and when teamwork and collaboration are encouraged.
Studies have shown that positive leadership leads to positive work environments. The concept is so logical that you probably don’t need to review stacks of employee survey results to accept the notion that leadership has a real impact on work culture. Just as negative people can create a negative work environment, positive leaders can create a positive one. Let’s examine what leaders can do to create a work environment that allows teams to flourish and provide the best possible client service.
Start at the Top
First, recognize that human emotions are contagious and that those displayed by practice leaders can influence a day at work. If you as the practice owner or manager mumble and grumble when you arrive at the clinic, your attitude almost certainly will set the tone for the rest of the team. If you walk in with a smile and perky step, the opposite tone will be established. So, be conscious of how you act throughout the day and especially when you walk through the door.
Don’t make employees guess, either. You might walk in with a deadpan expression and get right to work, never considering that employees might wonder and worry that something is wrong. Instead, greet your team with a smile. When team members think they have a good relationship with leadership, they will want to play an even bigger role in the hospital’s success. So, treat your team with empathy and respect, showing interest in the people who work with you. This creates the foundation for a positive work environment.
Remember to go beyond the basics when creating a culture of gratitude. Point out what inspires you. If you’re a role model, helping others at work whenever you can, you will encourage employees to support one another. Your gestures can be as simple as opening the door for someone or picking up papers that an embarrassed technician dropped in front of you.
When leaders clearly communicate a practice’s guiding values, the team has a much easier time providing services in a way that reflects those positive values. Clarity should begin as early as Day One. When you provide new employees with a job description and begin the onboarding experience, they should know exactly what role they are expected to play. This streamlines production and reduces the opportunities for uncertainty and frustration to enter the workday.
Monkey See, Monkey Do
Leaders must put practice values into action for employees to observe. For example, a manager who says extraordinary client service is a core value but then responds impatiently when a pet owner asks a question is doing no good. A manager who stresses teamwork but then doesn’t provide solutions when the front-line staff is overwhelmed with clients and paperwork isn’t being helpful.
Hospital owners and managers should regularly review policies and procedures with employees and discuss in a positive way how each dovetails with the practice’s mission and vision. Leaders also create a positive environment by forbidding bullying and being truly inclusive in all words and actions.
Workplaces thrive when teamwork and collaboration are encouraged, allowing everyone to contribute in a meaningful way. Leaders can further this culture with team building. From coffee in the morning to retreats and lunch and learns, employees can get to know one another and appreciate each other’s strengths in deeper ways. These are ideal opportunities for co-workers to compliment each other for jobs well done and express appreciation to one another.
Bring Everyone Together
At a successful practice, all employees know their responsibilities, understand what they’re accountable for and realize why they’re doing what they do. The “why” provides meaning to daily tasks and helps employees understand the logic behind their workloads.
To provide even more clarity, set aside time for the team to review:
- The clinic’s mission and vision statement.
- What the practice does especially well.
- Why each employee was drawn to the veterinary profession and to your practice.
- What each person values about his or her job.
- The practice’s goals for the near future and over the next five to 10 years.
When sharing or reviewing hospital goals, positive practices don’t turn the meeting into a lecture. Instead, allow employees to dream, to envision the ideal future and to discuss what needs to happen to make the dream a reality. It’s a time for people to brainstorm and share their wildest ideas. Although practicality needs to kick in at some point, these sessions can have far-reaching positive effects.
Be Solution Focused
Positive practices focus on solutions. Discussing what didn’t go well can have significant value as long as the intention is to dissect what happened so that mistakes aren’t unnecessarily repeated. Avoid finger-pointing and blame. Instead, discuss how a situation should be addressed and a problem solved the next time. Providing solutions is constructive, while only pointing out mistakes can be destructive, making a teammate feel singled out.
As a leader, you have the ability and responsibility to reinforce behaviors that you want to see. This can be as quick as a big smile when a team member assists someone or as easy as a compliment when a receptionist goes above and beyond. Take the time to say, “Thank you.”
When an employee engages in behaviors you want to see, write a letter to him or her and put a copy in the personnel file. Doing this will take some time, but the employee will feel good about the job performed, which in turn will positively affect the practice. Also, consider using a bulletin board to post compliments, kudos and thumbs-ups.
Organizing a celebratory meal to publicly thank team members is worthwhile. This can be a monthly lunch or a quarterly or annual get-together. When honoring someone, be specific. Let a receptionist know you appreciated how he showed courtesy and compassion to an unreasonable client. Tell a technician that you noticed she is always willing to do the bloodwork on fearful patients. No matter the specifics, encourage employees to keep up the good work.
When deciding how and who to promote, pay attention to people who exhibit the positive attitudes you appreciate. Yes, technical skills are important, but don’t let them overshadow the softer skills that lead to a positive work culture.
Practice Self Care
As a practice leader, your attitude plays a crucial role in the hospital culture. Therefore, make sure that you get enough rest and that you care for yourself and your overall health so that you can continue to positively lead the practice.
Positivity exudes positivity. Something as simple as a smile can alter how a workday begins and ends. Working in a fast-paced hospital environment can be stressful, but a little bit of good energy goes a long way. This will ensure your employees are happy, which in turn makes clients happy.
H.R. Huddle columnist Kellie G. Olah is a human resources consultant at Veterinary Business Advisors Inc. Learn more at www.veterinarybusinessadvisors.com.