Leaders promote and demand excellent patient care through the structured placement of adequate business systems within the
practice. Owners who seek to avoid conflict by refusing to meet business challenges head-on actually move from one conflict
to another without realizing they are part of the problem.
If you are among these, then you also are part of the solution. Overcoming your fear of conflict will take time, but it must
Veterinarians (business owners) must realize that some people play games and can be quite manipulative. They must be contained
or removed from your practice. This may seem counterintuitive, because many of these people are great workers and have made
themselves "indispensable" in other ways. They have created their own kingdom within your business.
Schools must teach leadership skills
The deans have their hands full in today's tight budget environment, but leadership training should begin in veterinary school.
It should be outsourced — not an in-house job taught by someone on staff with little professional training in this area.
This training should have teeth and meaning within the overall professional program and not be considered an auxiliary item.
This is vital.
Our young professional corps will need all the leadership training they can get to follow in the capable footsteps of those
in the American Veterinary Medical Association and other professional organizations who have blazed the trail. It is likely
that we will face destabilizing forces that will rock or even diminish the profession unless our young charges offer strong
and viable leadership. It needs to start in vet school.
A well-run office earns respect
Clients can tell. Yes, they can. They instinctively know when your office is poorly run or administered. They might even believe
that these miscues bleed over into your professional care.
Thus you need to be more than a boss. You must be the leader and be respected as such.
You will need to have a consistent vision and instill that both on an individual and collective basis.
This means having one-on-one meetings with your employees and organized and cooperative staff meetings (no pity parties).
Viable systems must be in place that create consistent outcomes for staff, clients and patients. You will need to be an encourager
and try to pick your staff up even when things go south.
You must eliminate (yes, that means fire) people who consistently obstruct your leadership and vision. Your remaining staff
will be ecstatic.
Leadership involves patient care
Becoming an effective practice leader doen't mean being "bossy" or overbearing.
Rigid, tight control may appear to work for a while but ultimately is not reflective of true leadership. Rather, it reflects
a practice owner's insecurity, unwillingness to cooperate and to delegate tasks to capable staff members. That leads to burnout,
another issue altogether.
You should be able to organize and lead patient care, starting with consistent medical/surgical leadership, case by case.
Your clients must see that you are leading with respect to the care of their pet. This breeds confidence in your recommendations
and their overall satisfaction.
Leadership also means acknowledging mistakes and making corrections. This shows integrity that clients and staff can appreciate.
Dr. Lane is a graduate of the University of Illinois. He owns and manages two practices in southern Illinois. Dr. Lane completed
a master's degree in agricultural economics in 1996. He is a speaker and author of numerous practice-management articles.
He also offers a broad range of consulting services. Dr. Lane can be reached at