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How to Encourage Problem Solving

If you’ve ever been frustrated that your staff brings all the practice’s problems to you or that no one seems to get anything done without being told it needs doing, then you may have a disengagement issue in your practice.

If you truly want an engaged group of people who act in the best interests of the practice even when you are away, then curb your own micromanagement. The first step is recognizing that you need to let go. You may not be able to do this right away, but knowing you need to and working toward relinquishing control to others is key.

To get comfortable with letting go, set your team up for success. Give them clear explanations of their roles, what they are working toward and why the practice exists:

1. Set clearer expectations. Update job descriptions to reflect individual roles, and pair with your practice’s core values to clearly outline expectations for your staff. Ditch the templates and generic job descriptions, and go for relevant expectations that apply to your veterinary hospital. How? Tap into your employees! At a staff meeting, verbally discuss who you are as a practice and why you exist—why you care for pets and the people who love them. Then divide your team into small groups based on their roles and distribute copies of their existing job descriptions. Then give the groups power to update, edit and rewrite their job descriptions to be more relevant and reflective of what they actually do on a regular basis.

2. Discuss core values. Take the time to truly define what your practice’s core values mean. While still in small groups, ask your team to write core value statements that describe what each core value looks like in action in their roles relative to your patients, your clients and one another as co-workers. Incorporate these statements into their revised job descriptions, and your team will have greater clarity around their roles and your expectations of them in those roles.

3. Coach to engage problem solvers. Leaders tend to think that when there’s a problem, it’s easier or more efficient to simply do it themselves than to coach someone through the necessary steps or nuances of effectively solving the problem. This is a huge mistake that leads directly to employee turnover and leadership burnout. It is not easier to get it done yourself, and if you continue with this mindset you will forever be doing it yourself. The goal for leaders is to become effective coaches, building skills and inspiring their teams to function without them.

What do you think?
The next time an employee brings you a problem, curb your natural impulse of taking on the issue yourself. Instead, stop and ask the person, “What do you think we should do about this?” This question is the beginning of a coaching discussion where you will have the opportunity to bring the practice’s mission to life by referring to it as the guiding force for making decisions about even the smallest of problems.

Once employees understand what they are basing decisions upon and feel confident they are in line with what you would do, they will step up to the plate and become front-line problem solvers. It all starts with you.

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