Hi, I’m Randy Hall and thank you for allowing me to be part of your meeting today! Before we get started, I’d like you to take a couple of minutes to answer this question. You won’t have to share your answers with anyone, so feel free to be completely open and honest.
Beyond simply getting a paycheck, why did you start working in the veterinary profession?
I’ve asked a lot of people that question over the years. Most people say they loved working with animals and they loved getting to help people by taking care of their pets. People also say things like, “I loved how fast-paced the job was,” “I loved that every day was different,” or “I love getting to solve complex problems.” Whatever their answer, almost everyone I’ve talked to had some exciting expectations of what their job would look like once they started working in a veterinary practice.
For most, parts of their job lived up to those expectations, while other parts were a little bit different than they predicted. It’s pretty normal to discover that working with sick and sometimes dying animals can be an emotionally tough situation, tougher than we might have thought, or that the job might be a little more physically demanding than we expected, or even that the clients can sometimes be less fun than we expected. But sometimes, we wake up to the fact that our culture, our work environment, our teamwork, and our communication with each other also isn’t what we envisioned. That part, you can change.
In many of the hospitals I’ve worked with, people have come to believe things like drama, workplace cliques, confusion about who is supposed to be doing what, or waking up and dreading the day are just some of the difficult “realities” of working in a vet practice. They might believe that their manager or the practice owner are the only ones with the power to change the workplace and so they continue to work in an environment that is unnecessarily stressful, and taxing.
The reality is that no one person, including the practice owner or your manager, is capable of changing the dynamics of an entire hospital. They can create rules and regulations and try to constantly monitor people to be sure they follow them, but that’s not really how change happens. Lasting change only happens when everyone in a practice wants it and commits to taking the steps needed to make it a reality. The leaders in the hospital have to work to support that change, but everyone in the hospital has to be part of it. Change in any organization is something you do together.
Creating the collaborative commitment needed to transform your practice is completely possible, and it begins when you construct a clear vision, collectively, of what you want your practice and your workplace to become. I’ll take you through the steps needed to do build that vision and my hope is, by the end of this video, you have a clear picture of what you want your practice to become, and ideas about what each of you can do differently in order to achieve that vision. We will use this time to imagine a future that you’re excited about and willing to work toward. Then, together, we will take the first step in helping you make that future, a reality.
What is a Vision Statement?
The first step to creating the kind of workplace you want is developing a collaborative vision for your practice. But what is a vision anyway?
A vision is a picture of your ideal destination; a description of what you want your practice to become. A vision answers questions like these:
- Imagine it’s five years from now, and we have made all of the changes needed to become the practice we want. How is our practice different from the one we have today?
- How productive and efficient are we as a team?
- What level of care and service do we provide? What kind of attitude do we have when we show up?
A vision works as a reminder of what you and your team want to accomplish together, and the commitments you’ve made to one another about how you’ll get there. Here’s an example of a vision statement crafted by a veterinary hospital I worked with in the past.
We want to build a culture where we work hard in a busy but fun environment. We want this hospital to be a place where we are positive and energized as we continue to make a difference, learn and grow and deliver amazing care and service.
We want to work together as a team, assume the best about others around us and care about how we individually impact the team and the culture. We want to show up at our best each day and feel rewarded by the difference we make in the pets’ lives and in the lives of the people that trust us to care for those pets.
We believe creating this kind of culture matters for our patients, our clients and for each other and we are each willing to work every day on becoming a team member that helps us move steadily towards this vision of the future.
There are a lot of things you may have noticed about this vision, but there are a couple of specific things I’d like to point out. First, it uses the word “we” throughout because it represents the thoughts, hopes, and ideas of the team as a whole. Second, it represents a set of thoughts that they built together. It wasn’t handed to them or simply agreed to. They crafted it with their own ideas, thoughts, and commitments.
On its surface, it may seem like nothing more than a few sentences or paragraphs that describe what you want to achieve. And, while a vision certainly does this, a collaborative vision accomplishes a whole lot more.
To think more about what a collaborative vision can do, imagine a memorable experience you’ve shared with someone else. Maybe you took a trip with a friend, shared an amazing meal with a loved one, or went to a concert with someone you cared about. If you called or texted that person today and said, “Remember that trip to the Keys,” or “Remember that restaurant,” or “Remember when we saw that band,” all of the old memories of that experience would come flooding back. Although their memories might be slightly different than yours, you’d both remember the key details, like the snorkeling excursion where you saw the tropical fish, or the chocolate cake you shared for dessert, or the fact that the musician played your favorite song as an encore. You wouldn’t have to describe any of this to your friend or loved one in detail – they’d know what you were talking about just from your initial “remember when” reference. When you’ve experienced something with another person, just a few words have the power to summon a flood of detailed memories and also the feelings those memories created.
When you create a collaborative vision for your practice, your vision functions in much the same way. Although it’s “just” a few sentences or paragraphs, when you create it together with your entire team, your vision becomes filled with meaning. A vision becomes a touchstone for all of the decisions you and your coworkers make, from the way you interact with clients, to the people you hire and how you train them, to the level of care and service you provide, and even to the way you schedule and educate clients. Things that are moving you towards your vision should be supported and committed to, while things that are moving you away from it shouldn’t. Just like the memory of an experience you’ve shared with a friend, it only takes a second to recall your practice’s vision, remember what it means to you, and to make the decision to act in a way that supports it. When everyone in your practice does this, you get a little bit closer every day to creating the workplace you want.
Introduction to Activities
Throughout this video, you’ll stop at various points to complete group or individual activities. Each activity will include specific instructions.
Once you’ve heard the instructions, you’ll see this icon and then you can follow the instructions on the screen.
Ready to try it?
Take a minute to answer the questions below as a team.
- How would you describe what a vision is, in your own words?
- What’s the purpose of creating a collaborative vision for your practice?
- How might creating this kind of vision positively impact your practice?
Why Is It Important to Create the Vision for Your Practice Collaboratively?
Creating a vision together with your team members ensures that everyone understands exactly what the vision means and that everyone is invested in it. But couldn’t this be accomplished by letting your manager, practice owner, or even just a few employees create the vision themselves and then explain its meaning to the team? Why is it so important that everyone on the team actually be directly involved?
A vision describes a future state – what you want your practice to become. In order to evolve into this desired future state, everyone on your team will have to make some changes. For example, they might have to change the way they interact with other people, the attitudes they show up with each day, or their level of commitment to and investment in the practice. If human behavior change wasn’t required to achieve your vision, then your practice would already be perfect.
In order for a team to make these changes in a sustainable way, the team can’t just be told they have to change or that they should change. They have to want the change themselves and care about it happening. Think about it, most of us can probably come up with at least one thing we should be doing differently on a daily or weekly basis, I can think of about ten! However, no one actually changes in a permanent way until they’ve made the conscious decision that they want to. If we were capable of making lasting change because we thought we should, or because we were told to, everyone whose doctor has told them they should have healthier habits would; every kid whose parents explained why they should eat more vegetables would be scarfing down broccoli; every pet owner who knows they shouldn’t free feed their obese dog would be measuring the food or at least cutting back on the table scraps.
Don’t get me wrong – being told that you should or that you have to do something can create change for a little while, especially if there are consequences, or even short-term rewards involved. We might work out for a few weeks or months after our doctor tells us that we have to lose weight, our kids might want to try broccoli if we bribe them with dessert, or a client might provide measured portions to their pet for a little while after their veterinarian warns them about the dangers of pet obesity. However, as soon as the imminent threat or impulse to do something we “should” subsides, most of us revert back to our old behaviors and habits. We go to the gym for a little while, but then life gets in the way. Our kid tries broccoli and decides it’s disgusting and throws it on the floor and just screams for the ice cream instead. Our client’s pet loses a few pounds, and then they start letting the dog lick the kid’s plate clean again because it’s cute, I mean, maybe the dog will eat the broccoli their kid hates, that seems like a win-win.
Telling the people on any team to make the changes outlined in a vision that was created by someone else, without their input, would have a similar effect. It may cause them to adjust their actions temporarily, but that won’t last long. In order to create real change, people have to be given the opportunity to contribute their own ideas about what changes should be made and how they should happen.
For the remainder of this video, we’re going to help you do just that. You’ll complete several activities that will help you create a collaborative vision of the kind of practice everyone who works here wants. You’ll decide what kind of workplace you want to build together. You’ll determine what you want the time spent with this team, in this practice, to feel like. You’ll consider how good you want your team to be, what you think is possible when you’re at your best, and what kind of care and service you want to provide.
To do this effectively, everyone in this meeting will have to be engaged, think creatively, show interest in and respect for what other people are saying, and be active participants in this process. To be sure this happens, take a few minutes to come up with some ground rules you want everyone to follow.
Creating Your Ground Rules-Group Activity
Think of what ground rules, if any, you want to establish to help everyone in this meeting stay engaged, think creatively, and participate. Consider how the entire team can show respect for each other and listen to all of the thoughts presented. For example, you might decide that “everyone should participate with at least one thought for each team exercise,” or “people shouldn’t interrupt when someone else is talking.”
As people share, the person facilitating this meeting should capture their responses on a flipchart or whiteboard. Focus on recording key points and simply put a check mark beside something if it’s repeated. Keep the rules you record visible so that everyone can see them throughout the rest of this meeting.
Describing the Ideal Practice
Now that you’ve thought about your ground rules, let’s dive into the work of creating a collaborative vision for your practice. To do this, you’ll need to describe, in detail, what the perfect future state for your practice would be like. This process is similar to visualizing a dream vacation. In fact, let’s start by taking a couple of minutes to do just that.
Visualizing Your Dream Vacation-Individual Activity
Imagine you have saved up for a dream vacation. Take a few minutes to jot down a description of what this vacation would be like. For example, you might answer questions like:
- Where would you go and who would you go with?
- What would you do, see, and eat on your trip?
- How would you feel the morning you were supposed to leave?
- How would you describe your trip to friends or family once it was over?
When everyone’s done, you can take a few minutes to share your dream vacation scenarios with the person next to you.
When I ask people to complete this activity, they usually give pretty detailed answers. Even if they’ve never been to the place they’re describing, they’re generally able to visualize what it would be like – that’s why they want to go there in the first place! In their mind’s eye, they’re able to imagine all the details. They rarely focus on limitations. And, they generally don’t focus on past vacations to determine how they’d want this one to be different. Instead, they focus on the future, and they focus on possibilities. This is the kind of thinking you want to embrace when you start creating a collaborative vision for your practice.
While it may seem logical to start creating a vision for the practice you want by discussing the problems your practice currently has and visualizing what it would be like without them, this actually isn’t the best place to begin. Starting this way narrows your focus to one simple question – how do we solve the problems we’re currently having and keeps you from focusing on the bigger picture – if we were to build our best possible practice, what would we want it to look like?
Apple and Kodak are two great examples of the impact these different ways of thinking can have on a business. For a while, Apple was known for its Mac computers. However, in the late 1990s they realized that digital music was going to be the future. Instead of using this information to focus solely on ways to improve the Mac, they “started from scratch,” and tried to think of the best way to provide digital music to customers. This thinking resulted in the iPod, which has since been followed by all sorts of “i” devices.
Kodak, on the other hand, is a name you don’t hear much anymore. They saw the larger trends with digital photography, but decided to focus on improving the core product they had been working on for more than 100 years instead – the traditional film camera. Ultimately, thinking about how to fix their current issues instead of thinking about what is possible led to their downfall. It allowed them to improve the film camera, sure, but no one needs one of those anymore.
Lots of businesses and teams have reinvented themselves by first thinking about what’s possible and then deciding what changes will get them closer to that possibility, rather than by first thinking about what’s wrong with their current state and working to fix what they believe to be broken. In addition to encouraging creative thinking, this approach keeps people from getting discouraged. Focusing on our perceived weaknesses can cause us to dwell on them and feel pretty dismal about the future if we can’t immediately find a fix.
Another benefit of focusing on the future and on possibilities is that it helps us concentrate on the goals we want to achieve, instead of the things we want to avoid. When we’re thinking this way we say things like, “I want to work in a practice that’s busy but also fun,” instead of things like, “I don’t want to work in a practice where we never get to have fun.” Although it may seem like a minor adjustment – focusing on what you want to achieve instead of what you want to avoid – well, it keeps your brain focused in ways that allow it to generate new ideas and create new possibilities.
When we think of a goal, which is what we’re doing when we say, “I want to . . .” it actually increases the flow of dopamine into our brains. Dopamine is a powerful chemical that plays an important role in motivation and reward-motivated behavior, among other things. We get an increase of this powerful internal chemical just from anticipating reaching a goal, even more of an increase than we get in response to achieving it. Focusing on something we want to avoid, on the other hand, doesn’t have the same rewarding effect.
With these thoughts in mind, I’d like you to complete an activity that will help you begin to create a vision for your practice. As you complete it, focus on the future state, focus on possibilities, and focus on goals. What would your practice look like in a world where anything was possible?
Describing the Ideal Practice, Part I-Individual Activity
Complete the following activity individually. You’ll get a chance to share your answers in just a bit, so jot down your thoughts so you can remember them.
Imagine it’s five years from now and you’re part of an incredible team in your dream practice. Think about what this practice is like. Really try to visualize it, like a dream vacation. Don’t worry about limitations – at this point there are none. Just write down a description of what this amazing practice is like.
As you work, don’t worry about using complete sentences to capture your thoughts. Instead, stick to short descriptors like “high quality service,” or “everyone works as a team.” This way, it’ll be easier for you to share your ideas with your teammates.
Now that you’ve had time to think about what your ideal practice would look like, you’ll want to share these thoughts with your team. I’d recommend doing this by going around the room and giving each person time to share what they wrote down. Doing this gives everyone a chance to provide input.
As people share, the person facilitating this meeting should capture their responses on a flipchart or whiteboard. Focus on recording key points and simply put a check mark beside something if it is repeated. Get all of the team’s thoughts and ideas on to one or two pages on the flip chart or a small portion of the whiteboard, if you can.
While you complete this activity, everyone should remember and adhere to the team’s ground rules. In addition, I’d recommend following these suggestions as well:
- Everyone should share an answer. Yes, I said this already, but it’s important enough to repeat. If you’re shy or are busy deeply thinking about what the right words are, you don’t have to share a lot, but please share the key things you’d want to see in your ideal workplace. The goal is for everyone to contribute to this vision even if we use the same words as our teammates. In fact, I would expect there to be a lot of similarity in some of the answers; you probably want many of the same things in your practice of the future.
- This is a no judgement zone. Comments like, “That’s a great answer! We can stop now” or “Toss that one out – that’s never going to happen here,” can discourage continued participation and demotivate you and others on the team. Instead of commenting, focus on listening while other people are sharing. If there’s something you want to say, jot it down so you don’t forget it and bring it up when they finish speaking.
Describing the Ideal Practice, Part 2-Sharing Your Answers with Your Team
Take turns sharing your descriptions of the ideal practice. As you do:
- Be sure everyone shares at least one answer
- Capture the key points from each person’s answer on a flipchart or whiteboard
- Follow any ground rules you created as a team
- Make this a no judgement zone by avoiding commenting on other people’s answers
Defining “The Why”
You’ve just described your collective vision of the ideal practice. Take a few seconds to look at the words and phrases you’ve captured. As you look at them, think about these questions:
- What kinds of changes will your team have to make to become the hospital you’ve described?
- What kinds of changes will you have to make to help your team get there?
You don’t have to share your answers with your coworkers, but take a few seconds to think about them. I’ll wait.
Even if you only have one word written on your whiteboard or flipchart, even if there’s only a single thing you want to change about your practice, making that change is going to require some effort from everyone in the room. That’s because change is hard! Think about all of the New Year’s resolutions you’ve made, and haven’t kept. If you’ve kept every resolution you’ve made or made every personal change you have intended to, please call me immediately after this meeting, I want to know your secret; I probably also want to hire you. People think about changing all the time, but often, we just do the thinking about it part and then we don’t make the change happen.
We’ve already talked about one of the reasons why this is the case, we might be trying to make changes we’ve been told we have to or think we should but aren’t really invested in ourselves. There’s another reason that we fail to make personal changes. To explore this reason, let me share some research with you that comes from the medical community.
Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the world. It also, unlike some diseases has a large lifestyle component that can contribute to it. While we are learning more and more about the genetic predisposition that is part of heart disease, we also know that lifestyle changes would reduce the number of deaths associated with heart disease or allow some people to live longer, even if they were genetically predisposed.
And with heart disease there is no invading organism, so no virus or cancer or bacteria that causes it. It’s contributed to by our lifestyle choices.
The medical community knows that if it could get people to eat healthier, exercise regularly, and stop smoking and drinking that it would significantly change their risk profile in most cases. And so, the medical community has studied how to get humans to make lifestyle changes, pretty extensively. Some of the best research institutions in the world have studied this and they have surrounded people who just completed heart bypass surgery, or were candidates for it soon if nothing changed, with every supportive and educational resource available in an effort to help them make these changes. These people had resources like nutritionists, exercise physiologists, cardiologists, counselors, support groups, and virtually anything researchers could think of to help them make behavior changes. In most of these studies people have been followed for a period of one year with the hope of seeing sustainable, lasting, lifestyle change that would reduce their risk and prevent what was often viewed as imminent death. Think about it, the people in these studies had a choice and it was essentially, change or die. So, when all of this data from dozens of these kinds of studies was collected what percentage of the time do you think people changed their lifestyle and maintained that lifestyle change for a period of one year? Stop the video for just a second and shout out your answers to each other.
The answer – 10%. Ten percent of the time, when faced with the choice of change or die, people made lasting changes in their behavior, even when surrounded with every resource and support tool imaginable. And yet, we just said that if you want to make your practice amazing in all of the ways that you just described, you will have to make behavior changes, collectively and personally.
I want to thank you for joining me for this video today and good luck with that whole change thing…. I’m kidding.
And there’s a little more research I’d like to share. Even after all of these prestigious research institutions had studied this human change thing, there was a doctor out of California who wanted to give it another shot. His name was Dr. Dean Ornish and he had a diet plan that he believed would help people more effectively reduce their risk of heart disease. He wanted to get funding for another study. It was challenging because the insurance companies had been funding these kinds of studies for years, obviously they have a lot to gain if the mortality rate for heart disease changes by even a little bit. But why would they fund some new study by a relatively obscure doctor when the most advanced research hospitals in the world had already done these studies. Well it took him a few years, but in 1993 Dr. Ornish finally he got Mutual of Omaha insurance company to fund a study with 333 heart bypass patients and heart bypass candidates. So, Dr. Ornish set up his study very much like the other studies had been conducted with every resource he could think of to support human behavior change and I will tell you that he got an increase in the percentage of people that changed their lifestyle and maintained those changes for a period of one year. What percentage do you think he was able to get to in his study? Stop the video for a second and share your thoughts.
So, Dr. Ornish did pretty well – 77%. Seventy-seven percent of the people in Dr. Ornish’s study were able to make significant changes and maintain them. They stopped drinking or smoking, they exercised regularly, they ate in a completely different way. And here’s something else. They monitored these patients for years and while the support program only lasted a year, just like the other studies, that 77% was measured at the end of three years. Dr. Ornish had somehow cracked the code on human behavior change. And everyone wanted to know how. Stop the video for a second and share some of your thoughts with each other on what might have been different in the Ornish study that allowed him to get such a significant increase in sustainable behavior change.
So obviously, the scientific community descended on Dr. Ornish and his study and picked it apart. They could only find one significant difference that might have caused this huge increase in successful individual change. The team of counselors that were brought in to help the patients in Dr. Ornish’s study operated a little differently. Instead of framing the change as something the patients had to do to prevent death, either change or die. They asked them questions like, “If you are alive and healthy in 5 years, what would you like to be doing.” They got answers like, “I want to see my grandkids be born,” “I want to walk my daughter down the aisle,” or “I want to take walks in the garden with my spouse, I can’t do that now.” They didn’t focus on what people felt like they should move away from, they focused on what people wanted to move toward and why – why they wanted to move toward it. The “why” mattered enough, for people to do the work of making sustainable change happen. People weren’t running away from death, they were running toward a better life. That connection to the why is an important ingredient of any human change.
We’ve learned so much about neuroscience since Dr. Ornish did his study decades ago and we know that the chemicals in our brain are even different when we are working toward something that is important and meaningful to us than they are when we are trying to avoid pain or discomfort or negative consequences. We know that both can cause some degree of change, but generally, only moving toward something important causes real, sustainable change.
We are going to use this science to help you create the kind of practice you want, and to build a strong foundation for the changes that you decide to make to help your practice and your team become everything they are capable of.
Defining “The Why”-Individual Activity
To think about your “why” for the changes you’ll have to make to achieve your vision of the ideal practice, answer the questions below.
When you’re done, share some of your answers and capture your thoughts on the flip chart. This will be our “why” page and it will be critical to our success.
Defining “Towards” Behaviors
Once you know what you want to accomplish and why you want to accomplish it, it’s equally as important to think about how. While focusing on “the why” will set you up for lasting success, determining how you will achieve your goal gives you a plan of action you can follow to maintain forward momentum and create habits for yourself that don’t require as much constant work.
Thinking back to Dr. Ornish’s bypass patients, they were successful at maintaining their lifestyle changes largely because they were able to come up with their own compelling why. The real value of knowing your “why” is that it provides continuous fuel for you to create and execute the plan you make and the steps you take that actually cause the change.
We refer to these steps as “towards” behaviors, since they move people towards their goals. They are the little actions you take each day to help bring about the change you want to see. When you’re thinking about them, your brain is in a “towards” state and you have the right mix of neurotransmitters available to you to create new insights, ideas, and plans that will help you execute those new behaviors. People who focus on the plans and steps they will take to make change, driven by their why, turn intentions, ideas, and possibilities, into reality.
In the context of your practice, “towards” behaviors are the things each individual must do to create the practice you’ve described in our earlier activities. For instance, if you want a practice “without drama,” your “towards” behaviors might be “talking to others candidly and respectfully when you have an issue with them, instead of gossiping.” Or, if you want a practice that provides exceptional customer service, your “towards” behaviors might be “showing up with a positive attitude” or “helping the front desk when they get swamped.”
One thing you might notice about these examples, they are things people can do themselves, not things people think others should do. It can be tempting to think of “towards” behaviors as steps other people should take. You might think, “If some of the people I worked with had better attitudes, I might not be so tired at the end of the day,” or “If management spent more time helping out, we’d be able to provide better customer service.” Although these things may seem true to you, the ability to make these changes is out of your hands. You can’t control other people’s attitudes, and you can’t control how management spends their time. The only thing you can control is how you show up every day, and so these actions are the ones you should focus on when you’re thinking of towards behaviors. Change happens when we focus on changes we can control, change stops when we just wish others would do things differently.
The other thing that is important to remember is that these are things we do, not things we stop doing. You can’t build a habit around not doing something, you can only build a habit around doing something. So, if you want to stop doing something, you have to focus on what you do instead, not just what you don’t do.
With this in mind, let’s take a minute to identify the “towards” behaviors that will help you build the practice you want.
Defining “Towards” Behaviors-Group Activity, Part I
Identify the “towards” behaviors that will help you build the practice you want by answering the following questions together as a group.
As people share, the person facilitating this meeting should capture their responses on a flipchart or whiteboard. Title the pages, “Towards.” Focus on recording key points and words and simply put a check mark beside something if it’s repeated. Get all of the team’s thoughts and ideas on to one or two pages on the flip chart or a small portion of the whiteboard, if you can.
While you complete this activity, everyone should remember and adhere to the team’s ground rules, as well as the suggestions we reviewed in a previous activity:
- Everyone should share an answer.
- And this is a no judgement zone.
You’ve just created a list of “towards” behaviors, or behaviors that will move you closer to the practice you want. Next, you’ll want to examine the list you’ve created to be sure your “towards” behaviors are specific enough to act on. What do I mean by this?
Many of the “towards” behaviors you’ve listed after answering the questions above likely expresses intent, but aren’t quite detailed enough to act on just yet. For example, the phrase “show up in a good mood” might be on your flip chart but “showing up in a good mood,” isn’t something most of us can do all that well on demand. In order to show up in a good mood, we have to create a plan of action that helps us do that. For example, getting enough sleep the night before, eating breakfast, or getting up early enough to avoid being rushed. It might mean that we have to plan our day out in our mind, focusing on our goals before we leave the house, listening to music instead of the news on the drive in, or even spend just a few minutes of silence before we open the car door to think about what kind of impact we want to have when we walk in. Another example of a “towards” behavior that isn’t quite specific enough is “tell people when I have a problem with them instead of gossiping.” While this is a great idea, in order to be sure you can execute it, you’ll have to come up with a plan for how you best have conversations like that. How will you be sure you do this moving forward even though you might not have done it in the past? What’s important in this next activity is to focus not just on our intention – showing up in a good mood – but also our plan – the steps we will take to make that happen consistently.
Defining “Towards” Behaviors-Part 2-Individual Activity
Take a look at the list of “towards” behaviors you’ve created. Individually, identify the one or two behaviors you personally want to work on. Maybe they’re behaviors you feel you can easily change, or behaviors you’ve been wanting to change, but haven’t been able to yet.
Once you’ve identified the “towards” behaviors that you want to work on, ask yourself the following questions to be sure you have a plan for accomplishing them:
- What actions can I take to do this?
- How can I do this, even when it’s hard?
- How can I prepare to make this happen?
- How can I be sure I do this, even though I’ve never done it in the past?
Record your answers so that you can refer to them later as you work to make the changes you’ve identified.
Defining “Away” Behaviors
The “towards” behaviors you’ve just listed, and the steps you need to take to accomplish them, outline the things you need to do in order to make your ideal practice a reality. In addition to starting these new behaviors, there are likely some old behaviors you need to replace -behaviors that are damaging or inefficient, and that have contributed to some of the aspects of your current practice that you want to change. We call the behaviors that we need to replace “away” behaviors because they pull us away from creating the ideal practice we’ve envisioned. For instance, unless your goal is to create a practice that’s full of drama and known for giving bad service, “gossiping,” “being short with clients,” or “refusing to help other people” are all “away” behaviors.
Consider what your “away” behaviors are by completing the next activity.
Defining “Away” Behaviors-Group Activity, Part I
In addition to the “towards” behaviors that will help you create the practice you want, it’s important to think about any “away” behaviors that will keep you from achieving your goal. Do this by working with your group to answer the following questions.
As you work, be sure to focus on general behaviors you or everyone in the practice could do differently but not something “other” people should do differently. For example, “refusing to help others when they need it because it’s ‘not my job’” would be an appropriate “away” behavior, while “the reception team refusing to help us in the back when we need it,” would not be. Our goal is to create productive change everyone is invested in and focus on what all of us need to be aware of and shift if we are doing things that pull us away from our best future.
As with the previous activity, the person facilitating this meeting should capture people’s thoughts on a flipchart or whiteboard, focusing on recording key points, and words and simply putting a check mark beside something if it’s repeated.
Once you’ve created a list of potential “away” behaviors, you’ll want to turn them into additional “towards” behaviors you can actually accomplish.
While it may initially seem like an easy thing to do, trying to stop doing something that is an ingrained behavior is actually pretty difficult. It’s easy to say, “I’m going to stop gossiping,” or “I will stop eating junk food,” or “I’m going to stop staying up so late,” but more often than not, we end up continuing to do the things we want to stop, even if we know they’re bad for us or they don’t help the team. In general, it is much harder and requires much more mental energy for us to just stop doing something than it is for us to start a new, more productive behavior in its place. Our brains are built to execute a behavior and they are not very good at just resisting the impulses we have or not executing the habits we’ve already created. That takes tremendous and consistent willpower.
The problem is that willpower is an exhaustible resource. In fact, we typically have less of it at the end of the day than we had at the beginning. That’s why it might seem easy to avoid eating Doritos for breakfast, but sometimes harder to stop ourselves from eating the whole bag of them in the evening. It’s also why most conflicts or blow ups between teammates happen later in a shift rather than earlier. We run out of willpower. Some willpower is needed to help us execute a new behavior too, but less of it, and we only need to use willpower until the new behavior becomes a habit. But we can’t build habits around stopping things.
When it comes to stopping the “away” behaviors you’ve listed, the same thing applies. Just intending to stop doing these old, unhelpful things isn’t enough to create sustainable change in the long run. Because willpower is an exhaustible resource, you don’t want to rely on willpower alone to adjust these behaviors.
Taking the step of turning your “away” behaviors into “towards” behaviors and then creating a plan for accomplishing them is a much better way to approach quitting them. It starts to build different habits and is much more likely to set you up for success. Do this now by completing the next activity with your team.
Defining “Away” Behaviors-Group Activity, Part 2
Now that you’ve defined your “away” behaviors, turn them into “towards” behaviors you can accomplish without relying on willpower alone. To do this, rephrase them so that they focus on what you can do, not what you want to avoid doing.
For example, “Being short with clients when I’m busy,” can be turned into, “Be polite and patient when I’m dealing with clients, even when I’m busy.” Or “Coming to work with a negative attitude,” can be turned into, “Coming to work with a positive attitude.”
As you work, the person facilitating this meeting should capture your “away” behavior rephrasings on the “towards” behaviors list. You may notice that some of your “away” behavior rephrasings are already on there. That’s okay! Just put a checkmark beside them to indicate they’re already there, and move on to the next behavior.
Using the Information You’ve Captured to Create a Vision for Your Practice
You’ve just completed the steps needed to create a vision for the practice you want. You’ve described your ideal practice, considered why it’s worth doing the hard work it will take to create it, and outlined the “towards” and “away” behaviors that will help you build it.
Now, the hard work starts.
Creating a collaborative vision for your practice, actually talking about what your ideal practice would be like and creating a plan for getting there can be exciting! When I facilitate this exercise in-person with different veterinary practices, the people in the meeting often leave motivated to take the next steps. However, as they work to implement the changes discussed, they run into a hard reality we talked about earlier in this course – change is hard. With that in mind, I want to leave you with a few tips for sustaining momentum, even when it’s difficult.
Constantly remind yourself of the vision. Once this meeting has ended, your practice owner or manager will take all of the work you’ve done and use it to create a vision. A cohesive vision of the practice you want. I recommend posting this vision somewhere everyone is able to see it, and constantly referencing it to remind yourself what you’re working towards. I’ve seen practices open every meeting or every morning huddle by taking turns reading the vision. Doing this will help keep you motivated by keeping you focused on your ultimate goal. Remember, the purpose of this vision is to guide your thoughts and actions so ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing moving us ‘towards’ or ‘away’ from our vision?” on a regular basis.
Remember your why! Thinking about the difference working in a practice you love will make in your personal and professional life can be incredibly motivating. Write your “why” down in a place you can easily access it, and take a look at it whenever the going gets tough. Although the work will seem hard at points, referencing your “why” is a great way to remind yourself of why you’re doing it and to actually prepare your brain to think of new ways to help you get into that new future that matter for you.
Focus on incremental changes. Transformation doesn’t happen overnight, although it would certainly be nice if it did! You can’t lose ten pounds in one day, you can’t completely change your lifestyle in one day, and you can’t change your practice in one day either. So, focus on making incremental changes. Instead of trying to implement all of the “towards” behaviors you’ve listed tomorrow, pick one “towards” behavior. I’d suggest picking the one that will be easiest for you to accomplish and work on doing that one behavior consistently for three weeks. That’s how you begin to turn it into a habit, and habits don’t require additional effort. Once you’ve been able to do this, pick another “towards” behavior. Repeat the process and over time you have drastically changed your own behaviors, and probably how you feel about yourself as a contributor to something that’s amazing.
Hold each other accountable. As I mentioned at the beginning of this course, no one person, including your practice owner or manager, can change an entire workplace on their own. Everyone has to be working towards your collective vision if you want to achieve it. So, hold each other accountable. Be polite about it, but be honest. If someone isn’t doing what you’ve agreed on, don’t gossip about them, don’t talk about the problem behind their back, and don’t hold your feelings in and let them fester. Talk to them. Ask them what’s going on. It may be the gentle reminder they need to get back on track. Think about it, what’s more meaningful, getting written up by a manager for coming in late, or having your team remind you that coming in on time is one of the things you collectively agreed to do? As part of that accountability, stop the video for a few minutes right here. Go around the room and allow each person to identify one thing they want to do differently because of this meeting. It’s the beginning of the commitments we make to each other and the ones that we help each other keep.
Celebrate progress. Change is a long process. If you wait to celebrate success until your practice becomes exactly what you’ve described in your vision, you may be waiting a while. This is a journey so instead of waiting for some magical day when everything is finally perfect, celebrate all of the small wins you have along the way. Did you get through the day without snapping at anyone? Celebrate that! Did everyone on your team get to work on time for an entire week? Bring that to everyone’s attention! Thank people when you notice they’re making meaningful changes, and take time to pat yourself on the back when you’ve done something well. Doing this will go a long way towards maintaining momentum.
Finally, the most important thing. Remember that you have the power to change your practice. You no longer have to wait for someone else to make the changes you want to see. If you want to look forward to coming to work every morning, if you want to enjoy the interactions you have with your coworkers, if you want to be able to take pride in knowing you’re providing unequalled care and service, you can simply start taking the actions needed to get you there. You have just reimagined your future, you have already created possibilities that didn’t even exist a few hours ago. You have also built, within yourselves, the power to go achieve that future. Do it together, do it at your best, and don’t let anything stop you. Good luck and thanks for letting me be a small part of your journey.
Overall Course Time:
Is your practice exactly where you want it to be? Or, are there changes you’d like to make, or like your employees to make, that would help your practice realize its full potential? The first step to making any change in your practice in an effective, sustainable way is to develop a collaborative vision for your practice with your employees. This course shows you how to do just that. It includes a video that walks you through the collaborative vision process and includes a video you can watch with your staff to complete this process together.
If you can answer “no” to one or more of the questions below, you’ll likely find the information in this course helpful.
- Do you have a clear vision of what you want your practice to become? Can you explain that vision to your team?
- Do you know what changes you and your employees need to make to create the practice of your dreams?
- Do you know how to help your employees make any changes needed in a sustainable way?