New Year’s Resolutions – as a reader, you already know that a resolution of 12% more net is nothing but frustration for every body! Look at procedures per 100 patients, and pick a line item that needs attention, e.g., dental prophys by staff, and allow that to become the goal of a 12% increase per month, or nutrition referrals to the nurse advisors increasing by 10% per month.  But this Fortnightly is not about resolutions that are that easy. This one is about YOUR attitude and approach to daily operational concerns.

One way to ensure that your passion for this profession stays strong is to embed gratitude into your daily practice life; however, some vets, as well as some practice managers, in veterinary practice are uncomfortable with receiving gratitude.  They have become conditioned to feel they are “just doing their job”, and therefore it is hard to accept gratitude from others.

For example, try telling a co-worker how grateful you are for the work she does and for the opportunity to work with her every day.  How do you think she will react? She will likely feel embarrassed or just mumble “it was no big deal”.  This is an indicator of the practice culture YOU have created . . . and it is NOT one that is beneficial for “recharging” the spirit.

There are two tactics that have been used successfully to help people connect to the concept of gratitude.  The first is rounding up the staff and ask questions like, “What is working well?”, “What are you grateful for at this practice?”, or maybe just, “Who have you acknowledged today as a benefit to our practice culture or your spirit?”  By asking these gratitude type questions, it places the emphasis on what they really appreciate, what they really enjoy in daily activities, and who is the primary contributor to the practice culture of gratitude sharing.  To love and enjoy a veterinary practice, most need to be tending to the animal needs, including promoting a FEAR FREE PHILOSOPHY within daily contacts.  After someone answers your question(s), and if they are a high performer, please be sure to tell them how grateful you are that they are on the practice team.

The second tactic is giving thank you notes.  When I was in practice, I had a box of blank inside, with practice specific covers, thank you notes, and scanned the local newspapers for reasons to send a thank you note to someone, whether they were a client or not; any community contribution was enough to get a thank you note!  Many people will tell you they have every thank you note they’ve ever received during their professional career.  Many practice post their thank you notes on a bulletin board or in a scrap book, but inversely, send out very few . . . that is a very interesting dual standard in my mind.  If you ever have mailed a thank you note to a staff member at their home, with a real stamp and hand written envelop, for something they have done for the practice, the team, or yourself, you know the gratitude response first hand; the sad thing is many managers have never seen this gratitude because they have not reached out to say ‘Thank You’ in an unusual but memorable way.  Thank you notes put a tangible and meaningful token of gratitude right in the hands of those who need it the most.  Is there a staff member in your practice who makes a difference and for whom you are grateful?  If so, take a few minutes to write him/her a thank you note, and BE SPECIFIC on the behavior you are accolading.

Here is another way to think about this concept of gratitude.  How often do you see yellow cars on the road?  It is a good bet probably not very often, as yellow is not a common color for cars.  Now, TODAY, and for the next few days, you will begin to see yellow cars everywhere.  Trust me, they are not magically appearing; I have not sent them to your .neighborhood.  It is because when the image of yellow cars is suggested, your brain begins to pay attention to them and you can’t help but to notice them.

The same concept applies to Gratitude.  The more frequently you put gratitude to the front of your mind, and share it with others, the more it becomes part of your daily life.  The challenging nature of veterinary healthcare delivery makes it essential that we change the way we think in order to make our practice life richer, our attitude better, and keep our passion high.  Try a dose of gratitude.  Start to notice all those yellow cars in your life!

To expand on this theme, the attached article is on humility as a leadership virtue.  You’d be amazed how well the two concepts go together.  It is my hope that you will carry both into 2017 as a new organizational behavior of the leadership team.