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  • Writer's pictureJosh Vaisman

The One (on One) Tool to Maximize Veterinary Team Performance

I have a friend. We’ll call him Steve.

(Actual name used to incriminate the guilty).

Steve’s a special kind of veterinary Hospital Administrator. Loud, obnoxious, a bit awkward and generally not as funny as he thinks he is.

Ok, that’s not true. He’s actually pretty funny.

But there’s something else that makes Steve special. He gets it.

He understands that people want to be and do their very best. And that every member of his team has “super powers” – strengths, talents, and that special ingredient that makes them shine.

Steve also gets that these super powers wither and fade if not intentionally and routinely developed and supported.

That’s why he’s the guru of manager to team member one-on-one meetings.

OK, I can literally see your eyes rolling through the screen. It’s true, I’ve hacked your computer’s camera.

I mention the idea of routine “one-on-one” meetings with your team and you cringe, vomit a little in your mouth, and in your best “Karen voice” mutter, “who the heck’s got time for that?!?”

Oh ye’ difficult-to-convince veterinary manager/leader/medical director/owner…stick around for a bit. I’m gonna knock your socks off with science.

PMI: A Fancy Name for One-on-Ones

In 1983, professor of Organization Leadership, RW Boss, published the results of a fascinating study. Across 16 different organization contexts he performed a leadership experiment. Managers were trained to perform a form of the one-on-one called the Personal Management Interview.

In teams that used the PMI, performance on both subjective and objective measures skyrocketed. In the teams that maintained the PMI’s on a monthly basis the performance improvements were maintained, in full, for at least 18 months.

Some teams, however, were taught to do the PMI for one month, and then instructed to stop using them. Their performance improved equal to the other group initially. However, after eliminating the PMI intervention, performance returned to original levels within 6 months.

At the 12 month mark managers in the second group were shown the results. Appalled at the loss in performance and enamored with the results of the teams that had used the PMI consistently for the prior year, they re-implemented monthly one-on-ones.

Within 6 months they achieved the same improved performance metrics of the other teams.

This style of one-on-one is a key practice of positive leadership and we know pretty conclusively that companies (and veterinary hospitals) that utilize these practices just do better. In fact, one piece of research suggests utilizing PMI’s in a healthcare setting could significantly reduce the rate of employee burnout!

That’s right. Meet with your team consistently and their risk of burnout goes down. Why? Manager support can significantly boost employee wellbeing and performance – and PMI’s can be a wonderful tool for increasing the perception of manager support.

Implementing the Poorly Named, PMI

OK, I’ll admit it, Personal Management Interview is not the sexiest name for a pretty powerful leadership tool. To be honest, neither is “one-on-one”.

I don’t have a great alternative name – maybe the Monthly Growth Jam Sesh?

Name it whatever you’d like. Just be sure to do it right.

In his awesome book, “Positive Leadership: Strategies for Extraordinary Performance”, researcher Kim Cameron lays out the three things every PMI should include:

  1. Positive Purpose: First and foremost, PMI’s are notmeant to be performance evaluations. Do not tie them to compensation. The intention is for support – a leader’s support for a team member’s development and the team member’s support of the leaders growth. That’s right, not only are these about support and development, they should go both ways.

  2. A Structured “Kick-Off”: The purpose of the kick-off is to establish clarity for both the leader and the team member. You may clarify things such as role expectations, areas of responsibility, what accountability will look like, mission/vision/values/goals, non-negotiables, etc. Just be sure to keep a written record of what’s decided during the kick-off.

  3. Routine: After the Kick-Off, create a schedule for having one-on-one check-in meetings at least once a month. That’s right. Every. Single. Month. The research suggests they lose their impact if they happen less frequently. And check-ins are not meant to repeat the Kick-Off. Check-ins are about information sharing, growth, goal setting and goal checking, feedback, and support.

Oh, one last thing. Don’t skim through these. Set aside the time and do them right. I mean at least 60 minutes for the Kick-Off and at least 30 minutes for the monthly Check-Ins.

I can hear you again.

“You’ve flipped your gourd, Josh. I’ve got way too many employees to spend that much time on!”

You’re just plain wrong.

Boss’ research shows that the managers who implemented – and stuck with – monthly PMI’s actually found it saved them time overall. Between the reduced interruptions and unscheduled meetings, fewer mistakes needing coaching or correction, increased collaboration, goal clarity, and a higher sense of accountability, these managers freed up, on average, the equivalent of almost a full day of work a month!

You don’t have the time to NOT be doing this!

And if you truly do have too many team members to meet with that’s fine. Find another way.

Train you managers/leads to perform these and divvy up the load. Or, strategerize (yes, it’s a word….Steve told me so) and do PMI’s with your most influential team members…..or ask your team to nominate 7-10 of the team who will get PMI’s for this quarter or 6 months, then rotate.

Trust me. Trust Steve (who, by the way, experiences 50% less turnover in his veterinary hospital than the industry national average!). You need this.

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