Leadership: From the Expert’s Mouth – Your People

Veterinary Team

Without the support of your people, you cannot be a great veterinary leader. Leading your people should not just be about administering payroll and giving performance reviews, but nurturing their development. A happy, well-developed workforce is a thriving one that provides exceptional service and loyalty.

A fundamental element of any leader’s philosophy should be understanding human needs. For example, everyone has different communication preferences and different methods of working. By taking an interest in your people, not only will you be able to manage them effectively, but you will forge closer, trusting relationships with them: a key element we discussed in the previous From the Expert’s Mouth.

Moreover, it seems that managing people has never been so varied in relation to the generational shift presently occurring. Of course, not all millennials are the same, but as a group they have different ways of working and value different things compared to Gen Z. Understanding such aspects is vital in successful people management and creating team harmony, particularly if you hail from the Boomers or GenX! 

Here is what a selection of experts had to say about leading people.

Dr Kate Toyer, Co-founder and President of Australian Rainbow Vets and Allies promotes the importance of curating a diverse and inclusive workforce:

“If everyone in the room looks like you and sounds like you…find a new room. You are neither learning nor leading in that room.”

What to do once you have found the right room? Dr Tiffany Ellis, Director of River Country Animal advocates the following:

“Listen deeply and be the last person in the room to speak. Be humble, empathetic and lead others to grow in their own confidence and courage, so hopefully they will outshine you and be the light, the wick in the candle to others.”

Dr Sophia Salmon MRCVS explains the integrality of serving your people to any leadership role:

“The motto of Sandhurst (where British Army officers train) is ‘Serve to Lead.’ This means that as an officer you are in the service of those you have been put in charge of. I think it’s the same for any bosses in any workplace. Making sure people have been paid fairly, that they have had a timely and accurate performance review and been given opportunities to develop is technically ‘management’, but it absolutely cuts to the core of both winning trust and getting people to perform at their best. All the best bosses I’ve had have been excellent managers, and learning the value of getting the basics right was the most important thing I learnt in the army. The rest of the ‘leadership’ element is your ability and responsibility to consistently uphold values and standards.”

Leaders who do not take care of their people often cultivate a disengaged, uncooperative and de-motivated workplace. Investing in your people is vital for success, because this investment will feed into the work they do. In other words, your investment in staff development will reap reward with compound interest! Even if this is a small practical class, or enrolling staff on a short mindfulness programme, do not think such initiatives are insignificant or will go unnoticed.

Key concepts that strike me in this section are empathy, positivity and facilitation. Empathy is linked to high emotional intelligence and creating a culture of understanding as opposed to an adversarial one.

In our next discussion of the series, experts come together to comment on another pillar of successful leadership – personal growth. Check out the previous From the Expert’s Mouth if you haven’t already done so! Why not join the discussion yourself? The VetX Hamster Wheel Leadership page on LinkedIn is an ideal space for veterinary leaders to network, share skills and experiences.

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