We have all heard of the carrot or stick approach to horse training, or the 2 × 4 approach of getting a mule's attention before
training. While these ideas are entrenched in our heritage, they are not generally used; rather, alternatives are sought that
will serve the same purpose. In this seminar, we'll make you look at alternatives to the reward and punishment program of
"Behavior that is reinforced, rewarded, or recognized is likely to be repeated." - or the inverse - "Behavior that is
not reinforced, rewarded, or recognized is likely to extinguish or diminish gradually."
By definition, motivated people usually need no additional motivation from the practice to perform; however, in some cases,
- especially during tight labor markets as we see today - the qualities of the new employee are not exactly exemplary nor
is their commitment to the practice usually that high. Although we need to continue to nurture our star performers, these
"less than motivated" staff members are the ones we have to reach to make the programs and promotions work. That's something
we wish we could change, but in most cases, we just have to make do with what we have.
Signs that Your Practice Needs Help
As veterinary professionals, we know the difference between signs and symptoms in healthcare delivery. Our patients never
tell us their symptoms, we must observe the signs. In practice management, we often wait for someone to tell us the symptoms
rather than watch for the signs that indicate a problem is emerging. There are signs that can be used as indicators which
reflect that your practice is moving in the wrong direction. When the patient has the "ADGs" (ain't doing good), something
must be done. When a practice suffers from the ADGs, we have to be able to diagnose the situation. Here are some danger signals:
• PEOPLE start referring to telephone calls as impositions on their time rather than opportunities to promote the services
of the veterinary practice.
• STAFF develop an orientation toward the rules of the practice and the national literature rather than a value orientation
that considers spirit, excellence, and contributions of the individual.
• PARAPROFESSIONALS begin to have different understandings of words such as "responsibility" and "service."
• PROBLEM MAKERS outnumber problem solvers. Problems are given to the veterinarian rather than being solved by the staff.
• LEADERS start to rely on structures instead of people, they write memos and policies rather than discuss the challenge
with the staff members.
• EMPLOYEES lose respect for the proper use of the English language or the common courtesy of group sensitivities.
• VETERINARIANS state that they do not offer full services because they know what their clients want and are not
going to share what the patient needs because of cost factors.
• A TENDENCY toward superficiality is exhibited. Doing enough to get by today is preferred over excellence for tomorrow.
• PRESSURES of the day-to-day operations push aside concern for vision, risk, and healthcare quality.
• STAFF MEMBERS quantify both history and their thoughts about the future, for the practice and personally.
These are indicators of problems looking for a place to happen. They are not unlike the vomiting dog. The signs could be a
passing event that will be solved by the "tincture of time." Also like a vomiting patient, they can be an indicator of something
deeper, a reason to initiate action quickly and in a positive manner. Work on your practice management diagnostic skills,
it will provide for a healthier practice (and patient).