New veterinary retreat helps vets build resilience and improve wellbeing

EMERGE Veterinary, part of the Veterinary Business Consultancy, has announced the dates and released tickets for the Change Catalyst Veterinary Retreat. Held at Roaches Hall, a beautiful gritstone manor house on the Derbyshire/Staffordshire border, this residential personal wellbeing retreat for vets will be held 15-17th May 2018. Following the course, participants will receive three months of personal 1-2-1 coaching.  

Working in partnership with Natural Change, a social enterprise with over two decades of study and course delivery in the field, the Change Catalyst Veterinary Retreat draws on the well-established fields of eco-psychology, group dynamics and outdoor learning.

The 2-day Retreat is held in a beautiful setting and, working mainly outside, participants will be expertly guided through a series of activities and practices that draw on the transformative potential of nature. They will be introduced to some simple, yet highly effective, nature based techniques to look after their wellbeing and to reflect on their personal or professional journey. Three months of personal coaching after the event will help reinforce and embed these changes or assist in developing the insights gained during the retreat.  

Quite unlike any other personal development courses offered to vets, this course is aimed at vets who are at a career crossroads, making major decisions about the direction of their career or for those looking for an opportunity to help develop capacity, build resilience and to improve wellbeing. It offers time and space to get away from everyday concerns, re-energise and focus on what really matters as well as helping vets reflect, refresh and reconnect with nature. 

A maximum of 16 participants will work with two facilitators to ensure an exceptional quality of experience and the whole process is gently and expertly facilitated and supported. The follow up coaching is one to one, personal, and confidential.

Director, Adrian Nelson-Pratt comments, “Vets have well documented challenges with work-life balance that lead to a disconnection from the natural world. Feelings of isolation, loss of career direction or in the worst-case, deterioration in physical and mental health can follow. Having experienced the Natural Change process myself, I found it a deeply reflective and restorative experience. It allowed me the time and space to develop some new ideas and to re-invigorate myself. The Change Catalyst Vet Retreat is the result of this process for me and I think it’s a powerful tool to support vets on a personal and professional level. It’s also an appropriate contribution to your annual CPD requirement. ” 

Tickets are available at www.emerge-veterinary.com or for more information and to arrange a chat, contact adrian@emerge-veterinary.com

Vet leadership Survey: Thank you for your insights!

Thank you all!

Our Veterinary Leadership Survey has now closed. With nearly 200 vets having a look and 166 completed surveys, we’re really pleased with the response. Your insights and answers will help design a course to address leadership, mental health and wellbeing issues in the profession.

We’ve drawn the winners of the prizes and emails are winging their way to you today. Keep an eye on your inbox to see if you’ve won.

It’s great to see the responses and whilst the picture painted reinforces some of the profession’s challenges, there’s inspiration and insight galore. We are crunching the data now and you’ll start to see statistics and PR on the subject from us later in the summer.

For those that have signed up to learn more about the project, we’ll start communicating more details in August.

Once again thanks, it’s great when the profession pulls together to pay it forward for the next generation of vets.

If you’d like to talk to the VBC in advance of the programme, please contact us here.

Veterinary Leadership Survey: Your insights could change lives!

Veterinary mental health and wellbeing is big news and if you are a vet, your insights could help design interventions. Complete this short survey & we’ll enter you in to a prize draw!

Veterinary Leadership Survey

In fact, veterinary mental health and wellbeing is such a hot topic at the moment that there was a full edition of the Journal of Veterinary Medical Education dedicated to it recently[1].

In the introduction, Professor Susan Rhind from the University of Edinburgh talks about moving from studying the rain to studying the umbrella. At the VBC we take this to mean moving from focusing on the problem to being solution orientated. We’re really excited to offer you a chance to participate in designing umbrellas, figuratively speaking.

One of our clients is about to launch a personal development project for vets and vet nurses. They’re offering a chance to win a bottle of bubbly in return for completing a short survey[2].

Complete the survey here.

Your insights and comments will be incorporated into the planning of the programme and could help change veterinary mental health for the better. That could literally be a lifesaver for a vet who is struggling.

A test event will run later in 2017. If you’d like to keep up to date on progress, then the survey gives you chance to opt-in for emails too.

In anticipation of your support for this project the VBC and our client would like to thank you in and invite you to keep in touch with the project.

If you’d like to talk to the VBC in advance of the programme, please contact us here.

[1] http://jvme.utpjournals.press/toc/jvme/44/1

[2] Ts & Cs apply- Prize draw is open to UK and Ireland respondents only, but all insights are welcomed from around the world.

The five things you need to do to get an industry vet job

I was asked to do a live Q&A for a Facebook vet group called Vets: Stay, Go or Diversify this week on the subject of how to get a job in veterinary industry. The forum is a hotbed of discussions and this was a recurring question.

The forum is a closed group for vets only, established by Ebony Escalona, a vet from The Brook, a global equine charity. Ebony has done a fabulous job building a diverse group of over 1,600 vets and growing. The level of peer support is great and contributions come from experienced vets giving freely of time and expertise. If you’re a vet, check it out and join the conversation.

Why was I asked? Well, after fifteen years at Hill’s Pet Nutrition, I’ve been thoroughly trained in competency based interviewing and have interviewed hundreds of people for jobs in the business, whether vets or not. Here are my five top tips for getting a job in veterinary industry and I start with a bonus question that you must answer for yourself first.

Why do you want a job in industry?

Everyone knows that many vets reach a point in their veterinary careers where clinical work ceases to satisfy for one reason or another. Industry is an escape from practice, but that’s not the right reason to go for an industry job. Please reflect carefully on your reasons for wanting an industry role and make sure you want it for the right reasons, not just because it offers a route out of practice. Be honest with yourself or others will find you out and you’ll remain unfulfilled in your vet career.

Here goes:

  1. Do your company research and network with those reps in your clinic

2. Be on LinkedIn and have an All Star Profile

vet industry jobs 1

3. Register with the recruiters that vet industry companies use

4. Have a differentiated CV and covering letter

vet industry jobs 2

5. Do your interview prep properly; because it’s unlikely you’ve had this kind of   interview before.

vet industry jobs 3

The recording will be live on the forum shortly and it’s loaded with more detail and a number of great questions from the audience on the night.

If you need help with your CV, preparing for an industry job or interview technique, then the VBC can help. Get in touch and we’ll help you maximize your chances of landing your job in industry.

When you say coaching or mentoring, what do you really mean?

As the profession moves forward in the personal development that we sorely need, have you noticed that the terminology is changing as well? Words like development or support in job adverts and articles are being replaced with better sounding words like coaching, mentoring and consultancy. It’s especially important as vet businesses strive to differentiate themselves in the race to recruit new vets or to describe their company culture, values and space for personal growth.

However, as I speak to colleagues who operate in the coaching space, see adverts for academies or courses and indeed as I promote my consultancy services to vets and companies, I’m noticing a worrying trend. As a profession, we seem to be using coaching and mentoring interchangeably and this is a problem, because they’re very different activities and its all about one thing.

The amount of input from the facilitator and the client.

In a coaching or mentoring relationship there are generally two parties. Both provide input to the conversation, but depending upon the activity, one side provides more input than the other.

In a classic Harvard Business Review article in the spring of 1973, Robert Tannenbaum and Warren Schmidt described a continuum of leadership and management styles. They used a simple diagram to illustrate different styles of leadership and how much influence the boss or employee contributed to the discussion. It’s a seminal article to read as part of any leadership journey and a must read for managers seeking to understand how to empower and motivate staff.

The same continuum can be used to illustrate the relationship between consultancy, mentoring and coaching, so I’ve redrawn it below to help frame this discussion.

Coaching vs Mentoring

In my consultancy business, I’m paid for my expertise and knowledge in the field, for problem solving or I’m paid to do something that clients can’t do themselves. That’s how I add the value and it’s a directive process led by me.

In a mentoring relationship, the mentor provides advice and guidance and may well provide some coaching in addition, but that’s not the primary role. It’s a 50/50 relationship where the mentee assimilates the advice and synthesizes something new with it.

In coaching, advice isn’t given and the primary objective is to help a client improve performance to reach a goal. A coach will operate in a non-directive manner by asking questions and using various different tools to help the client draw out or crystalise their own thinking. Skills and independence are assumed in the coachee and you often find a secondary benefit of increasing self awareness.

So when we use mentoring and coaching interchangeably, we inevitably change the relationship between the facilitator and client. When most people think of a coach, they think of a classic sports coach that helps develop additional skills. This is training and skills acquisition and not the kind of coaching I’m talking about. If you think of more recent coaching examples, e.g. Dr Steve Peters1 with cycling stars like Sir Chris Hoy or Victoria Pendleton or Dr Dave Aldred2 coaching Jonny Wilkinson, it wasn’t their ability to do the sport that was important, it was their coaching skill that unlocked the potential of the athlete to perform.

I’m absolutely sure that this is an innocent mistake made by well meaning people when seeking to describe the support given to their teams, but it sets up a potential mismatch between employees and their employer and perpetuates one of our challenges in developing ourselves as vets. We find ourselves asking the question, “What could a non-veterinary coach know about my world and therefore do to help me?” We limit our thinking and performance.

It doesn’t matter what a coach knows about your world, because they’re not there to help you with advice. They’re there to help develop your performance and that’s a skill in it’s own right.

So if you are an employer, consider what you’re offering and if you’re a job seeker or employee, consider what you need. Sometimes the support you need is knowledge based, to grow your capabilities and become consciously competent at doing something in your job role. That means you need a mentor. Other times, you’ll be consciously competent already and you need support to improve your performance or to meet a goal. This is a coaching need. Without a goal to work towards, coaching doesn’t work.

Many vets I know would benefit from coaching, either personally, as a small business owner or for building and developing teams. I know I benefited from both a coach and a mentor at my old job and in fact I still do. It’s our blind spot and we owe it to ourselves to recognize this and act on it.

Get in touch with the VBC and we’ll be able to help. If we can’t provide the service ourselves, then we know someone who can.

  1. The Chimp Paradox by Dr Steve Peters
  2. The Pressure Principle by Dr Dave Aldred

How to have an awesome meeting?

It’s a short blog this week because I’ve been consulting for one of my clients and helping facilitate a vet project they have in the pipeline. I’m really excited for them and of course I’d planned my workshop meeting and facilitation well.

However, I didn’t expect quite the level of engagement I got and I thought I’d share why the meeting was so successful.

Plasticine

(A.k.a modeling clay or Mála if you’re from Ireland.)

All of the pictures in this blog are productions of people in the room, whilst fully engaged in a very important strategic workshop. Aren’t they awesome? Who knew that we’d have some many budding Michelangelos in the room?

IMG_3039

It seems counter-intuitive to actively encourage a person’s mind to wander whilst you want them “in the room” for their meeting. Surely you want them focused and on task?

In a creative workshop such as the one I ran this week, we started with a problem and a group of folks to try and solve the problem, or at least to come up with the first iteration of a solution. There’s lots of evidence to show that the average human attention span is in minutes and runs in cycles. In a room of several people the challenge is to let the natural variation in the cycle of attention run, whilst trying to engage the team in a flow experience, which you might recognize as being “in the zone”. When you get in to a flow experience, time passes imperceptibly and people become deeply absorbed in what they’re doing. The quality of work is high and the experience in pleasurable and highly rewarding.

Pleasurable meetings? Really?

There are lots of flow models, but essentially in the creative scenario that we needed, we had to let the mind wander outside of the room, to alleviate the risk of boredom and to stimulate creative thought. Massaging plasticine, building Lego, using a fidget spinner and doodling all fit in this category. It enables your higher unconscious thinking to flow freely, in a mindful way. The skill of the facilitator is to then harvest the creativity and focus the outcomes in a framework for the team.

Here’s a suggestion on how you can do that.

  • Agenda and prework: Have an agenda that people can align with in advance. Set a simple pre-work task to get people in the mood of the meeting in advance, e.g. “bring an example of something that interests you on the topic of the meeting.”
  • Set up the room and have your tools ready. A few quid on plasticine, a bucket of Lego and some high protein snacks will help. Schedule and stick to the breaks or perhaps even schedule a walk as part of the meeting to freshen things up.
  • Frame the meeting objectives: Ask for personal objectives for the meeting or use the prework examples to get people thinking about the subject matter.
  • Let the subject go wide: The facilitator lets the subject run in different directions, whilst keeping the end in mind. They should be asking open questions, coaching the team and helping them drill down on ideas. This is the plasticine section and the longest part of the meeting by the way!

IMG_3035

  • Consider an exercise in the meeting where the team get off their bums and move around. A Post It note ideas boards, a white board or flip chart scribble session helps consolidate ideas and move the team towards consensus. Get them to draw what success looks or feels like.
  • Focus: As the meeting nears completion, start to focus the team on the stated objectives. Build the roadmap or action steps coming out of the meeting and start to build SMART goals that the team can use to keep each other accountable.

Post meeting follow up is always a challenge. A dry set of minutes isn’t anything other than a record of the meeting. Consider what is required. Is it an action list, a project plan or activity tracker? Or is it to evolve thinking? Certain people will go home and continue working on the meeting subject on the train home, in the shower or at the gym as well. Consider how you’re going to capture that energy and thought productively too?

Having a great meeting or workshop is a skill and requires planning and practice. Start small and invest in how you gather people together to do work: It will pay dividends.

For small business coaching, facilitation and mentoring, the VBC can support you. Get in touch and you too could have a team of micro-mascots on your windowsill.

Why having a clearly defined role & accepting it are two very different things

I’m a mid level cycling geek. I love nothing better than being out on a bike, especially a mountain bike and when I’m riding I find it’s often a mindful experience. I don’t get the same kind of flow experiences whilst running or doing other kinds of sport, although skiing gets me pretty close too.

Over the years I’ve read all kinds of books on the sport, whether it’s about Lance Armstrong and the conspiracies around him or more recently about Team Sky and their stellar performance in world cycling over the last few years. Sir Dave Brailsford is well known in the public psyche as one of the architects of this success. As I was thinking about my blog this week, one of his quotes about clarity of role came to mind:

  • Do the guys understand the teams’ strategy and the plan going in to a race?
  • Do they understand their own role in the plan?

The final piece of the obvious jigsaw is Role Acceptance.

Ask Sir Bradley Wiggins about role acceptance as his team mate Chris Froome rode away from him at the summit of La Toussuire in the 2012 Tour de France. Sir Brad’s autobiography makes a cracking read on the subject.

The concept of a strategy, tactics to deliver and people with the responsibility to deliver them is not new. Role acceptance is linked to company culture, but in the context of the average vet clinic it requires us to ask us some challenging questions. I’ve written before on culture and recruiting for culture and this is an extension of that thought process.

Our specific veterinary problem is that the pressure brought on by urgency in managing the clinical cases exacerbates our cultural and people challenges. Urgency usually trumps importance when it comes to task management. Urgent can take over by accident, but one way to help manage it is to ensure the important stuff is well thought out before urgency takes over. That means taking time to work on culture, strategy, tactical delivery of tasks and ensuring all team members know their role in the plan. Team members should be held accountable for that role too.

So here is the call to action. Answer the questions yourself first. If you can, that’s brilliant. If not, you’ve got some thinking and planning to do.

  • Does your clinic have a clearly expressed strategy?
  • Does your clinic have a plan for delivering on that strategy?
  • Do you know your role in the delivery of the plan?

And critically: Do you accept your role in the delivery of the plan?

I’ve come across many situations in clinic and business over the years where the strategy is clear, the plan is sound and people have the tasks clearly delegated to them. Yet the plan has not been succeeding because role acceptance has been an issue.

If you or your team haven’t accepted your roles, for whatever reason, then trouble lies ahead. It can be a real challenge to manage a person who hasn’t accepted their role in the plan. Usually it stems from having a divergent vision or belief about why they do what they do. Most people can explain what they do really well. Few can explain why as succinctly.

If your team doesn’t share the same vision and the same “why” of why you do what you do, then it’s unlikely they’re going to pull in the same direction and become a high performing team.

There’s a famous phrase, “Get the right people on the bus first and worry about them being in the right seats later”. Have you got the right people on your bus? Are you on the right bus? Don’t get caught up managing the seats on the bus if someone’s on the wrong bus. You’ll never make them happy and it might be time for a grown up conversation with them. It’s scary to approach this kind of conversation but usually both parties benefit, even if there’s a parting of the ways. Get the wrong people off the bus.

Engaging your team in building a shared vision, strategy and tactical delivery can reap dividends. Ensuring everyone knows their role and has accepted it is the final piece to get right.

The VBC can run a facilitated workshop for your clinic and coach you through it personally. We can help you work out job descriptions, roles, and responsibilities and help you roll them out. We’re not legal experts but we can also help you work through some of those difficult conversations you might need to have.

Drop us a line to set up a confidential chat, we’d love to hear from you!

Why vets need to be adding value for their clients

I’ve been asked to create a number of podcasts for a friend’s business, which is called Carefree Credit. It turns out they like my blog and think I’ve something to add to their offering. Well, I’m flattered and of course I will because it’ll help me too. I’m writing them now and have even bought a fancy lavalier mic to ensure the sound quality is great. And that’s where my thought process for this blog started.

What are you doing for your clients to add value to their experience?

Carefree Credit works with veterinary practices to offer zero percent interest finance for pet owners. It’s simple, straightforward and offers a critically important payment option for veterinary practices. It’s an every day fact of life that in the course of offering the best of animal care we incur costs for the owners. We all know that vets aren’t great at communicating this properly and I’ve written before about the pros and cons of pet insurance. Most practices offer credit to owners accidentally in the form of bad debts and this is devastating for the practice finances. Adding a 0% interest payment option from an appropriately set up credit broker means you have three options for payments; pay now, payment plan or payment via insurance.

Using consumer credit for your clients should instantly simplify your bad debit management and significantly increase the accessibility of your veterinary care for owners.

So why do they need my help? Well, it turns out they want to add value for their partner practices. They already add value for their clinics in terms of cash flow and bad debit management or client options and client satisfaction, but they want to go further an demonstrate even more value. Why? Because they not only want to be a service provider, they want to be differentiated and critically they want their customers to succeed. Only then, will they succeed themselves.

For example, they have a list of practices whose clients come directly to them for a payment solution because their own practice doesn’t offer a payment plan. Imagine the value they could add to those practices, if only the practice concerned would work with them. Adding value with free content is part of their overall marketing plan. They have to go above and beyond with their offering to engage with these clinics. That’s where my podcasts in.

Looking at it from my perspective, why am I happy to help them and give away some of my content? It adds huge value to my business in terms of business development, introductions and PR. Clinics get some great free content and can see what I do, which should generate business leads for me. Everyone’s a winner!

So where are you with your added value proposition? How much time, energy and resource have you allocated to that? In the first instance it should be part of your annual marketing plan with a budget and it should have a calendar of activities against it.

Turning up and just being a vet is not good enough anymore.

However, it doesn’t mean that you the vet necessarily have to do it. Be the best clinician you can be. But it does mean that someone in the practice needs to have it as part of their job description or you have to outsource it.

Typically, added value items are free to consumer. They are used at the top of the marketing funnel to drive awareness, consideration or conversion to charged services. Alternatively they can wrap around paid for services, enhancing or supporting the use of the product. If nothing else they’re designed to stimulate an authentic conversation with a potential or actual consumer.

Here are a few hints and tips to adding value to your offering.

  • Have a marketing plan for the year and start with a return on investment mindset. Technically, added value services are a Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI), in that they are classically given away and don’t generate a direct cash ROI. This is because their influence is felt in another way such as recommendation, net promotor score or satisfaction surveys.
  • Map out the different elements of the marketing plan
  • Decide which core elements you want to promote and budget for them
  • Work with your team to allocate roles, responsibilities and accountability for each activity and each element
  • Create a workflow for each marketing activities, with a time line or Gantt chart, key performance indicators and ROMI assessment. It doesn’t need to be complex, but it is an essential part of marketing planning.
  • Chart the progress of the activity using the KPIs and ensure a consumer feedback loop to improve the offering over time.
  • Keep a look out for local collaborators who could help you add value. If there’s a mutually beneficial opportunity, then it needn’t cost money as you help each other out.

By the way, it is possible to have an added value fail. That microphone I bought? The company’s free app that should enable my iPhone to use the mic properly hasn’t been updated since mid-2106 and therefore doesn’t recognize the latest mic. You would have thought that one of the worlds biggest microphone makers would have sorted that out wouldn’t you? If the conversation isn’t fulfilling or authentic, then your consumer engagement will be fleeting. Put it this way, that app didn’t last 5 minutes on my phone.

So what veterinary examples are there? Numerous is the answer and I bet you’re doing a bunch of them already.

If you need help with your marketing planning or working out the ROMI on the following examples, get in touch:

  • Nurse Clinics
  • Weight management clinics
  • Vaccine reminders
  • Consumer newsletters
  • Practice and website information sheets
  • Telephone advice
  • Medicine compliance programmes

If you don’t measure the ROMI, why are you bothering? If nothing else this week, reflect on what you do and consider whether they’re really adding value or whether they’re lost revenue or just poorly leveraged or measured.

The VBC has been doing this for years and we’ve got some great tools to help you drive your marketing. Drop us a few lines and we’ll call you back