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  • Writer's pictureJosh Vaisman

The Coaching Tool Most Veterinary Leaders Aren't Using

Human beings are a symphony of contradictions. I’m no exception.

When I managed veterinary hospitals, I thought my natural optimism would elevate the entire team. My intention was to spread positive vibes and make people feel good.

As a person, I’m generally pretty good at this.

As a manager, I was terrible.

When my days began I’d walk the entire clinic and say good morning to everyone. At day’s end I’d walk the clinic again and say, “thank you for your work today,” again, to everyone on site.

In between I’d be doing one of two things (admittedly, this is an oversimplification):

  1. Management “tasks”

  2. “Coaching” team members

You can think of #1 as all the crap managers have to do to keep the business running. The “coaching” is where my contradiction shit hit the proverbial fan.

When I was “coaching” someone, what I was really doing was “correcting” them. It was a deficit mindset in the purest sense.

And I had gotten pretty good at it.

“I saw you do this. I need you to do that. Here’s why. What can I do to support you in getting there?”

Over and over and over again I’d “help” people see what the were doing wrong, lay out how they could do it better, and pat myself on the back for “supporting” them in getting there.

Intention be damned.

Rather than help my team feel good I was slowly eroding their self-efficacy, generating fear, and damaging the overall psychological safety within the team.

And from a positive psychology perspective, not only was I failing to build their sense of PERMA at work, I was feeding their negativity bias beast, making him stronger and stronger.

I’m pained by this, morally. All I’ve ever wanted for the people in my life is to feel empowered to live their best life.

You – yes, I’m talking to you veterinary clinic managers, leaders, supervisors, and owners – should be pained by this because, more often than not, you’re managing in the same way. And it’s not only harmful to your team, it’s harmful to your bottom line.

There’s got to be a better way, right?

Yup. There sure is! It’s called SBI.

SBI stands for Situation – Behavior – Impact. It’s a simple feedback tool most often used for behavior correction. Used as such it often works wonders as it helps depersonalizes feedback (it’s about the behavior, not the person) and link the behavior to another human being.

Used as a positive feedback tool it can be an energy boost to both employee wellbeing and team effectiveness.

Here’s how it works:

First, “catch” someone on your team doing something good. It can be something extraordinary but it doesn’t have to be – perhaps it’s something as simple as your Client Care Representative getting all the call-backs done on time.

Now, SBI her right in the face!

  • SITUATION: “Hey Cindy, this morning when I was chatting with Mrs. Smith…..”

  • BEHAVIOR: “…I noticed you had finished all the call-backs before noon….”

  • IMPACT: “..thank you for that. When the call-backs are done on time it makes it so much easier for the doctors to address any client needs before their shift is done.”

When used for good like this, SBI is literally a well-being super power.

You and Cindy both get a jolt of positive emotion, along with a boost of oxytocin. Neurologically, that boost energizes her for the rest of the day and makes her more likely to be a team player. The "Impact" component of SBI helps keep the purpose of our work at top of mind, a key contributor to a sense of meaningfulness (which, by the way, is a top mitigator of burnout!).

Finally, her brain registers this feel-good event and is likely to increase her motivation to repeat it.

Recognize good, good happens again.

So, the next time you’re looking to thank your team or give them a boost, find something good they are doing and SBI all over it.

Sometimes the best “coaching” comes wrapped in appreciation.

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