Why we don't hate meetings anymore
For the first two weeks in my role as hospital administrator at Bees Ferry Veterinary Hospital, all I did was “hang around” on the floor, observing operations and getting to know everyone. I discovered that clients were experiencing unreasonable wait times and service that wasn’t reflective of the amazing reputation the hospital had established over the years.
What did I do? I tackled staff meetings.
'The meetings had become a waste of time ... '
First, I asked for regular planning meetings with the owners, sometimes several hours long. I needed face time with the practice owners, but the entire team didn't have to sit through things like that.
Then it was time to tackle the monthly staff meetings. Closing the hospital for two hours is expensive, so this time needed to be used more wisely. The meetings had become largely a waste of time during which people expressed negativity and nobody instituted any structure. Here's what I changed:
• Agenda. I now run each of these monthly meetings with an agenda that is displayed for all to see. I present issues that need to be addressed and also a solution or plan to remedy the issue. For example, we discussed the extended wait times and then explored ways to better schedule appointments and better staff the hospital. I started talking to the team about statistics and benchmarks that backed up the plan so they could understand my reasoning. Today, clients rarely experience an inappropriate wait time, thanks to a trained team that understands what I have taught them about scheduling strategies and time management.
• More participation. I also made these monthly meetings engaging through interactive activities and not just top-down instruction. Team members are given topics to present to the group. This encourages them to learn something new and then share what they learned with their teammates. For example, I assigned a veterinary nurse the topic of ectopic parasites, and she prepared a wonderful presentation for the staff. Clients and patients benefit when all team members, regardless of job description, are better educated.
Team members who've been assigned special projects also present updates to the group (under my supervision). An example is the weekly audit of patient reminders. Our reminder service, Boomerang Vet, provides me a spreadsheet of patients from the week prior that don’t have proper “future reminders” set up. I review this audit with one of our veterinary assistants and he corrects the errors. This spreadsheet used to have upwards of 20 patients a week on it. Today, the average is only five to six a week. I've used the monthly meetings to teach the team about the importance of patient reminders, and a team member gives them updates on any trends he and I are seeing and how well the team is doing.
• More feedback, less internal complaining. I share positive (and negative) client reviews at meetings. When I first came on board, the post-visit client surveys were largely negative. Now, they're almost all positive, and I love being able to show the team all the compliments clients give them. They earned them!
In addition to positive client feedback, the team can also compliment each other during the month by dropping a shout-out in a locked box in the break room. We end each meeting by presenting all of the shout-outs and congratulating the recipients with praise and fun prizes (anything from candy to gift cards and maybe even something silly like a squirt gun!).
• Sharing my own inspiration. I regularly study the lessons of a personal development coach named Brendon Burchard. I've used several of his YouTube videos in staff meetings and require every new hire to watch the videos and discuss them with me. The videos I've chosen teach lessons in people skills and mindfulness. I believe it's important to provide veterinary staff with these lessons so they learn to better communicate with each other and with our clients. They learn that communications include spoken and unspoken forms. They learn that they are in control of their thoughts and the energy they project into the environment.
I think it's important to motivate and inspire at these meetings, as long as it can be done without compromising hospital operations or patient care. A team that respects its leadership will provide even better patient care and be proud of their accomplishments.