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  • Writer's pictureJosh Vaisman

Do you want a profitable vet hospital?

Sometimes I dream about being rich.

The kind of stupid, silly, damn-near-disgusting rich that would make, “Crazy Rich Asians,” look like a documentary on scraping by.

In this dream, my wife and I own homes in Juneau, Alaska and Hanalei, Kauai. We spend summers in Alaska and winters in Hawaii, basically following the whales around. When we’re not at home, we are living on luxurious cruise ships traveling all around the big blue globe.

In the end, it’s much more dream than passion.

I like making money just as much as anyone, but I’m not consumed by it. I’m much more motivated by making a positive impact on the world.

If pursuing a purposeful career gets me paid, that’s great. If the work results in riches, all the better. But I don’t measure my success in dollar signs, I measure it in meaning.

When I managed dozens of veterinary professionals, though, I wasn’t so good at expressing this truth. If you asked any of them, I bet their perception was that I was all about the Benjamins.

And that’s a huge problem.

Money isn’t the purpose of work, it’s the result.

Money isn’t the purpose of work, it’s the result. Sometimes (often?), though, our bosses appear to be consumed by a bottom line mentality.

Research suggests that’s not just a workplace wellbeing problem, it actually crushes the company’s chance for financial success.

A recently published study surveyed almost 900 employees and managers to measure two things; the manager’s actual/perceived Bottom Line Mentality, and employee’s workplace effort. The findings were striking.

When a manager scores high on Bottom Line Mentality – that is, when they are focused solely on productivity, performance, and business outcomes such as revenue and profitability – employees withhold performance. So, the more a manager pushes for the bottom line, the more the bottom line suffers.

And the kicker is, it doesn’t matter if the manager actually focuses on the bottom line or is simply perceived to do so by their team. If your employees believe you care most about the cash, they simply won’t give you their best. In fact, you might be getting their worst.

When we feel like we are assets being leveraged for another’s achievement or success we lose motivation.

When we feel like we are assets being leveraged for another’s achievement or success we lose motivation and seek to protect ourselves from the hit to our wellbeing. The result is the “paycheck” mentality – I’m here for the deposit into my checking account and I’m only doing the absolute minimum to make sure I keep getting it.

Want a motivated team at peak levels of performance? Great! It’s time to shine light on your bottom line mentality and address it. Here’s some ways to do just that:

1. Re-Rank Results: You lead a team in an organization that, frankly, needs cash to survive. Not to mention, you’d like everyone to get fairly compensated for their efforts. There’s nothing wrong with any of that! It’s a reality. The problem arises when the cashflow becomes the most important thing. It’s a backwards mindset that, as the research shows, is actually counterproductive.

Challenge yourself to flip the “If, Then.” Rather than, “if we do well, then I’ll take care of my people,” adopt the belief that, “if I take care of my people, then all of us will do well.” Believe it or not, happiness (results) doesn’t come after success, it’s what causes it.

2. Get Self-Aware: When I was a veterinary hospital manager and owner I genuinely cared about the people I employed. In their eyes, though, I cared more about the company’s bottom line. For a long time it felt like I was beating my head against the wall trying to solve the motivation “problem” in my practice and I didn’t realize I was the source of it until it was too late.

Every leader should make self-awareness a key pillar in their approach to work. Between how we believe we behave as leaders and how our teams perceive us often exist gaps or blind spots. Shining light on these blind spots allows us the wonderful opportunity for growth.

Yes, I know, you have an “open door policy” and survey your team once a year. Great! Chances are the bulk of them don’t fully utilize those avenues to express their perceptions, if at all. Many of them don’t feel safe enough to walk through that open door and be honest and vulnerable with you. Those that do might feel disregarded or unsure if you actually care about what they have to say.

Find ways to open up the doors to communication in a genuine and authentic way. Submit yourself to a 360 Leader Behavioral Feedback review. Hold town halls where every question is acceptable and on the table. Get a leadership coach. Send targeted (perhaps anonymous) surveys with regularity to your team asking questions like, “My manager/supervisor cares more about the business than my wellbeing.

Most importantly, receive this information like a gift, reflect on it carefully, and act on it in a positive and productive way.

3. Prioritize People: Now that you’ve shifted your mindset and created a culture of leader self-awareness, it’s time to elevate people.

You lead a group of human beings, each with needs, values, passions, and strengths. Find out what’s important to and about each one of them. Make them a priority. Yes, hold them to your high expectations but do so in a supportive, coaching, and understanding way. And protect the culture you are creating by coaching up (or out) those that don’t also value each other.

Your company serves clients who, as it turns out, are also human beings. What a concept! Celebrate them! Learn from the clients who most adore you. What does your team do so well to make them such fans? Then share it with your team! Look for, and highlight, as often as you can, the positive impacts the work has in the lives of your clients. Share those stories at every opportunity and be sure to make it specific and detailed. Maybe even bring a client in to your staff meetings and have them share, live and in person, how your team’s efforts have changed their life.

Sure, making money is nice. And it’s true that a veterinary hospital has to have a positive cash flow to survive and grow. As managers and leaders we actually harm the business when we make this the most important thing. My suggestion is to knock the bottom line down just a notch and put people first.

Some of the most successful companies already know this. People above profits and, ironically, profits follow.

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