the better the surgeon, the messier the OR?
that as soon as you have a little money saved, one of your own pets gets sick or injured?
the smaller the dog, the bigger the attitude?
the nicest clients usually are unable to afford the medical care for their pets, but willingly sacrifice to provide for them?
the nastiest clients have the money to care for their pets, but want you to provide service for free?
you spend most of your day picking up after others?
when someone asks you to meet to discuss a problem, he usually means for you agree with him and keep your thoughts to yourself?
there are mornings you feel like you never left work the day before?
how easy it is to jinx yourself?
ends never meet?
best laid plans aren’t?
Murphy’s law really exists?
having a DVM or RVT after our name doesn’t grant intelligence, emotional maturity, power or authority? We still have to earn those!
even knowing it is almost time to end a four-legged friends suffering, it is still hard to do?
we can’t change people? Changing ourselves is hard enough.
you get “runs” on breeds, animal names or medical problems at your clinic?
the final word never is the final word?
time does heal all emotional wounds if you let it?
worrying is just a waste of energy?
when all is said and done, things work out?
that we work in the best profession in the world!
No one is perfect. Each of us would benefit from raising our standard of living. I am not referring to income or material things. I am referring to how we live our lives – change from the inside out.
Raise your bar. Character, integrity, emotional intelligence, empathy, respect, compassion, communication, humility, attentiveness, listening…pick a spot and start working.
Increase your standard of living. And then, watch how others react. You just might be surprised by how much influence your standard of living has on those around you.
We all have the capacity to change and become the person we want to be. Improving our self is a worthy goal and certainly required if we are to pursue the life we have always wanted.
As challenging as personal growth can be, the people in our lives can represent an unexpected hurdle. Our family, friends and co-workers complicate our ability to change. They see us so clearly as we were, they can’t see us as we could be. They will not let us change. They subconsciously label us based on our past results and are unable or unwilling to see our effort to grow. Their preconceived idea of who and what we were is so ingrained that it represents another challenge as we strive for personal growth.
This can be frustrating and we may begin to feel “I am damned if I do and damned if I don’t” as we work on ourselves. Our efforts and results aren’t recognized or acknowledged. And, quite often our efforts are sabotaged.
If we are known for being insensitive or argumentative and we are deliberately cooperative and empathetic 100 days in a row, but blow it on the 101st day, guess what is acknowledged? That we are insensitive and argumentative.
If we are known for laziness, but are industrious for several months in a row and choose to take a break one afternoon, we are perceived as “always” lazy. There are many examples we could use, but the point has been made.
Wouldn’t you agree that it is tough for others to see us in a new light even when the evidence is right before their eyes? Given that most of us have experienced being labeled to one degree or another, wouldn’t it be a good idea if we made sure we aren’t doing the same thing to others?
We need to give ourselves permission to grow and change as well as do the same for others.
There doesn’t seem to be a way to get through life without saying some pretty stupid things. This is part of being human. Open mouth; insert foot. Frequently, we don’t even realize we are doing it at the time.
Remember, you are human. You are going to slip sometimes and say something insensitive, uncalled for, rude, arrogant, self-righteous, ignorant or mean. You are going to criticize, condemn or judge. It is inevitable.
Others will do the same to you. We all screw up now and then. It is to your benefit to learn to be accepting of this flaw in others as you hope they will be with you. A little tolerance goes a long way toward maintaining healthy relationships and decreasing stress.
Lighten up! You don’t have to become defensive every time someone says something stupid. Be gracious. Over time, others will learn to do the same when you say something unkind or insensitive.
Learn to let the occasional unkind word slide by. And, learn to think before you speak!
Hold the bar high for yourself and soon others will follow your lead.
"Impossible?" Who says?!
"It can't be done?" Really?
"Be realistic." Whose reality?
"I just don't want you to get hurt when you try." Seriously, that is your biggest concern?
I say hooray to those of you doing the impossible and shaping reality your way!!
Living a life of mediocrity or living intentionally for excellence: your choice!
We can resent, complain, condemn, bellyache, bitch, obstruct, sound off, opine, castigate, excoriate, chastise, decry, whine, yammer, scream and yell all we want.
However, until we are willing to take responsibility for creating the change we want, we are just blowing hot air.
Winter is just around the corner. Time to prepare for the wet and cold. Find all the cracks and chinks in the house. Caulk around the windows. Patch the roof. Inspect the chimney. Store the summer toys. Inspect for anything and everything that needs to be repaired or fixed before the winter weather arrives.
Weatherproofing your home is a great way to assure you are ready for the winter, but some people try to “weatherproof” the people in their lives. Dr. Richard Carlson points out that weatherproofing people isn’t such a good idea. Think about it. Looking for all the flaws and chinks in another person is a negative pastime leaving both you and the other person stressed.
Remember when you were first getting to know your spouse? Remember the excitement, mystery and romance. Have you ever thought “where did the guy I married go?”
Actually, your spouse probably didn’t change. You began weatherproofing - looking for all the flaws and things needing to be fixed.
How about your close friends?
If they would just listen to your advice, they would be so much better off.
For some reason, there comes a point where we begin to weatherproof the people in our lives. We start to focus on the things that bug us or we consider flaws. Eventually, this is all we notice. Worse, we start trying to change the other person.
Weatherproofing only makes you miserable and can lead to the demise of your relationships. If you spent as much time recognizing the traits and contributions you like, respect and adore, the other stuff would fade into the background. I am not suggesting you ignore major character flaws in the people you love, however beware of weatherproofing!
If you catch yourself weatherproofing someone, try this little trick. For every negative, identify 5 positives about the person. My nephew keeps his room a mess, but he gives awesome extra-long hugs; drops everything he is doing to help his mom; tells his friends, both male and female, that he loves them AND hugs them “hello” and “goodbye”, writes poems for his girlfriend; and includes a visit to his grandparents as part of his regular schedule. With all that going for him, why complain about a messy room?
Shut the door. Be a “good finder”. Seriously, learn to identify and appreciate each person for who and what they are, flaws and all.
Every day your greatest challenge isn’t the animals you care for but the people you encounter.
We deliberately work at expanding our technical skills and the knowledge associated with our professions. How many of us work as deliberately at expanding our ability to work with people? Not many do in my little corner of the world. I don’t think this is unique. Unfortunately, it probably is the norm.
Those who are able to work with and relate to people effectively are rare and prized. Are you one of them? If not, what are you doing to make your work relationships more effective?
You don’t know what you don’t know because, if you did you would have what you don’t have. What you do know you are forgetting all of the time, so you know less of it every day.
If you want to have what you don’t have, you must learn what you don’t know and keep relearning what you do know. You know?
Read. Learn. Grow.
Really, it isn’t…
Your client isn’t deliberately late just so she can mess up your afternoon.
Your coworker didn’t leave a mess on the counter because he thinks you are his personal servant.
The veterinarian didn’t ignore your suggestion because she thinks you are stupid.
Your spouse didn’t forget your anniversary because he/she doesn’t care.
Your child didn’t wake you in the middle of the night just to rob you of what little sleep you do get.
The dog didn’t choose your shoe to destroy because it was yours.
It isn’t all about you. It is all about them.
Look beyond the behavior of others.
Once you recognize the real reasons people do what they do, you will stress yourself less. A lot less!
Clients are the reason your clinic exists. Not the pets.
Seriously, pets don’t pay the bills or bring themselves in for an appointment. Pets don’t make the decisions. They don’t take your advice. They can’t be relied upon to follow through on the treatment plan. Pets don’t encourage their friends to choose you as their health care provider. Pets aren’t loyal to you and your team. Pets don’t pay your salary.
Clients are the reason your clinic exists and they don’t care about your rules or limitations. Clients want what they want and your policies, rules, hours of operation, prices, etc aren’t important to them. Clients either accept them or not, but the details aren’t important to them. Clients don’t really care how busy you are or that you have worked 80 hours this week. They don’t care that you haven’t had lunch yet and it is already 3pm.
What is important to them is how you make them feel. Since clients are the reason your clinic exists and clients only care about how you make them feel, then how they feel is important to you. This doesn’t mean you don’t have rules and policies. It doesn’t mean you cater to a client’s every whim.
However, it does mean you need to work on building relationships with your clients such that they willingly accept your rules and policies. Build strong relationships such that clients trust you and comply with the treatment plan. Build strong relationships such that clients actually care about your team and cut you some slack when you are exhausted after working three 14-hour shifts in a row.
Loyal, trusting clients are your single greatest assets. Plus, they just might become some of your greatest friends.
Never forget the reason your clinic exists.
Big change doesn’t require something catastrophic or dramatic to happen first. Most big change starts small.
Big change can start with something as simple as a change in attitude. Or, inspiration from a good book.
Big change can happen when you reach critical mass after years of putting up with something you find mildly irritating or unacceptable.
Big change can start with a little idea that is nurtured and grows over time.
Big change can start with a spontaneous idea that feels right.
Big change can start with the weather. A little too much rain and the clinic backyard becomes a mud pit. You get tired of walking the patients in the mud so suggest that a lawn be planted. The team gets excited about a lawn and start brainstorming ideas. Next thing you know, the backyard has a concrete patio, landscaped lawn and garden, two secure kennels, a laundry shed, and BBQ. I have seen it happen. Big change can start with the weather.
Become an expert on small changes so that you become the inspiration behind big ones.
Time for a something lighthearted! These are some of my favorite quotes about animals – some are serious and some are just downright funny.
“Ever consider what pets must think of us? I mean, here we come back from a grocery store with the most amazing haul - chicken, pork, half a cow. They must think we're the greatest hunters on earth!”
“Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.”
“You enter into a certain amount of madness when you marry a person with pets.”
“Lots of people talk to animals… Not very many listen, though... That's the problem.”
“Man is rated the highest animal, at least among all animals who returned the questionnaire.”
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened.”
“Our perfect companions never have fewer than four feet.”
“I have been studying the traits and dispositions of the ‘lower animals’ (so called) and contrasting them with the traits and dispositions of man. I find the result humiliating to me.”
“I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.”
“If all the beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beasts also happens to the man. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons of the Earth.”
“The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
“Human beings are the only animals of which I am thoroughly and cravenly afraid."
“Animals are reliable, many full of love, true in their affections, predictable in their actions, grateful and loyal. Difficult standards for people to live up to.”
“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.”
“People speak sometimes about the ‘bestial’ cruelty of man, but that is terribly unjust and offensive to beasts, no animal could ever be so cruel as a man, so artfully, so artistically cruel.”
“The dog has got more fun out of Man than Man has got out of the dog, for the clearly demonstrable reason that Man is the more laughable of the two animals.”
Wouldn’t you agree that you work hard?
Wouldn’t you agree that you deserve a vacation?
So, what are you waiting for? Take time off!
What is that, you say? You don’t have the time to take a vacation because you are so busy working? If you take time off, you will come back to a ton of work waiting for you? You can’t afford to take a vacation?
You deserve a vacation. You NEED a vacation to restore yourself. But, you aren’t going to take a vacation. OK, now I am confused!
Everyone has an optimum amount of time they can effectively work. Once you become over-worked, your work begins to suffer. Plus your health and relationships will probably deteriorate. Looks to me like you can’t afford not to take a break.
Early in my career as a veterinary technician and supervisor, I discovered I could push my physical and mental limits far and I routinely did. Over time though, coming into work early, staying late and taking work home with me began to have a seriously negative impact on my life. I was tired all of the time. I wasn’t having as much fun at work. I couldn’t remember the simplest things. My temper certainly wasn’t anything to brag about. My husband learned to avoid me the first hour or two after I came home each evening. I never had enough time to spend doing the leisure activities I use to enjoy. I was quickly becoming a stick in the mud! And, I was only 24 years old. What would I be like by the time I was 50? Yikes!
Something had to change and change quickly before my current “life style” became permanent. The first step was to take some serious time off. I planned and organized at work so that I could be gone for a full month without things falling apart. I even trained a couple of the staff to take on some of my daily tasks so they could fill in while I was gone. I had accrued enough vacation time to take a paid month off.
1st rolled around and I started my 30-day vacation. I didn’t really go anywhere. I stayed home and puttered about in the garden, took day trips antique shopping, went hiking with my husband, played with my dog and read lots of great books. This was before cell phones and Facebook so there wasn’t anything to disconnect from. I took 30 days to rest and restore my brain and spirit.
Throughout the first week, I was feeling rather antsy and tempted to call work to see if everything was ok. I resisted!
By the end of the second week, the reflex to jump when the phone rang had disappeared. I was still waking up at my customary 5am, but staying up later because I was fully rested.
By the end of the third week I had gone a full two weeks without even thinking about work. I had read four books that inspired and uplifted me. I had spent many hours reconnecting with my husband and listening to him talk about things important to him.
By the end of the fourth week, I was looking forward to returning to work, but without any anxiety or pressure. I was refreshed and rejuvenated. I was ready to take on the world, but with a new commitment to living a life of priorities rather than obligations.
That was 20 years ago. I still take at least one full month off plus a few weeks scattered throughout the year every year. So far so good!
Vacation isn’t a luxury. It is a necessity. In order to stay sharp, healthy and happy, you must take time out to rest and relax. If you don’t, you are short-changing yourself, your job and your relationships.
Everyone is different. How much time and how frequently you need to take time off, is something you will need to discover for yourself. Just be sure you do and commit to doing a better job for your employer, yourself and your relationships by taking the optimum time off every year.
To expect expert medical care designed to promote
well-being and long life.
To be treated, regardless of breed or species, as deserving of compassionate, expert care.
To be gently treated as an intelligent being who is capable of experiencing pain, fear, anxiety, and stress as well as joy, pleasure, and well-being.
To be comforted when frightened, ill, or in pain.
To be taught with positive reinforcement techniques and reward-based training.
To be provided the best possible care from each member of the veterinary team.
To be housed in a comfortable, clean and safe environment.
To be respectfully and compassionately relieved of pain and suffering at the end of my life.
It has been such a busy day. Every minute filled with something.
Time to stop.
Just stop for a minute and breath.
Let the knot in your belly loosen.
Let your shoulders droop and relax.
Feel your back become soft.
Quiet your mind and focus on relaxing your body.
Just be quiet for a few minutes.
Everything else can wait.
When was the last time you just sat and did nothing but relax? No book to read. No movie to watch. No one to talk to. Just sitting and relaxing. Listening to your own breathing. Staring without seeing. Calm.
Our lives are filled with busyness. Time flies and before we know it the day is done. Months have passed. Years speed by. And we are so busy that we forget to relax and restore ourselves.
Give yourself a few minutes every day to quiet your mind and body. Find yourself restored and ready to take on the rest of your day.
Practice relaxation and you will become an expert. Start with one minute at a time working up to at least ten minutes at a time several times a day. You have the time. Give yourself the time. The busier you are, the more important restoration becomes.
Treat yourself to quiet time.
It is so easy to judge others and even easier to condemn them. Someone doesn’t fill our preconceived ideas or expectations, so we condemn them to purgatory forever. Without a thought of looking for the value inherent in each person, we make a decision and don’t let new information change our mind.
If someone did this to us, we would consider them a judgmental, narrow-minded jerk. Double standard? You bet!
Guess what? Others probably are doing the same thing to you. They may just be following your lead.
Sending them all to purgatory? Often less said is better. Keep your opinion to yourself. If you find it challenging to keep your opinion to yourself, try breathing through your nose. You can’t talk while breathing through your nose.
Better yet, change your attitude and give them a second chance.
There really is a difference between integrity and character. You can have integrity without character, but you can’t have character without integrity and courage.
I have actually seen the first five scenarios. I have seen integrity in action in each circumstance, but not character. As a person, this makes me sad. As a professional, it makes me very sad.
You are in the presence of gossiping people.
You don’t join in.
You call them on it and require they stop.
You see a coworker steal a few inexpensive items from work.
You never steal.
You call the person on it and tell them to put the stuff back or you go to the boss.
A coworker tells you she was late returning from lunch because she wanted extra time, but tells the boss she had car trouble.
You never lie.
You tell the coworker she has a choice. She either tells the boss the truth or you will. Up to her.
A coworker is always disappearing when the clinic gets busy.
You are always in the middle of things helping everyone get the work done.
You track down the coworker and give them a choice. Either she routinely pitches in or you go to the boss.
A coworker throws a patient’s meds in the trash so she doesn’t have to administer them.
You follow doctor’s orders to the “T” assuring each patient receives meds in a timely fashion
You call the coworker on it and give her a choice. Either she tells the boss or you do.
When you were a kid, you saw a group of children bullying a classmate.
You didn’t join in.
You stopped the bullies or got a teacher to do so.
Integrity is not doing the wrong thing. Character is coming forward and doing the right thing. Easier said than done? Maybe, but I don’t believe so. Do the right thing and you grow stronger.
Character takes courage. Integrity? Not so much.
There was a time long, long ago when I was uniquely talented at staying angry for hours over minor, inconsequential events. Someone cut me off in traffic? My car develop a flat tire? Someone took too long in the grocery checkout? Aaaarrrrrrgh! I wouldn’t just get angry. I would be livid, plus I had to tell everyone about it, spreading my poison all day long.
Funny thing though. By the next morning I had forgotten all about the event – literally. So, why did I make it into such a devastating situation the day before?
Thankfully, somewhere along the line, I decided to stop reacting with so much fury. I deliberately set out to learn to let things go and do so quickly. It took serious, deliberate practice. First, I only allowed myself to be angry for 15 minutes. Then 10. Then 5. And, finally only 1 minute. Diligent practice with committed intention worked. Things that use to infuriate me don’t even raise my heart rate now. If something isn’t going to matter in 10 years, why should it upset me now?
Choose your battles carefully. If you spend too much time on battles that are truly only minor distractions, you will not have the energy to fight the really important ones.
“We allow past problems and future concerns to dominate our precious moments, so much so we end up anxious, frustrated, depressed and hopeless.”
Why do we allow ourselves to get caught up in the continuous loop of worry? It keeps us from falling asleep. It wakes us in the middle of the night. It fills our mind with dread and anxiety, while it fills our stomach with knots or butterflies. We are run around in an ever-tightening circle of worry.
“Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere.”
Worry can become a neurotic habit. The mind spins out of control. It slips and slides from one frightening scenario to the next and back again. When has worry ever been productive?
“If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it's not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.”
Planning for tomorrow, evaluating yesterday and assessing today aren’t forms of worry. These are activities done with constructive intent. Worrying is the continual emotional rehashing based on negative reaction and fear.
“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them have never happened.”
When worry creeps in, gently tell yourself “enough” and instantly replace the worry with thoughts of what has gone right and what could go right. When worry slithers in again, acknowledge the fear and replace the worry once more with positive thoughts. Develop the habit of replacing worry with positive thinking and eventually, we can overcome the addiction to worry.
“If you can't sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there worrying. It's the worry that gets you, not the lack of sleep.”
Time to talk about increasing your income! Before we begin, don't forget this critical step to your financial success. Financial stability requires both offensive and defensive game. If you haven’t taken effective steps to decrease spending and increase savings, increasing your income will not make one bit of difference to your financial status. You will continue spending more than you bring in every month.
That being said, increasing your income is going to require time and effort on your part. Nothing ever comes easily, and money is no exception. Creating financial stability isn’t easy, but it is worth it!
It is not within the scope of this short article to present a comprehensive list of options for increasing your income. However, the few shared here are some of the more common. If nothing else, maybe one or two will spark a unique plan in your own mind. All of them require that you become financially educated in order to decrease the chance of failure. Each one has its own hazards so researching details on the option(s) you choose is critical.
When faced with the need or desire for increased income, most people immediately think one of two things; get a second job or earn an advanced degree. I am not knocking either route, but be sure to weigh the pros and cons.
A second job is going to take up more of your precious time, increase your tax bracket as an employee, and leave you stuck between two masters. OK, so I lied! I am knocking this one as a long-term plan. However, it is an excellent short-term plan if you are digging yourself out of debt. Taking a part-time second job for a year or two while you are paying down debt just might be the quickest way to decrease financial hemorrhage. Go for it if this is an effective short-term plan for you. A long-term second job would present major wear and tear on your health, relationships, and life.
If you are thinking about increasing your income by earning a higher degree, this could be a decent option. Before you commit to this, study the return on your investment.
I am not a big fan of pursuing an advanced degree unless it is to pursue a topic you are passionate about – with or without increased income.
Now that I have burst your bubble regarding a second job or advanced degree, let me share other options.
Presumably, you are already skilled as a veterinary technician or veterinary staff member. You are a knowledgeable member of the animal care profession. Your knowledge presents opportunities for increasing your income. Let me share a few of them.
I bet you are responsible for coaching new staff and/or educating clients as a part of your responsibilities where you work. Have you ever given any thought to lecturing or teaching as a self-employed person? There is a ready market for skilled, knowledgeable veterinary technicians locally, nationally and internationally. I know many licensed veterinary technicians who offer on-site training for veterinary staff on a large range of topics including, but not limited to management, infection control, scheduling, team work, communication, client services, emergency/critical care, radiology, laboratory set-up and surgery support. Pick your special interest and share your expertise. By the way, this is one of my sources of income plus I get paid to travel! Bonus!
Alternatively, you could develop a business offering lectures/demonstrations to pet associations (breed groups, etc), dog training associations, pet owners, etc. Or you could be an instructor with an online veterinary program. You have expertise to share. Now find who needs what you have to offer. Or identify a need and become an expert at filling the void!
If you have a talent for writing, blogging may be an option for you. Advertisers will pay to be on your site if you develop a big enough following. If you are considering this option, beware! There are many people trying to do the same thing. Study blogging from all angles carefully before you jump in with both feet!
Another option available to you due to your expertise is specialty in-home care of animals. Pet sitting for animals with health issues is very valuable to the pet owner. Most boarding facilities will not take on an animal with major medical issues. Pet owners much prefer that their beloved pets are cared for in their own home by a trusted expert.
Along the same line as in-home pet sitting is a new business just starting to spring up around the USA; in-home hospice care for terminally ill pets. This is a new market driven primarily by baby boomers who treat their pets as valued family members. Licensed veterinary technicians are in a unique position to start up self-employed businesses focused on filling this need. There are several excellent websites as well as an association for this niche.
If you want to step outside of your profession for an additional income, consider what you do at home in your spare time. Could it become an income generator? Your hobbies just might be a source of additional income if the product/service has a market.
These are just a few ideas for you to consider. Please remember that it is critical to study your options carefully. Take into consideration your temperament, lifestyle, and commitment. If you decide to start your own business, study credible resources first. I highly recommend you take advantage of all the free courses offered at sba.org before embarking on the adventure of entrepreneurship.
It is my greatest pleasure in life to mentor and coach people on money and business development. I have managed to turn this passion into a fun, wonderful business of my own. If I can ever be of any assistance to you, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com. I will not give you a fish, but will passionately teach you how to fish for your own financial stability!
We have discussed a couple of key points about money over the last few weeks. To summarize:
If you keep doing what you have always done, you will keep getting what you have always gotten. You have to change something to have change happen. The only thing within your power to change is how you think and behave. Change those and you can change your financial picture.
To have a great game of football, the team must be great at both defense and offense. This also applies to personal financial stability/success. Improving personal financial stability requires applying both approaches – defensive and offensive game.
Defensive personal finance is defined as protecting and conserving our income. This requires you watch your spending very carefully. The big, burly linebacker bowls over any potential drains to your money.
Spending money today is about making choices against tomorrow. I am not suggesting you become a miser or deny yourself completely, but I am suggesting that you spend less than you are earn. Set a financial goal and give it laser focus. Start right now because one thing you will never have enough of is time.
Making more money isn’t going to make a bit of difference if you aren’t diligently employing the defensive plays. But it takes both a great defense and a great offense to make a great game.
Offensive personal finance is defined as increasing our income. Beware here! Remember, if you keep doing what you have always done, you will keep getting what you have always gotten. That’s why a quarterback mixes up plays on the field. Repeating the same play over and over again destroys his offensive advantage, leaving him open for an interception or sack.
How do you increase your income? There are several key books you need to read to help you understand your options for increasing your income. Don’t read just one of them as each is a small piece of the puzzle. Reading all of them will help you put all the pieces together for your own financial future. I don’t necessarily agree with every point in every book, but each will contribute to your financial education.
If your goal is financial stability, you need to play a strong defensive AND offensive game on a daily basis. Next week I will play around with ideas for your offensive game (increasing your income).
Money isn’t the most important thing in the world, but it’s a lot like air – we need it to survive.
Well-managed money doesn’t make you happy, nor does having a lot of money. However, when we feel as if we don’t have enough, it seems to be all we think about. Remove the money challenges and we can focus on the truly important things in life.
We are conditioned to believe that we must have “stuff”. We continue to buy stuff we don’t really need with money we don’t even have yet. Debt becomes accepted as the norm. Unfortunately, when we do want something that actually contributes to our overall well-being or happiness, we can’t afford it due to all the “stuff” we have accumulated already.
Is life really all about working to pay for yesterday’s purchases? Instead, figure out what you really want, calculate the price and budget for it over time.
Next week I will share ideas with you about offensive and defensive approaches to personal finance.
Veterinary technicians as a group are at the lower end of the pay scale in the U.S.A. All the more reason to become money wise!
Financial stability is a process. It doesn’t happen by accident. Not even when someone wins the lottery! Most lottery winners are not only broke within 5 years, but are quite often bankrupt. Why? Lottery winners do not have the experience to manage a large chunk of money so they lose it all and then some. Financial stability comes from making a commitment to learn about money and staying the course.
Your money mindset is what is holding you back from or propelling you toward financial well-being. If you aren’t moving toward financial well-being, it is time to change your mindset by accessing new information. First, let’s look at the basic steps everyone needs to take to ensure a good financial foundation and the mindset that goes with them.
Money isn’t really money. It is time. You exchange time at your job for money. As long as you exchange time for money you are limited by the number of hours in a day/week. So, that new pair of running shoes just cost three hours of your time. The cup of fancy coffee cost 17 minutes. Lunch at your favorite fast food restaurant cost 32 minutes. Own a horse that you board at the local trainers? How many hours does this cost you? Own three dogs? How many hours of work will support these wonderful companions? Have cable? How many hours does this cost? How about that fancy new 4G phone? It cost you hours for the purchase and hours for the monthly fee.
Budget is a 6-letter dirty word! Not really. Have you ever asked yourself “where did all my money go?” A budget is one of the foundations to understanding money. If you don’t know what you have and what you buy, it is impossible to develop financial stability. What mindset creates angst when we hear the word “budget”? A budget sounds too much like having to delay gratification or go without. “If I have a budget, then there are things I can’t have because they aren’t in the budget. But, there are already things I can’t afford because I have no budget.” Hmmm, sounds like a vicious circle to me.
Sit down and create a financial picture of your current status. Identify your normal monthly expenses as well as those that occur randomly throughout the year. Write all of it down. There are tons of great books and online resources to help you create your financial picture / budget. After you have a handle on what your expenses are, you can figure out how to manage your income.
Saving money is at an all-time low in the U.S.A. “I can’t afford to put any money away right now” is the mindset. In reality, you can’t afford not to put money away right now. And, yes, you can afford to put something away every month. I will prove it to you. Keep a running list of every penny you spend for one week. Just one week. Did you buy a soda at the gas station when you filled up the car? How much did the impulse items you purchased at the grocery store total? Did you buy lunch? How about the morning coffee run? We humans are really good at nickel and diming ourselves to destitution because we go through our day in a financial catatonic state. Saving will give you options down the road.
Still think you can’t afford to put anything away? Completely stop spending your change. Put it in a jar at the end of each day. I bet at the end of each month you have somewhere between $30 and $40. At the end of the month, deposit the total amount in a savings account. Sure, this is slow, but it is steady. Slowing building your savings using this method is “nickel and diming” yourself to good financial habits and serious savings.
We already have the spending habit. Now, deliberately develop the saving habit. It is often easiest to have money automatically taken from your paycheck and deposited in a savings account. If you can’t arrange for an automatic deduction, then saving will take a little more effort on your part. Based on the budget you committed to, put away a flat dollar amount or percent of your monthly income as soon as you receive your check. I know you have heard it before – pay yourself first!
Be absolutely diligent in developing this habit. It will reduce your stress when you realize that you have, over time, saved enough to deal with being laid off your job, the car breaking down, the emergency root canal, or any of life’s other surprises.
Next week, we will talk about where debt comes into the picture for developing a mindset for financial stability. Patience! Eventually, we will get to the part where you have enough money so that money is not always on your mind!
Continuing our conversation about money, let us agree that veterinary technicians could be paid a more equitable wage. However, given the current economy in both Canada and the U.S., I would not count on a significant change in wages for a while.
I completely understand that this economy is hard on people and has placed undue stress on those experiencing financial hardship. Worrying about paying the bills and affording the necessities in life are very real sources of stress for millions of people in North America. However, those who keep their wits, think hard and develop the right mindset about money will be the ones who not only survive, but thrive – despite the economy.
Someone asked me recently how to change how we think about money so that we can improve our financial well-being. I hope to offer concrete tools for doing just this. But, let me start by sharing where our money mindset originated.
We have been taught our current money mindset by the example of our parents and grandparents, in our schools, through our government and by the media. Most of our sources of information are naïve, but well-meaning. The media and the government – not so much. Here are a few of our money mindsets.
There are many more common money mindsets. It’s a good idea to figure out yours. For, you see, your money mindset is what is holding you back from or propelling you toward financial well-being. The information you have had to date is what you have built your money mindset upon. Change the information and you can change your money mindset.
Study your priorities, belief systems, goals, attitudes, and the reasons why you believe what you believe. Study how the truly wealthy think – those that have built a legacy worth duplicating in spirit and material. Remember that the wealthy aren’t lucky. They just think differently about life and finances. Food for thought!
Next time, I will go over the basic steps everyone should take on their path to personal financial well-being.
You’ve heard the phrase “practice makes perfect”? The phrase is very accurate, but in a way most of us don’t think about. If I practice dribbling a basketball 4 hours a day, I will become expert at dribbling the ball, correct? Hmmm, not necessarily. If I am using poor technique when I practice, I will become perfect at poor technique. Practice does make perfect!
We are practicing even when we don’t realize that is what we are doing. For example, every time we lose control of our anger, we are practicing losing control. Every time we give into poor eating habits, we are practicing poor eating habits. Every time we procrastinate, we are practicing procrastination. And, the list goes on!
This is why a coach, mentor or just another friendly pair of eyes is critical. We can’t see our blind spots or bad habits. Someone with credible experience can provide us with another perspective and help us achieve perfect practice.
Want to improve in something? Practice – but make sure you are practicing the right way because you will “perfect” what you practice – good or bad.
Sometimes hysterically funny.
Never, ever routine.
A recent dialogue on our Facebook page started with a question about a fair wage for veterinary technicians. The premise was that veterinary technicians aren’t paid well enough. The ensuing dialogue was quite interesting and many good points were made.
However, there was an underlying belief that is quite common across this nation. The belief is that if we have more income we will have less financial stress. Unfortunately, studies indicate this just is not so. In fact, the more income, the more spent. Until we learn to manage the little money we currently have, we will not do any better with a higher income.
We have to stop telling ourselves we can’t afford to save any money because we don’t make enough. We must change how we think about money. We have to learn to manage a little before we can manage more.
In last week’s article, I brought to your attention the difference in power between your conscious and subconscious brain. The subconscious brain contains 4 billion neurons. This is where vision, creativity, intuition, emotion and imagination reside. The conscious brain only has 2000 neurons and houses logic in all its forms.
Most of us do not intentionally utilize the subconscious brain. What if we did?
Albert Einstein is one of the most brilliant men in history. He firmly believed in the power of the subconscious brain. He believed that his remarkable intelligence was due to his deliberate daily use of his subconscious brain.
“When I examined myself, and my methods of thought, I came to the conclusion that the gift of
fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.”
“The only real valuable thing is intuition.”
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created
a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
If someone as brilliant as Einstein encouraged us to deliberately utilize our subconscious mind, wouldn’t it be a good idea for us to begin to learn how? I recommend you start with Vince Poscente’s “The Ant and The Elephant”.
I don’t know about you, but I find it frustrating when I can’t remember information when I need it or come up with solutions to problems at the time I am faced with them. And, the harder I try to remember, the worse it gets!
Why is it that I can’t remember where I left my car keys until after I give up and borrow my husband’s keys? Why is it, that as hard as I may try, I can’t come up with the solution to a problem at work until I am halfway home that evening? Why do I wake up in the middle of the night with tons of great ideas but frequently can’t even come up with one during the day? Why can I never think of a witty come-back in response to someone’s comment until hours later when I am busy working on a patient?
No, it isn’t early onset of senility!
The explanation is simple. Dr. Richard Carlson, psychologist, lecturer and author coaches us to put some things on our “back burner”, the subconscious mind. This allows our mind to solve a problem while we are doing something unrelated at the moment.
When we have a problem we can’t solve, why do we awaken in the morning with clarity? How many times does the solution or inspiration come to mind after we have “slept on it”? Again, the back burner has come into play. Sleeping quiets the conscious mind allowing the subconscious mind free rein.
We have 4 billion neurons in our subconscious mind and only 2000 in our conscious mind. While we are busy sleeping, playing, working, reading, etc. the back burner is at a slow simmer working on whatever we have asked it to do. As a matter of fact, expending less conscious effort often improves the results.
When I was a kid, my mother used to say a prayer to St. Anthony anytime she lost something and then she would immediately quit thinking about the lost item. Eventually, St. Anthony would answer her prayer and she would remember where the item was left. No insult intended to St. Anthony, but Mom was probably activating her back burner without realizing it.
The back burner is not a tool of procrastination. It is a powerful tool for creativity, memory, vision and clarity. By intentionally honing the subconscious mind, we become faster and faster at getting the results we want.
4 billion neurons versus 2000 neurons. Tap into the most powerful personal computer you possess, the “back burner”!
There was a time in my life when I quite often found myself frustrated with others or with situations beyond my control. Frustration took many forms from mild irritation to full-blown fury. As I look back on my younger years, I realize that frustration was a deconstructive use of my energy and prevented me from gaining value from the situation.
Value instead of frustration? How? If I look at each person or situation as a teachable moment, I gain value from the circumstances without losing my emotional intelligence. Rather than wasting energy becoming frustrated by the long line at the grocers, I could look at the situation as an opportunity to learn more patience. Or, to learn more about reading people. Even to learn more about developing a relaxed attitude. The possibilities for learning are there if only I look for them.
Examples from the last thirty days:
Learn to look for the teachable moments. “What is this person or situation trying to teach me?” Every situation has its value. Find it and you will spend much less time frustrated, annoyed or bothered.
In our profession, it is very easy to work long, long days. There are many reasons we work longer days and increasingly more hours per year. Our employer requires the overtime. You feel guilty leaving on time when everyone else is still so busy. One more client just arrived and really needs YOU. The extra money is a necessity or would just be nice. I am sure you can think of many other reasons.
Give this some thought. While it is tempting or even required to work extra hours occasionally, those hours just might be stolen from your loved ones, from your health, or from your sanity. Those hours have to come from somewhere – and you can never get them back.
I am not suggesting you give up the second job or refuse to work overtime. However, I am suggesting you remember that job burnout, poor relationships, compassion fatigue and failing health are often the result of a life badly out of balance. Take better care of yourself by assuring you get proper “down time” and you, your relationships, and your career will all benefit.
When you are lying on your death bed, I seriously doubt you will say “I wish I had worked more”. Your greatest asset is time. Spend it wisely.
Remember playing the game “Simon Says” as a child? I used to play it with my sisters and the other kids on our block for hours. “Simon” was always trying to trick us into doing the wrong thing at the wrong time.
Unfortunately, many adults in North America are unwittingly still playing “Simon Says”.
“Simon,” our government says, “trust us, everything is going to be fine. We have your best interests at heart”.
“Simon,” the entertainment industry says, “fill your time with aimless, mind-numbing entertainment” and “copy the morals and habits of the stars.”
“Simon,” the advertising media says, “buy this and you will feel better, look smarter, and be more beautiful.”
“Simon,” your employer says, “you have no value other than the task you are assigned.”
“Simon,” a family member says, “you aren’t smart enough, pretty enough, or talented enough to achieve much.”
And… “Simon,” the quiet little voice in the back of your mind says, “don’t try because you will never succeed.”
Don’t play “Simon Says” with your life.
There are those who believe that leadership is for a chosen few. Not true! We are all born upside down, wet and screaming. We aren’t chosen to be leaders at birth. Leadership can’t be appointed, it is developed or not. Leadership is simply influence. And each of us leads in some capacity every day.
We lead by
We lead when
However, we also lead when
Leadership is influence. Gandhi was a leader. But, then again, so was Hitler.
Who are you influencing and in what way?
We have a guest veterinarian from Uganda who asked me a simple English language question the other day. I have to admit I was stumped on how to explain something as illogical as the plurals of mouse and moose. Got me to thinking about our language. Language is odd at best. Certainly doesn’t make sense a good share of the time. I feel so sorry for our Ugandan guest. Is it any wonder we have a hard time communicating with others when we try?
My spell check is going crazy right now!
Sometimes it appears we ran out of words. For example: Pear, pare and pair. Couldn’t we come up with three different sounding words rather than three different spellings of the same sound?
Then there are the words that are spelled identically but sound different.
Sew ewe can sea, weather yew are a native speaker of English or not, it’s a tough language to learn.
Can you come up with any other language oddities?
I was listening to an audio CD the other day of a married couple talking about marriage relationships in general terms. The wife briefly mentioned that it bothered her when her husband left the bathroom a mess after his shower. She stated that she has an “unspoken expectation” he would clean it up each time before he left the room.
Unspoken expectation – now, there is trouble waiting to happen!
How often do you have unspoken expectations of your coworkers, employers and clients?
How often do they have unspoken expectations of you?
We expect others to read our minds and know what we are thinking without us having to express it out loud. They should behave as we would. However, they aren’t us. They don’t behave as we would because they are their own person and have their own expectations. So much for telepathy.
It bothers you to find the coffee pot at work empty. Your coworkers should already know you so well that they never take the last cup without starting a new pot. Really? When did you tell them of this expectation?
Your boss gives you a work assignment and asks “would you mind?” and you say “no problem”. And, yet, you expect her to know from the look on your face that you are frustrated about the work assignment. Really? When did your boss become a mind reader? (And, aren’t you glad the boss can’t read your mind at other times?)
Unspoken expectations only lead to problems. It isn’t fair to expect others to know what you need if you haven’t told them. If you haven’t informed, you have no business becoming upset when things don’t go your way.
Think about it carefully. If you have unspoken expectations and the others have unspoken expectations, there is going to be quite a bit of preventable frustration, irritation, and anger in your life.
Speak up and give others the grace to speak their minds, too.
We start the day to the fearful racket of an alarm clock. Followed by the insistent beep of the coffee pot. Then there is the beep-beep-beep reminding us to put on our seat belt in the car.
We work to the background music of the infusion pump alarms, the beep, beep, beep of an ECG, audible countdown of the autoclave, the doorbell ringing, jarring sound of the office phone ringing, and lab machine countdown tones. Of course, the chatter of our cell phone demanding attention punctuates the entire day.
Needless to say our day is filled with electronic chaos. Is it any wonder, we are all a little crazy by the end of the day? How do we regain some our peace and quiet?
I have the great fortune of living far out in the country. Step outside the house and I can’t hear a single man-made sound for hours at a time. There is never an electronic sound. Step inside the house and there are no electronic sounds. None. No alarm clocks. No television. No phone. No beep from a microwave. The computer sound settings are turned off. All clocks are completely silent – not even a tick-tick to be heard. The house is filled with peace and quiet. Ahhhhh!
So, what is the solution to the chaos created by the electronics we can’t get along without in our professional and personal lives? Author Christopher Brady suggests an electronic fast. Disconnect from the electronic intrusions for a part of each day or a part of each week. Give silence a higher priority in your life.
This could be your last chance to influence how Mrs. Smith cares for her pet.
This could be your last chance to see your mother.
This could be your last chance to learn to scuba dive.
This could be your last chance to help your child develop self-confidence.
This could be your last chance.
I remember the last time I saw my 26 year old stepson. I didn’t know he would die before I could see him again.
I remember the last time I went kayaking but I didn’t know it would be my last. I had a feeling it might be though.
I remember the last time I had the opportunity to tell my assistant how much I appreciated her. Now she will never know.
I remember the last time I found an antique men’s bureau. The price was 50% less than I expected. I hesitated and now I can’t find one at any price.
The problem with last chances is that you never know it at the time. If you knew any given moment was your last chance, would you do it differently?
I promised you a list of suggested reading for your journey to becoming a supervisor. The top leadership authors in the USA recommend the following books for anyone serious about becoming a leader.
Remember, leaders are readers but not all readers are leaders. Set your goals and run for them. Reading just 15 minutes a day will finish a book a month.
Are you crazy??? Your co-workers will resent you. Management will work you harder, expecting you to work 50+ hours per week without compensation. Everything that goes wrong will be your fault. You will not be able to please anyone, let alone everyone. Have I scared you off the idea yet?
You don’t know what you don’t know and new assignments are always harder than they look. That being said, we need more qualified veterinary technicians stepping up and taking on the responsibility of supervision.
If you are interested in becoming a supervising or managing veterinary technician at your current place of employment, preparing now is the single most important step you can take. Waiting to prepare after a position becomes available is likely to doom your attempt. This would be similar to a farmer waiting to plant seeds when it is time to harvest. Not a very productive approach, to say the least. Plant your seeds right now!
You can’t take your old stinky self into your bright shiny future. Your current level of thinking isn’t going to get you what you want. Intentionally improve your way of thinking to improve your results. Take an objective look at yourself to find the flaws to be eliminated and strengths to be enhanced in order to take advantage of opportunities for advancement. Especially identify any character flaws such as issues with honesty, discretion, emotional intelligence, and respect. Character flaws must be eliminated right away.
Be aware that your employers believe they already know you. So does your boss, your boss’s boss and so on. They have in fact already decided whether or not you are qualified to be a supervisor or manager. Odds are they have made a subconscious decision that you are not. It is human nature to be blind to the value of the person you work with every day. Now it is up to you to prove to them over time that you are in fact just the person they need in a position of authority. Start now!
What is management looking for in a supervising veterinary technician? In the most general of terms, they are looking for someone with the following characteristics and talents:
The management may or may not be able to articulate these qualities, but these are some of the most important things they are looking for in a new supervisor/manager. Remember, they already think they know you. Don’t make the same mistake about them. In a private appointment, find out from the hiring authority where you work what they look for when recruiting for a supervisor/manager. Ask! This meeting is about them, not you, so don’t ask whether or not they think you are qualified. Wait to ask them at a later date what they would like to see you expand or improve upon before they would consider you a serious candidate. I recommend waiting until after you have identified some of the things you must improve and have begun the process.
Now you know what they are looking for and have taken the time to identify where you need to focus on improving yourself. Here are a few things to beware of as you proceed.
What you need to do to prepare for promotion opportunities?
Begin now! Today! This is your career and therefore your responsibility. Begin with PDCA – plan, do, check, adjust. Refer to the detailed description of this process in previous blog articles.
As you can see, there is a lot of work ahead for you to become competitive in preparation for the time a promotion becomes available. Still want to be promoted into a supervisory position? Then go for it! You can develop the necessary skills if you develop a plan, commit to the action and changes necessary, listen to your coach and stay the course.
Think about how frustrating it is when a pet owner confidently informs you their dog trainer told them not to get their puppy vaccinated until 6 months of age because it isn’t necessary. Or when a client tells you they diagnosed their cat’s health issue based on information they found online at a pet forum site. How about when a client informs you they expect you to perform a miracle with their pet because their aunt’s neighbor’s sister’s bird had the same problem and doctor so-and-so cured it? Clients equate opinion with fact and we all know the dangers of confusing the two. Or do we?
Be careful from whom you get your advice. The advisor may not have achieved or helped others achieve the results you are looking for in your life. Seek advice and guidance from those with “fruit on the tree”: People who have first-hand experience reaching the goals for which you are looking. Measure people based on their results, not their words.
Humans are “pack animals”. We want to be part of the pack and trust the pack even when it is jumping off a cliff or wallowing in the mud! Think about it! We get our financial advice from our family and friends who are all broke and living from paycheck to paycheck. We pay for marriage advice from a professional counselor who has been divorced three times. We get success advice from our coworkers who hate their jobs. We seek inner peace and enlightenment from religious leaders who lack both. We believe in the words of others without giving a thought to their credibility. Oh, the advisors mean well. And, they believe what they offer is accurate, but beware the source! Is the advice opinion or experience?
Even a professional title is not enough to earn credibility. Licensed financial planners go through a 2 year program to earn their certification. Those two years are spent learning economic theory, investment laws, etc. Once they have earned their certification, they are now qualified to call themselves a financial planner. Or are they? Unless a financial planner has earned good financial results for themselves and others, can they really offer credible advice to you? Yes, they can offer you the theories they have learned, but is theory going to get you the results you want? Maybe yes. Maybe no. Are you willing to take the risk with your hard earned money? Evaluate the results of any professional before taking their advice.
How about the faculty teaching in veterinary schools? I worked for a veterinary school for 30 years. The faculty DVM who taught the veterinary students how to run a business had never been out of academia and had never run any kind of business. Just how credible was he? I am not saying that the class was a waste of time. It did offer the students concepts and principles that may prove of value later. However, a good many of the lectures were not founded in proven business practices, but were only theories.
I am sure all of us have run into the professional real estate broker or agent who offers advice on which house to buy and how much you can afford to buy. Hmmm, credible? Maybe yes. Maybe no. Could there be a conflict of interest? Has the broker/agent established a track record of helping people make excellent financial decisions about their future? There are many that have the results for which you are looking. Just make sure the one with whom you are working has your best interests at the forefront and has the track record to support the advice provided.
Most people mean well but they haven’t a clue. Consider the source of advice, including the motive and credibility. Remember, the best part of advice is that you can keep what you want and throw the rest away! Just make sure the advisor has achieved or helped others achieve the results you wish to duplicate.
Earlier this week, I was in a medical center for an appointment with a physician. I emphasize the word “center” because this place is huge and laid out just like Grand Central Station with multiple reception areas lining both sides of a 200 ft long gallery. Each receptionist sits behind a high counter. Patients wait in cues literally in the middle of the walkway running the center of the gallery. Reminds me of movie scenes where criminals are waiting to be “processed”. Not the most patient friendly arrangement I have ever seen despite the fancy architecture and stylish furniture.
I had plenty of time to observe the receptionists while I waited. It looked to me as if they are as uncomfortable with the facilities as the patients. Each woman would glance in the general direction of the cue with a perfunctory “I can help the next person”. If the next person in line didn’t instantly respond, the receptionist would not notice right away because she had already dropped her eyes to her computer. Eventually, she would repeat her statement a little louder.
Not a single receptionist ever looked up into the face of the patient standing at the counter right in front of them. The highest she would bring her eyes would be to the paperwork the patient held out. Her eyes always quickly returned to the computer screen or the paperwork. Tap, tap, tap went her fingers on the keyboard as she automatically asked “who are you here to see” “name”, and “birth date”? Next would come “you have a co-pay”. The financial transaction is completed without looking any further than the hand offering cash or credit card. And, a dismissive “have a seat”.
Personally, I have made it a game out of engaging receptionists, cashiers, sales people, etc. I refuse to have them ignore the human standing in front of them. Noticing a name tag, I walked to the counter and greeted Julie with an enthusiastic “Julie, how are you?” Funny thing! Julie was startled and looked up with a hesitant smile on her lips as if she wasn’t sure what to do. As her eyes caught my huge smile, she seemed to relax a little bit but tried to slip right into the rote behavior used with all the other patients.
Game on! At her “Who are you here to see?” I sincerely replied “Dr. ___ and of course, you! I am Moira Fitzgerald and have been one of your patients for years, Julie. I count on seeing you as much as I count on seeing Dr. ___. I love to see all your beautiful rings. You are the only person I know who wears a ring on every finger and does so with style.” Now her smile is much bigger and truly genuine. “Well, thanks. I try to add a little sunshine to my day with my rings. What is your birth date?”
“Julie, your rings add sunshine to my day also! My birth date is _____”. The entire exchange took less than 2 minutes but I bet it lightened her day and certainly made me a little less anonymous. Hours later, I had returned home only to discover that the letter given to me by the physician had the wrong date on the signature. Darn!
I called the office and asked for, you guessed it, Julie. “Hey Julie, this is Moira Fitzgerald. I really need your help.” I could hear the smile in Julie’s voice as she told me she would take care of it right away. And, she did! It wasn’t 5 minutes later that Julie called me back to inform me a new letter was ready. Did I want her to hold it at the desk or mail it to me? Would I have gotten that much personal help or gotten it so quickly if I were just an anonymous patient? Not likely!
Why do I tell you all of this? Greetings only take a second, but, when combined with good heart and intentions, can create a tremendous amount of goodwill. How can we hang onto hostility or frustration in the face of someone who is genuinely glad to see us?
Greeting your clients upon their arrival can set the tone for the entire visit as well as the entire relationship. The instant a client walks in, look her right in the eyes while giving a hearty hello with a nice smile followed by either a “How may I help you?” or “Please have a seat and I will be right with you in less than ___ minutes.” Don’t take your eyes off her eyes until she responds. Regardless of how you feel or how busy you are!
If you happen to know the client’s name, use it during the greeting. We are all great at recognizing the pet, but not so great at remembering the client. Work on remembering the client as well!
When greeting an arriving client:
Think about it! Treat your client to the same type of greeting you prefer to receive.
I was visiting family in Connecticut recently when I happened to be driving about town looking for the local grocery store. Stopped at a red light, I looked to my right at the car waiting next to me. The man in the driver’s seat looked like a nut case! He was enthusiastically beating a rhythm on his steering wheel, bouncing from side to side in the seat with his head thrown slightly back and his mouth wide open.
A nut case! Or was he? He could hear the music – I couldn’t.
When we are faced with clients who seem to make bad choices regarding their pets or co-workers who seem to be getting on our last nerve, it might be a good idea to remember that we can’t hear the music of their lives. Their music may be filled with the dour sounds of financial stress, the decrescendo of the imminent breakup of a marriage, the deep fearful chords of losing their pet, or... Well, you get the idea.
Rather than reacting to others based on our own music, it would be more effective to remember we can’t hear their music, and cut them a little slack. We just might be the only light, uplifting notes they hear that day.
A farmer was spreading manure on his fields one day. He didn’t realize he had some manure on his finger when he picked his nose. When he made it home to his family, he complained “This house smells like crap.” He went over to the neighborhood bar for a beer and commented to his friends that the bar smelled like crap. The problem wasn’t where he was. He was the problem carrying the crap with him ever where he went.
I first heard this story from author Christopher James Brady.
If you keep running into the same problems – poor relationships, bad luck, no one at work likes you, can’t get a promotion, always broke - you might want to check for some crap on your finger. Take responsibility for your life. No one else can or will.
People tell me they don’t have time to improve their situations be it through reading, taking a class, joining a gym, going back to school, etc. And, yet, they have plenty of time to watch the Super Bowl, watch television, play on the local bowling league, party, etc. What they are really saying is that changing the situation isn’t a priority. They are comfortable in their misery. Even the princess finally got off the mattress with the pea! Why not you?
Most people live on “don’t wants” rather than doing what needs to be done to succeed.
I don’t want to go to the gym.
I don’t want to attend seminars.
I don’t want to lose weight.
I don’t want to give up T.V.
Don’t be “most people.”
Here are some thoughts that have helped me:
I spent this weekend attending a Leadership Conference and had a blast. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the speakers. Unfortunately, I can’t remember who said a few of them – sorry!
“Tenacious” is the 17th characteristic in John C. Maxwell’s book “The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player”. Tenacity is not something common, but is required to be successful in anything.
Why isn’t tenacity more common? Let me ask you to do a little thing. Sit in a chair with your feet firmly on the ground. Raise both of your arms as high over your head as you can. Now, raise them a little further. Why didn’t you raise them this high when first asked to raise your arms as high as you can? Most of the time, people don’t give all they can simply because they think it will require more than they are capable.
Giving all you can is just that. No more, no less. Not impossible. Tenacity is doing whatever it takes even when not convenient or easy. There are many who claim to be team players, but the real proof is when personal effort is required. Those who are committed to the team and its mission are tenacious. Their commitment is not conditional.
As a group, the team will experience challenges and obstacles. This is not unexpected. Tenacity doesn’t mean you aren’t going to experience fatigue or frustration. It does mean that you refuse to give up or let up! Agree as a team that when facing challenges, only one of you will “take a break” – emotional or physical – at a time. You will be amazed at how quickly this commitment strengthens the team overall. Maxwell put it very succinctly when he wrote “…trying times are no time to quit trying”.
Maxwell suggests three steps to improve your tenacity.
Work harder and smarter. Harder isn’t the only answer. If the sink is stopped up and the floor is flooding, it isn’t enough to mop faster – turn the faucet off! Add some smarts to what you are doing.
Stand for something. Integrity is the foundation of everything worthwhile. Without integrity, tenacity has no value.
Make work a game. Compete with yourself and strive to do your personal best each day. Faster. Better accuracy. More creativity. Better with clients. Reward team success. For every 30 days without injury, have a team lunch party. How about keeping a “cussing jar”. Any time someone loses their cool or uses a cuss word they must put a $1 in the jar. When the jar has enough money in it, then spend the money on an ice cream social or give the cash to the team’s favorite charity. Come up with other friendly team competitions that require tenacity. Reward and honor the winners.
Each time someone exhibits tenacity, it becomes easier. Stretch your will and commit to following through with tenacity even in the face of challenge or inconvenience. Reward tenacity in others. Become a team known for never giving up!
In John C. Maxwell’s book “The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player”, the 16th quality is “Solution-Oriented”. Definitely an attribute many veterinary technicians can relate to on a daily basis. Our profession requires ingenuity because there aren’t black and white answers to much of what we do. The veterinary technician profession has progressed over the decades in good part due to the fact that we have to invent as we go. We can’t afford to wait for someone else to come up with solutions to our daily patient care challenges. We have to come up with them on our own and we do so willingly.
When it comes to our work with the animals, we accept an attitude of “can-do” as our norm. Need to support a 1600lb horse as it recovers from a broken leg? Design and fabricate a sling frame. Tired of llama spit? Hang a hand towel on the nose piece of the llama’s halter. Need a way to safely turn a 150 lb dog recovering from spinal surgery? Design and fabricate a sling system combined with a electric lift. Working with feral cats? Cleaning the cages becomes simple and safe using a custom-built Plexiglas drop box. Technicians are always solving problems using ingenuity, experience and common sense.
There are more than enough people running around pointing out what is wrong. Anybody can point out problems. “It can’t be done” and “oh woe is me” are about as valuable as a nail in the bottom of your foot. Don’t tell your team it can’t be done. You are smarter than that. Find a way!!! Team members who are solution-oriented choose a more constructive perspective and see opportunities rather than obstacles.
John C. Maxwell reminds us there are four things necessary to help you become more solution-oriented.
Refuse to give up – Just because you can’t find the solution doesn’t mean there isn’t one. Involve others. Brainstorm. Get excited about finding solutions. Get your team involved. There is at least one solution to every problem. Keep looking!
Refocus your thinking – Talk the situation out with others who are also solution-oriented. Work on it when you are fresh. Get excited about the challenge.
Rethink your strategy – Reframe the problem. Break it down into its component parts so that it is easier to tear into.
Repeat the process – Be persistent. Each problem you solve helps train and condition your mind to handle the next problem. Stretch yourself! Problems are a fact of life. Get good at attacking and solving them.
Did you notice that all four are related to attitude or mindset? Do you have the attitude of a solution-oriented team player?
In John C. Maxwell’s book “The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player”, the 15th quality is “selfless”. To put the interest of others first is the hallmark of a team player. It isn’t “all about me” when you are truly part of a team.d
Being selfless doesn’t mean you are a doormat or a sucker. It does require placing the best interest of the team ahead of your personal agenda. This promotes team success which, in fact, is your success also! Nothing great was ever achieved by a single person. Nothing!
“Yeah, but I have an opinion about everything. I am smarter than just about everyone on the team, so I should be heard. I should get credit for my brains and contribution. I should have my name listed in the credits on that journal article. Hey, the idea for the research was mine to begin with! Shouldn’t I get the credit?” There is a time and place for taking credit and it is a less frequent than anyone imagines! You will be amazed at how much credit you are given if you routinely give credit away.
John C. Maxwell’s suggestions for developing a selfless attitude are to be generous, avoid internal politics and display loyalty. What do each of these look like in the veterinary setting?
Be generous with your time, thoughts, and words throughout your day. Give willingly and without resentment. When someone is busy, try to pitch in and pick up part of their workload even when you think you are just as busy. Doing one small task takes some of the pressure off the other person. Think about your teammates and what they need. How about a smile or a kind word? Maybe surprise everyone by bringing donuts in. Little things are all it takes to show people you are thinking of them. Don’t forget kind or supportive words. Encourage and compliment with sincerity.
Avoid internal politics – they are incredibly selfish. Politics are all about what “I want” rather than what is best for the team. By the way, gossip is part of internal politics. Make a point of avoiding internal politics by avoiding those who are involved. When you can’t avoid them, make an effort to turn such conversations around. Before participating in a conversation, ask yourself “is this helping or hindering the team?”
Display loyalty even when you may take some heat for it. Be loyal in your words and actions even when no one is looking. Be loyal, not defensive. If someone from another group shares negative about one of your team, be loyal enough to stop the conversation in a polite but firm manner. If someone is bashing your entire team, politely ask them not to do so in front of you and remind them that you don’t ever bash their team! If a client is frustrated or angry with a member of your team, point out that you are surprised by the client’s concern as you know Mary to be a talented compassionate technician and you will look into the their concern right away.
Maxwell also suggests there are ways to become more selfless.
Promote someone else
Never talk about your own accomplishments. I say never because this is a good place to start. Humility is an acquired trait so it requires practice. Be humble. Shine a light on other people. Brag to clients and staff about others on the team and leave out your contribution. “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” Harry Truman
Take a subordinate role
This is easy to do if you pay attention to what is best for the team. It could be something as simple as you restrain the patient and let someone else place the IV catheter. Or let someone else assist in the surgery and you clean up afterward. Simple actions, but they build your humility and help others take the lead.
Look for opportunities to give secretly. This is downright fun! Complete someone’s assignment when they are elsewhere:
Do it without being asked and without expecting anything in return.
We could all practice being selfless a little more frequently. OK, some of us need more practice than others!
“Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action.”
The 14th quality of a Team Player according to John C. Maxwell in the book “The 17 Qualities of a Team Player” is “self improving”. Those two little words describe a powerful and rather rare characteristic. Most people are focused on “doing” rather than growing. They don’t believe self improvement is a priority so they don’t believe they have the time to read, learn and grow. And, yet, the most valuable team players are those who are hungry to learn. A growing team is a learning team. A learning team is a successful team. A successful team creates the opportunity for a thriving business.
Change is inevitable. Our clients change. The veterinary market changes. The economy changes. Our vendor relationships change. Veterinary science changes. Absolutely everything around us is in a constant state of change. If we aren’t deliberately growing and changing ourselves, we and our team will not be prepared to take advantage of opportunities that come our way nor will we be prepared to face obstacles.
Team members who make self improvement a priority make a huge contribution to the team. They learn about people, communication, veterinary science, challenges, market issues, economy, history, self, etc. It is not necessary to become an expert in all areas, but you do need to stretch your brain and your capacity every day. Self improvement for your profession will also influence your personal life and visa versa. Work on both areas because it is not enough to only develop your professional mind. Learning is a staple food in the mental diet. Evolve your mind!
Remember though, it is not enough to just study. Applying what you learn is as important as the studying itself. “Self development” assumes you are taking action by applying the lessons. This implies there will be mistakes, struggles and victories. If you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t doing anything to stretch yourself and grow. And, you aren’t much use to your team if you aren’t growing.
John C. Maxwell specifies three processes required to improve yourself.
Self improvement is self directed education with a purpose. Remember that the enemy of great is good. Mediocrity is a dangerous place to rest. Grow yourself!