Outlining Expectations; Use Your Values, Ethics and Your Team


We seem to stumble sometimes as leaders falling back onto our policy manuals for rules and regulations to let staff know what they can and can not do. Cunning staff will even read the manual to see what the rules say, then push the boundries of what we've outlined as workplace guidelines. I think we should be talking about our should's and shouldn'ts, not our can's and can'ts. (See the Book of How by Dov Seidman to appreciate this concept).

Very few if any policy manuals in a veterinary hospital discuss what the expectations are in terms of what we should be doing as employees of a company and it's really a shame. It is not enough to line item the mission statement, a vision and core values. We must let our staff know that values and ethics should be the driver of their behavior, not the policy manual.

Our policy handbooks will generally discuss a verbal, written then final warning before we terminate employment. I think a well trained team that self governs using ethics and values is a much more powerful tool, and motivator than the rules of a handbook.

Identify a leader in your practice that is not someone with a title - no DVM's and no managers. This person naturally does the right thing, has a solid work ethic, and other staff look up to him/her - this person is a universally respected peer. Have a heart to heart with this person about your role as a team leader, and his/her role as a respected colleague. Now, ask this person to help you bring your lost sheep home.

There are great individuals in our industry that are simply undisciplined or have not been a part of a well oiled, focused team. They need coaching, mentoring and an example of how to "do the right thing". These lost sheep might be late on a frequent basis, they call out too often, they ask to leave early, they don't follow practice protocols, - we have all known these colleages. Rather than a "manager" disciplining and writing up these folks (what a waste of payroll dollars), the reminders for our "should's and shouldn'ts" might be most effective when they come from a peer. For those of you that like your warnings, use this peer leader as your verbal.

These reminders of good behavior should be casual conversation and kind. When your late employee says traffic was horrible, her peers should kindly understand that morning traffic can be bear! Then they should mention that they leave plenty of time to account for traffic because starting the day without the entire team can mean a rough start that is hard to catch up with as the day goes on. A comment like "We just cant keep on track when we're late to work" can go a long way.

Recently I was very impressed to see a technian call a peer that had "called out". The forthcoming day was full with appointments and the surgery schedule was set as well - they needed all hands on deck. The phone call was kind but firm; the tech making the call explained that getting through the day without the full team was going to be extremely difficult and that frankly it wasn't fair to leave the team picking up slack for another call out. A couple of hours later the tech in question walked in and to her credit worked cheerfully for the rest of the day. Her call outs have been drasically reduced since this conversation (yes, she had verbal and written warnings for her previous call outs).

I understand some staff have trying situations that can interfere with work. Rather than another write up, ask what you can do to help. Explain that by taking the job with your practice, the expectation that the staff member will be there when scheduled was set into motion. If this person can not fulfill his/her duties after coaching, let them go. But, before you let them go on warnings from managers or owners, try building your team culture into a peer driven, self governing entity.

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