Why staff must be tackled one, by one, by one - Veterinary Practice
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Why staff must be tackled one, by one, by one

Paul Green explains why it’s so important to provide all staff with opportunities to grow and achieve their optimal performance, using coaching and tools to reduce the time spent dealing with problems.

Rita is great. She’s been
with you a few years, and behaves
exactly as a great nurse should. She’s
friendly, has great customer service
skills, smiles a lot and generally has a positive attitude.

As you’d expect,
this is reflected
very well in
her work. She is efficient and
gets on very well
with most of the
team, and the
clients. Rita is an
example of an
engaged member
of staff.

But then, there’s Sue. And while
there’s nothing fundamentally wrong
with Sue, compared to Rita she seems
less valuable to you. She turns up on
time and she does her work, but she’s
not so friendly or efficient. You’re not
quite sure what exactly is going on
inside her head
most of the

Her attitude
is less positive,
and as a result
her work isn’t
quite as spot-
on as Rita’s
work is. Sue is
an unengaged
member of
staff. Given
a better
opportunity or
a higher salary elsewhere, she would
probably leave.

Development issues

Every practice is made up of people
like Rita and people like Sue. But in a
small practice where there is no robust
performance management process, the
problem is they are often developed in
the same way.

Or worse, the practice owner spends
more time dealing with the problems
created by Sue than they do helping
Rita to be incrementally better every
day. It’s an insane fact that business
owners spend more time dealing with
the issues created by weak staff than
they do developing the superhero
powers of great staff.

No matter how many or how few
staff you have, there will be great
inequality in your team, so they cannot
be treated the same. Each needs an
individual approach. And there lies the
need for 121 performance coaching.

You see,
trying to develop
of staff at
different levels
of ability is
impossible in a group
setting. In fact,
it can be quite

If you take a typical group staff
meeting where you are trying to get
them to do something differently, each
person will absorb the message in
completely different ways.

Your best staff will take on board
what you are saying and execute it to the best of
their abilities
– as they were
always going
to. Your worst
staff will
ignore what
you’re asking
or ask difficult
questions, or
generally be

Or – in the
worst scenario
– declare out loud that “this is a stupid idea” and
wittingly or unwittingly influence other
members of the team. Often, people
go with what the most negative staff
say, just because it’s the easiest thing to do.

Sidestep the problems

Of course it’s good to have a mix of
people within a team, as it will make it
more robust. But you can’t treat them
all in the same way. 121 performance
coaching sidesteps all of these
problems and allows you to treat each
individual person as an individual.

You provide your staff the
opportunity to grow and achieve
optimal performance through
consistent feedback, counselling and mentoring. I truly believe that you
can’t be a great leader unless you are
a competent coach. Anyone who has
tried micromanaging staff knows it’s
tiring and ineffective past a certain size
of business. It’s a good way to achieve
perfection, so long as you don’t mind
working 80-hour weeks and dying

And it’s not fair to get angry with
your staff. Most practice owners don’t
give their staff nearly as much guidance
and clarity of instruction as they think
they do. You can’t get angry with them
just because their mind-reading skills are

Performance coaching allows you
to bolster collaboration, nail common
goals, harmonise different strokes and
resolve conflict, because you’re taking
a personalised approach with every
single member of the team. It’s based
on the principle that you can’t persuade
someone to do something as effectively
as they can persuade themselves.
So it’s you and them, sitting down
for 20 minutes, on a regular basis.
Let’s say monthly. You’re in the right
environment, where there are no
interruptions (this may mean doing it
off-site, in a coffee shop). And you’re
talking in a structured way.

A good guide for this is using
the GROW model: Goal, current
Reality, Options, and Way forward.
Practically, that means structuring
your conversation around five core

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

And the trick is to make sure you do
less talking than they do. As the coach,
your job is to ask the right questions,
then to shut up and listen. If you find
yourself telling them what to do too
often, you’re missing the point of
coaching. It’s about them realising what
it is they need to do differently.

Because remember…you can’t persuade someone to do something as effectively
as they can persuade themselves.

One final suggestion: get them to
e-mail you what they are working on
after the meeting. This creates a loop
back to the start of the next meeting.
The best staff will be pleased to
show you their progress. The poor
performers will have nowhere to hide.

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