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Is your practice working well as a team?

At VetsNorth 2018, Carolyne Crowe took delegates through the steps to creating a happy, high-performing team

17 July 2018, at 8:07pm

The practice management stream at VetsNorth, held in Manchester on 20 and 21 June, covered a variety of topics, from social media to certification. Carolyne Crowe looked at the important elements that should be considered when developing a practice team. 

What is a high-performing team? Of course, there is no simple answer, but there are characteristics common to effective teams. Carolyne listed, for example: honest communication, psychological safety, a clear vision and common goals, clear and flexible leadership and a respectful environment. The individuals in these teams know what they need to do and how to do it; they finish work feeling fulfilled. She delved into some of these in more detail, reminding delegates that small changes can make a big difference. 

Self-awareness and awareness of other people

It is important to understand the behaviours that are demonstrated at work within yourself and others; recognising behaviour styles in people can influence how we communicate with them. Carolyne recommended using DISC behavioural profiling: “it enables teams to have a non-judgemental approach to understanding why you do what you do on a day-to-day basis and why other people behave in a certain ways,” she explained. “We need to recognise, acknowledge and accept that everybody is different – and that’s a good thing.” She briefly explained the four DISC styles: dominant, influential, steady and compliant. 

Dominant style 

Outgoing and task-oriented, people with this style like the big picture, are fast-paced and very much the “doers” of the team. They might come across as aggressive, so it is useful for them to be able to soften their style. Others should also take responsibility for how they react to comments from colleagues with this style; to avoid having an emotional reaction to something that was said, they must remember to ask themselves if the person meant to cause offence. 

Influential style 

Also fast-paced and interested in the big picture, people with this style are like the cheerleaders of the team. They make things fun and dynamic. They don’t like the detail and may be a little impulsive. They talk a lot, which can mean they listen a little. 

Steady style 

Reserved and people-oriented, those with a steady style prefer smaller groups and value the relationships they have. They are methodical and are strong completer finishers. Information about how they are really feeling needs to be drawn out of them to prevent them from becoming wound up over something without others realising.

Compliant style 

Those with this style are reserved and task-oriented. They are cautious and calculating and like to know the details. You won’t get the best from those with a compliant style if you ask them to cut corners and rush a decision.

The clashes in a team are likely to be between opposite styles. “This doesn’t mean they can’t work together – they work together incredibly effectively because they have opposite strengths and challenge areas,” Carolyne explained. 

Team vision and values 

To ensure we get the right “fit” for the team when recruiting, it is important to be able to communicate the team values and vision. “Every practice is different. Some will be charity practices, some community practices, some all about profit. It doesn’t matter what your vision and values are, but it’s important that you know what they are and are communicating them,” Carolyne said. 

A person’s values should be matched to the work they are doing as much as possible. It might seem obvious that the team will be respectful, but assumptions are dangerous, Carolyne warned. Each value will represent different behaviours for different people; to create autonomy, there should be dynamic conversations with the team about everyday behaviours that represent the practice values. 

Strengths and weaknesses

“How as a team can we enhance our strengths and overcome our weaknesses?” Carolyne asked. People should know what they are doing, how to do it and why they are doing it. They should be able to go home feeling happy; feeling that they have a purpose and are learning and developing along the way, she explained. 

Carolyne described several considerations in understanding somebody’s role: their purpose (make sure job descriptions are reviewed and tweaked to the individual), their degree of control (how much autonomy do they have to be self-directed?) and their options for learning and developing. Ask yourself now, do all members of your team know exactly what you expect of them and what they should expect of you?

Senior Editor at Veterinary Practice

Jennifer Parker, BSc, PgDip, MSc, is a science writer and editor. She studied zoology, endangered species re-covery and palaeoanthropology in the UK. Jennifer was Senior Editor of Veterinary Practice magazine for almost three years; she left the publication in October 2019 to move abroad and pursue a freelance writing career.

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