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Eight (more) management mistakes to avoid

To become a successful leader, you should continue to refine your leadership, communication, and listening skills

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In the November 2019 issue, we reviewed eight management mistakes to avoid. Here are eight more that can help create and maintain a cohesive team.

Rather than learning from experience and making mistakes yourself, studying other leaders’ and managers’ blunders can help save you time and energy.

1) Goals

A team without clear goals can often be unmotivated, uninspired, and just going through the motions. It is important for your team members to have goals to visualize, as this helps give them a measurable target to work toward. It is your responsibility as a manager to define inspiring goals. Whether it is efficiency-related, revenue-based, or associated with better patient or client care, having clearly defined goals helps your team work better and be more productive.

2) Motivation

A classic management mistake is to misinterpret motivation. It is often assumed money is a strong motivator. Yet, anyone who has worked in the veterinary field for more than 10 minutes should know money is usually pretty low on the list of motivation. So, what gets your team going? Have you ever taken the time to find out? Maybe some are motivated by acquiring a specialization, improving their education, or expanding their skill set. Others may be motivated to pursue a position in management or leadership. Our field offers so much room for advancement. These opportunities could be driving factors for some of your peers. Get to know what motivates them. Then ensure you are facilitating and encouraging their ambition.

3) Attitude

Leading by example can be one of the easiest ways to keep your team on point. If you walk around with a negative attitude, bad-mouthing others, or checking social media posts constantly, your team will see it. It then seems logical for them to believe that if their manager does something, it must be acceptable for everyone.

Instead, truly walk the walk. You can’t expect them to stay past the end of their shift (on occasion) if you always leave early. If your team has to stay late, so should you. You may have to pick up a mop or file records or count tablets to help them get home faster. That’s leading by example.

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Follow all the rules, all the time. Be a role model for your team, the guiding force behind them. It is much easier to show them what to do than it is to undo bad behaviors they learned from you.

4) Time

Different team members have different needs based on their “language of appreciation.”* For some, spending quality time is far more important than words of encouragement or a pat on the back. Others hate public recognition.

Don’t hide in your office all day—spend time on the floor. Observe what it truly going on at different times of the day. Notice what systems could be improved. Observe who embodies your practice’s core values and mission statement.
Also, regularly block out time to spend one-on-one with team members. This is an opportunity for a deeper conversation to discuss a difficult situation or to bond by celebrating successes.

5) Power

Leading from a place of power or dominance, or acting like a know-it-all, can create resentment and destroy morale. A big ego will often lead your team to resist new ideas or new ways of doing things. Such behavior also prevents accepting responsibility for mistakes and missed goals.

A much wiser approach is humility. Accept the fact you might be wrong, there may be a better way to do things, and that team members have good ideas you should consider implementing.

6) Favorites

Playing favorites was tolerated in kindergarten, but it has no place in a professional setting. If your team sees you favoring one employee over others, you will quickly lose credibility and respect, and that is tough to bounce back from. Favoritism leads to resentment and insubordination. You can’t expect a team member to follow your rules and respect you if they don’t trust you. Make it a priority to treat everyone equally. That means all the rules apply to everyone all of the time including, of course, yourself.

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7) Reviews

Newsflash: yearly reviews should be a thing of the past. Say you have a team member who is consistently turning off clients. Does it make any sense to wait until their next performance review to bring it to their attention? Of course it doesn’t. If you wait that long, you are allowing the undesirable behavior to continue, and you are denying your employee the chance to change their ways.

Feedback should not be doled out once a year during reviews. Instead, it should be an ongoing dialogue to keep everyone working at their best. Regular feedback prevents small issues from becoming big ones. Positive feedback encourages those who are striving to get better. A team is like a lawn. Is it better to water it generously once a year, or tend to it daily or weekly for a few minutes? Likewise, your team is likely to grow more through constant feedback than a one-time scathing or uplifting review.

8) Growth

Personal growth is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle. Likewise, growing as a leader is essential to success. Failing to do so means you also are not helping your team grow. In an ever-changing business and culture, there is much room for growth and development. Just because you feel you are a good leader doesn’t mean you don’t have the potential to be a better one. Complacency can be your worst enemy.

Continue to work on your leadership, communication, and listening skills. They are all critical to becoming a successful leader.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified, is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and serial entrepreneur whose traveling surgery practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. You can visit his website at www.DrPhilZeltzman.com. He also is cofounder of Veterinary Financial Summit, an online community and conference dedicated to personal and practice finance (www.vetfinancialsummit.com). Kat Christman, a certified veterinary technician in Effort, Pa., contributed to this article.

* See The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People by Gary Chapman and Paul White.

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