Leadership: Are you setting the pace?

Leadership: Are you setting the pace?

Dec 01, 2006

Management by walking around is a concept put forward by Tom Peters in "In Search of Excellence."

While many fad management techniques and styles have come and gone, this idea is quickly passing the test of time. In fact, I believe it is essential for veterinary practices. A practice without leadership is adrift.

Without effective leadership, details just slip by uncompleted. If you or your team has trouble answering the question, "Who is in charge?", it should signal trouble.

Who sets the morning and evening thermostats? Who makes certain all patients have received their medications at the end of the day? Who checks the appointment schedule for needed oncology drugs tomorrow? Who tends to the burned out light bulbs? Who cleaned the windows? Who ordered the dog food? Who bathed the patients? Were the CRS and 941 funds transferred? Are next week's appointment sscheduled? Are employee files up to date? What about the OSHA file? Was the alarm set last night?

Hopefully, my point is clear. There are a million details in running a practice. And it takes a leader to set the pace.

The veterinary support staff desires leadership. It's healthy, and it can take away stresses that sometimes plague busy veterinary practices.

Policies can be put in place, guidelines can be established, rules adopted and protocols agreed upon, which are necessary for the consistent, effective delivery of veterinary services.

Leadership within a practice starts with vision. The practice's mission, business plan and day-to-day management help deliver this vision.

A leader's vision outlines the practice's purpose and the development of those protocols essential to fulfill its mission. Do you have a vision statement? If not, consider crafting one.

In addition, your mission statement is the practice's beacon. It communicates the practice's core values.

A basic simple mission statement might be something like:

"XYZ Animal Hospital will do what is best for the patient and those attending to the needs of the patient."

A business plan should assess the facility, equipment, policies, education and personnel.

While these phases of running a business are important, they are easy when you compare it with the complexities involved in day-to-day management.

Management by policy, guidelines, rules and protocols to accomplish the practice mission is what we shall discuss further.

The veterinary office manager's (administrator's) role is to see to the effective delivery of daily, monthly and annual tasks.

All of the management tasks, protocols and duties can be contained in an Omnibook. This reference needs four sections: Employee, Financial, Facility and Infrastructure and Medical Technical.

Another tool, called a Leaderbook, is an outline of medical policies and guidelines specifically to aid the veterinarians with their patient decision duties. Outlined policy would include items such as: clinic vaccine policy, Cushing's diagnostic and therapy algorithms, thyroid diagnostic protocols, a giardia diagnostic and therapy policy.

The needed skills of the manager befuddle many of us. And many practices seek managers – but just what skills are needed for the job can be defined.

Next month: the discussion continues.

Michael H. Riegger, DVM, Dipl. ABVP
A dvm contributor for 16 years
Dr. Riegger, dipl. ABVP, is the chief medical officer at Northwest Animal Clinic Hospital and Specialty Practice. Contact him at telephone and fax (505) 898-0407,
, or www.northwestanimalclinic.com. Find him on AVMA's NOAH as the practice management moderator. Order his books "Management for Results" and "More Management for Results" by calling (505) 898-1491.