As a technician, I was always the go-to person. I was the one to problem solve, answer questions, place the difficult IV catheter or listen and guide my coworkers. I felt the need to point my veterinary career towards leadership and 2 years ago I made the jump and became a practice manager. I was excited to become a leader of an amazing team and hoped to bring my energy and skills to help the growth of my teammates and clinic. I jumped in with starry eyes and a vision to foster a workplace that was one that cared about the people who worked in it. In the past couple of years, I’ve learned so many things, but I wanted to share a few of my biggest lessons.
1. Management Can Be Lonely
As a tech, I always had a good rapport with my coworkers. I could crack jokes, be a shoulder to cry on or be a listening ear. As a manager, I am still all these things but at the end of the day I will always be “the boss.” The toughest part for me was that people will now act differently when I walk in the room. I immensely care about everyone I work with, but with the title comes the responsibility to sometimes make decisions people don’t like, address the elephant in the room or look at ways we can improve. I’m friendly with my team and promised I would never be a stuffy, unapproachable manager. I’m friendly with my team, but I also must remember that they will always look at me differently than when I was a technician.
2. I Can’t Change People, but I Can Guide Them
None of us in vet med or life, in general, are perfect. We will all make mistakes. How we deal with these mistakes define us. My biggest hope is that my teammates feel comfortable enough with me to own up to their mistakes. Instead of shaming or making them feel bad, I really want to be there to work through hiccups and pitfalls with them. Sometimes that means showing them the big picture and how every action we have effects our patient care, client care and the success of our business. Conversations are the start of dealing with any issue whether it’s medical, communication or behavior related. While I will do my best to guide, at the end of the day we all have the responsibility to choose how we respond to feedback. Any mistake or issue is never solved in a moment. Sometimes it means letting time pass for things to sink in and for people to process things. Rome was not built in a day.
3. The Client Isn’t Always Right
If your team doesn’t feel supported, they will not support the business. As a technician, one of my biggest frustrations was dealing with abusive clients who could treat people badly. Sometimes they got away with it because they had been a long-time client. Other times it was simply because no one told them what they were doing wasn’t acceptable. We want to help your pet. But to do that, I need clients to be respectful of the hardworking crew who makes that happen. If a client is verbally abusive, threatening or lacks trust in those on my team they are not my target clientele. I will always believe that my team deserves respect and will fire clients who think they can treat anyone in my clinic in a way that is disrespectful. It’s terrifying because it usually results in me getting yelled at or cursed at. But it is the right thing to do.
4. Listen to Your Team
Often managers believe that what they say goes. This is true to some degree. But the most important thing that I have learned is to listen to your team. Whether they are telling you a story about what they did on the weekend, a concern they have about a protocol or they are pouring their heart out in your office, listen. When your team doesn’t feel heard, they stop talking. Communication ceases and the clinic can only go downhill from there. When my team talks to me, I know they trust me to listen to them. Sometimes not everyone wants an answer and it’s not my role to provide one for them. Sometimes people just want someone to listen.
The transition to management from a technician has been one full of lessons, bumps and bruises. It has also been one that I have had the privilege of watching people grow, seeing my teammates become better at what they do and watch my clinic grow. I truly believe that what we sow is what will bloom. We must remember that as managers we not only grow a business, we have the opportunity to watch others blossom.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.