What Would Shawn Do? Understanding Social Styles at Work


The person we hired as a practice manager is very smart and good at her job, but her lack of communication is driving me crazy. She doesn’t respond to small talk, and I can’t seem to build a relationship with her. I keep reaching out, but she’s all about work, work, work. I don’t know if I did something to offend her, but I’m uncomfortable, and I find myself avoiding her. What do you recommend?


What we have here is a difference in social styles. Based on your behavior, it sounds like you’re an amiable. She’s either an analytical or a driver, depending on how assertive she is when she gets her ideas across. One style isn’t any better than another. Understanding how you’re different will help you approach the new manager in a more positive way.

Angry businesswoman

The main difference between you and her is how much you focus on feelings. Amiables are very concerned about feelings and want everyone to get along. They tend to ask questions rather than make statements. The worst amiable stereotype is a Chatty Cathy who never gets anything done.

Analyticals also tend to ask questions rather than give orders, but they are focused on accuracy almost to the exclusion of all else. The worst analytical stereotype is “detail-oriented.”

Drivers want to get things done. They’re task-focused and assertive. The worst stereotype of a driver is a workaholic. Neither the analytical nor the driver pays much attention to feelings, especially at work.

Remember that this IS work, and even though you’d really like it to be otherwise, you and the new manager are probably not going to be best friends. She may be overwhelmed by all of the friendly overtures you’ve been making. She may think you’re in her space way too much and not letting her get her work done. That doesn’t mean you need to avoid her. Try out some of these techniques and see if she’ll warm up to you:

  • Emphasize the rational, objective aspects of the issue you’re dealing with.
  • Speak slowly and quietly.
  • Be more formal in your speech or manner than you would be otherwise.
  • Present pros and cons, as well as options.
  • Don’t overstate or exaggerate the benefits of your ideas.
  • Follow up in writing.
  • Be on time, and keep it brief.
  • Show how your approach has little risk.

What Would Shawn Do? When to Hire More Staff


We have a 24-hour hospital that has grown tremendously recently, and we have been hiring new staff just to keep up with that growth. We have been seeing weekly revenue of $80,000 and know we could easily generate $100,000 per week.

We want to ensure that we not just adding bodies and look more closely at the level of reception and technician support we need to generate that level of revenue. Do you have a framework that you use to ensure that you are keeping staffing under control during rapid growth periods?


Great question! Generally speaking, you allocate 20% of production for technician and customer service representative (CSR) wages: 12% for techs; and 3% for CSRs, leaving 5% for benefits. A typical DVM generates $600K in revenue. That would mean $120K goes to tech and CSR support, or approximately 2 techs and .75 CSRs per DVM.

What Would Shawn Do? How to Become a Human Lie Detector


I caught my new receptionist in a bald-faced lie; I have this sneaking suspicion she’s done it more than once. How do I know when someone is lying to me? I don’t want to get duped!



People lie about many things: forgetting to lock the cage, liking your outfit, or why they’re late to work—again. Whatever the lie, it’s usually because they’re embarrassed, don’t want to upset someone, don’t want to get involved in petty hassles, or are avoiding punishment. Sometimes, liars lie due to more serious psychological problems, such as delusions or extreme vanity.

Any time you have to relate to people (your staff, your clients), it behooves you to know how to spot a lie. Actions speak louder than words, and it’s the body language you should pay attention to. Here are the signs to look for:

• Speaking in a high-pitched, fast-paced, stuttering voice
• Constantly swallowing and/or clearing throat
• Avoiding eye contact
• Looking around and looking out from the corners of their eyes
• Moistening their lips
• Blinking rapidly
• Rubbing the throat
• Crossing arms over their chest
• Constantly touching the face, especially the mouth, ears, and nose (as if covering them)
• Scratching the head or the back of the neck
• Closed, descending, and insecure poses
• Tapping hands or feet
• Always looking down
• Constantly moving from one place to another or constantly changing poses
• Projecting parts of their body (feet) to an escape route (door)

Obviously, just because someone exhibits one or more of these signs doesn’t make that person a liar. Sometimes, rapid blinking is caused by dry eyes, or throat clearing is a nervous tick. Use a combination of body language and other cues to make an educated guess about whether someone is telling the truth.

What Would Shawn Do? Hire an Associate Veterinarian Who Will Stick


Our practice is expanding, apuppy&vetnd we need to hire another veterinarian. We’ve had trouble in the past with high turnover. Associates interview well but turn out to be lacking in important ways. For example, one talked down to the staff to the point that staff members were regularly leaving in tears. Another gave away the farm because she didn’t feel comfortable charging full price for products and services. What are some surefire ways to identify a quality doctor?


As you’ve experienced, a quality doctor is more than someone who practices good medicine. Your ideal candidate must also be able to relate exceptionally well to clients and team members. Here are three things you can do to find those people.

Ask behavior-based interview questions.

This kind of question helps the candidate talk about real, past behavior rather than theoretical, future behavior. Examples:
  • Identify a specific client type you find challenging. What makes this type of person challenging? Tell me about a time you dealt with this type of client in the past. How did you handle it? What was the outcome?
  • Talk about an interaction with a client in the past few months that went badly. Why did it go badly? How would you approach it differently if you had it to do over?
  • One of our core values is honesty. Tell us about a time when you were honest in your last position, even though it was difficult for you to do so.
  • Think about the biggest challenge you’ve had with staff. What did you do to overcome it?

Conduct thorough interviews.

Ask the same questions of each candidate, and keep good notes. Conduct a phone interview first, then a face-to-face group interview with the leadership team, then a team interview (where the person doesn’t really work but observes the team at work while the team interacts with the candidate).

Check references.

Finally, thoroughly check references. Ask the same questions about each candidate, and be sure to cover on-the-job behavior.

Good luck!


If you have a question you’d like Shawn to answer in a future issue of our newsletter, please reply to this email or submit the question via our website on our contact form. (We will maintain your anonymity.) Thank you!

What Would Shawn Do? How to Hold a Brainstorming Session that Actually Works


Holding a brainstorming session with my team sounds productive and fun, yet very intimidating. How do I begin?


Brainstorming is a useful tool for solving problems. Invite people with different backgrounds and areas of expertise. Sometimes a fresh outlook comes from someone who isn’t considered an expert or close to the problem.



Before the meeting, give participants a brief explanation of the problem and its history. (This will help everyone prepare mentally.) The more specific the topic, the more you’ll be able to focus on creative ideas related to the problem. Write the objective in the form of a question. For example: “How can we better understand the needs of our customers?”


Also distribute the rules beforehand, like “Criticism of ideas isn’t allowed.” “ALL ideas, no matter how wild, are encouraged.” “The more ideas, the better.”


Encourage participants to build on or combine the ideas of others. If there are more than 10 participants, create teams. Small groups encourage more sharing.


When the flow of ideas comes to a halt, you, as the facilitator/leader, should keep the conversation going. Try re-reading every third idea, or asking each participant to select one idea and give three reasons why s/he likes it, or keeping some ideas to yourself and sharing when the conversation dies.


Brainstorming can be tiring. The session shouldn’t last longer than 30 or 40 minutes. Schedule another session if needed. Lastly, take notes, and save all ideas for future reference!


Good luck!


If you have a question you’d like Shawn to answer in a future issue of our newsletter, please reply to this email or submit the question via our website on our contact form. (We will maintain your anonymity.) Thank you!