Dump team meetings if you want to get more from your staff... - Veterinary Practice
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Dump team meetings if you want to get more from your staff…

Paul Green believes that practice staff meetings – except social ones – are often a waste of time and are better replaced by regular one- to-one coaching to improve performance

ONE of the most inefficient ways to
get your staff to do what you want,
in the way you want it to be done, is
to hold a team meeting.

No matter how big or small your
team, getting everyone together to talk
about the
practice and
changes you’d
like to make is
not easy.

For a start
there’s always someone
Either they’re off sick or there’s a crisis
they need to deal with.

Then, getting the environment right
for the meeting is difficult or expensive
(especially if you have 50 staff).

And then often, those meetings are
hijacked by the same loud people every
time. They’re either the ones who love
what the practice does and like to
enthusiastically talk about it, or the ones
who are quite negative about the
business and don’t care who knows it.
Which of these “takes over” the
meeting depends on your personal
leadership style.

The effect is that your meetings are
easily hijacked, and the message about
change and growth that you wanted to
hammer home gets missed. Especially
by the very people you were desperate
to hear it; the under-performers who
quietly keep their heads down at these kinds of meetings.

Get your team together to keep them motivated, celebrate success or
have a social event. But if you are
serious about improving their
performance, you need to coach them on a monthly basis.
Performance coaching is severely misunderstood in the UK, probably due
to the prolific rise of the life coach in
the early 2000s. Forget life coaching –
we’re talking here about meeting your
staff 1-2-1 and using a specific
questioning framework to get a better
performance from them, long-term.

Top sports stars use coaches to help
them improve their performance. Andy
Murray credits his coach Ivan Lendl for
his Wimbledon win last year. He already
had the skillset and fitness required. All
Lendl did was help him change his
attitude under pressure – the 1% change
that ultimately made the difference.

Coaching answers the question of
“How do I get my staff to do this, even
though I don’t think they will want to.”
Because the whole point of coaching is
that you never TELL people what to do.
You ASK them.

You can’t persuade people to do
something as effectively as they can
persuade themselves.

Performance coaching is about you
(or a senior member of your team)
regularly meeting your people 1-2-1 to
give them the support and guidance they
need to change.

This needs to be done in the right environment. That’s probably not your
office or even your surgery. Unless you
have a dedicated meeting room with no
interruptions allowed, it won’t do. You
should only be interrupted if the
building is on fire, not if there is a
clinical emergency.

A better place to do 1-2-1s is Costa
or Starbucks. Yes, a public coffee shop.
I’ve got 13 staff and that’s where I do all
my 1-2-1s. It’s a light, friendly place to
have what should only be a 20-minute
meeting. And it gets everyone away from
the day-to-day working environment.

Most people can only cope with
coaching about seven people on a monthly basis. If you
have more than seven
direct reports, then you
need to find senior
colleagues who can
coach as well. You could
coach them on their

The whole point of
coaching is to help
someone to achieve
something. They need to
know when they have
“won”. So you need to
help each member of
your team to decide on a
goal they are working
towards. They will be more
engaged with the goal if they decide it
themselves. Just make sure their goal fits
into the business goals.

The structure of a coaching session
is very simple, based on ASK not
TELL. There are five core questions
that I recommend you ask:

  • What’s the goal you’re working
  • What were you working on from the
    last time we met?
  • What’s gone well?
    n What’s not gone so well?
  • What are you going to do differently
    next time?

Of course, you don’t just sit there
churning those out parrot fashion.
Coaching sessions will soon become
false if you do that. But the five
questions give you a framework with
which to have a conversation. You’re
getting intimately involved in their work,
their mind, their performance. You’re
giving them the opportunity to change
the way they work.

Sometimes you need to drop into
tell, especially when you need to
demonstrate technique. After all, you are
probably the most senior clinician in the business. But every
time you tell someone
something, you run a
huge risk that they
simply won’t remember

As the old training
adage goes:

Tell me: I forget;
Show me: I remember;
Involve me: I understand.

Rising superstars
love to be coached.
They love the 1-2-1
time spent on them and
their development.
They love that their
ideas can be actioned, and feel an integral part of the business.
They feel more valued. Which means
they will stay with the practice longer
and require fewer pay rises.

Under-performing staff hate being
coached. When it’s you and them, 1-2-1,
and you’re asking all the questions,
there’s nowhere to hide.

That’s OK. They’ll either shape up
or ship out. And losing under-
performing staff is nothing to worry
about. There’s always a better hire
waiting to replace them.

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