What Would Shawn Do? How to Hold Meetings that Matter


My staff lets out a collective, resigned sigh when they hear the word “meeting.” I don’t blame them. Our clinic meetings are either time wasters or a platform for ranting. How can we make them count?


The common thread in all good meetings is ACTION. Here are the basics: meeting
  1. Meet only if necessary. Meetings aren’t the place to socialize. Avoid a gathering if the same information can be covered in a memo, email, or brief report.
  2. All meetings must have clear objectives. Outline the specific results you aim to achieve.
  3. All meetings must have an agenda. Organize the objectives so as to keep the meeting on track. Assign presenters and allot times for each topic.
  4. Watch the clock. Start on time. Don’t run over. Limit after-hour meetings.
  5. Circulate information about the meeting to everyone beforehand. Include the objectives, agenda, time, date, location, background information, and required preparation. This will make it easy for everyone to participate actively and meaningfully.
  6. Be a role model for good communication! Protect the self-esteem of participants by stopping any public criticism. Let everyone have a chance to speak, and facilitate skillfully so that one person doesn’t grandstand. Don’t use group pressure to force decisions.
  7. Take notes. Record assignments and decisions. Circulate the notes to everyone afterward.
Holding a meeting doesn’t have to be a major production. A 15-minute meeting can be highly productive if you focus on the issue at hand and concentrate on reaching a workable solution. Meetings are a powerful way to figure out — together — how to do something better.
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? Helping Your Staff Make a Good Impression


My team often shows up to work looking like something the cat dragged in. Our four-legged visitors tend to look and smell better than my staff does. Help!


Working with animals isn’t glamorous. Quite often it means sporting pee- or poo-stained scrubs and being covered in pet hair. But you have to pay attention to appearance, because clients use it to form an impression of you and your business.

Within seconds of meeting you, a client will make a number of assumptions, including the level of your self-esteem, confidence, organization skills, soundness of judgment, attention to detail, creativity, and reliability.

Here are some tips to manage your practice’s image, increase your team’s confidence, and give them a psychological edge:

  • relaxingCreate a written appearance and dress code. Tie it to the business’s mission and core values.
  • Train the team on what constitutes professional appearance, etiquette, and social graces in your practice.
  • Spell out what the consequences will be for not adhering to the appearance standards, and enforce them. Watch my video about how to handle violations.
  • Create contests for fitness improvement or best-dressed employee. Give a makeover or other image-related prize that fits your practice’s culture. The goal is to increase team satisfaction and buy-in to the image standards.

More Resources

In this video, I talk about proper posture for a veterinary-service setting.
In this video, I discuss how to talk to employees about a personal hygiene issue.
In this video, I discuss proper attire for practice managers.
Veterinary Growth Partners members should take the online course called “First Impressions: Image Management for the Veterinary Team.”
Good luck!

What Would Shawn Do? The Basics of Giving Good Phone


Our receptionists seem so curt when they answer the phone. I think they’re turning away prospective clients! How can I train them to do better?


phoneYour clients and prospective clients expect excellent service at all times. To meet the challenge, create protocols and use scripts. Have each person practice the scripts to improve tone, inflection, pitch, pace, and volume. Here’s a start:
  1. Always answer within three rings.
  2. Smile as you pick up the phone. State the name of the hospital and your name. Offer assistance. “Thank you for calling _____________ Animal Hospital. This is Tracy. How may I help you?”
  3. Affirm the person has made the right choice by calling the practice. “I can help you with that.” Or, “I’m sorry to hear your dog is not feeling well. I would be happy to assist you.”
  4. Obtain contact information. “Have you been to our hospital before? May I quickly get some contact information from you? Thank you, Mr./Mrs. _________.”
  5. Analyze the client’s needs. When necessary, triage. Ask two to four brief questions to get enough information to proceed, such as, “How old and what breed is your pet?” “How long has this been going on?” “How is he responding to you?”
  6. Make the appointment. “How soon can you bring Fluffy in?” Or, “I have an available appointment at (option 1) or (option 2)? What time works best for you?”
  7. Finally, confirm the appointment. “Great, I have you and Fluffy confirmed for Monday, December 12th at 6:30 PM. You will receive a confirmation email within 10 minutes. If you have any questions between now and then, give us a call.”
  8. If it’s necessary to put someone on a BRIEF hold, ask, “May I put you on a brief hold?”
  9. If it’s necessary to take a message, let the caller know when they can expect a return phone call and from whom.
  10. End the call. Repeat any actions that still need to be taken, ask if you can do anything else for the caller, and thank them!
Good luck!

What Would Shawn Do? Dealing with a Wimpy Practice Owner


I’m an associate doctor in a new clinic. In my last job, I worked under a more seasoned owner who held people accountable. My current boss wants everyone to like her, and people are getting away with murder. It’s super frustrating and hard for me to watch. What should I do?


When you have seen how much more efficiently things run under a leader who values accountability, it can be crazy-making to work for a wimpy practice owner. But there are some ways you could improve your situation.
  • desk

    Ask for specifics when she gives direction in meetings.

Volunteer to take meeting minutes and ask questions such as, “What date do you expect Mary to complete this assignment by?” Or “Where, specifically, do you expect everyone to write their requests for vacation time?”

  • Give your boss respectful feedback.
In private, and in a respectful way, tell her what you’ve observed. Give concrete examples of people taking advantage of her niceness and how it harms the clinic. Be nonjudgmental and stick to the facts as you see them.
  • Focus on what you can control.

She’s the boss. Once you have given your feedback, it’s time to move on. Set an example by being accountable yourself. Give co-workers private, respectful feedback when you see that their actions are not benefiting the clinic.

Lastly, consider looking for another job if your values are so far out of alignment with your boss that you’re going to be unhappy no matter what.
Good luck!

What Would Shawn Do? How to Handle Facebook Snarking


I am a receptionist in a busy clinic, and one of our technicians has been making comments and sharing quotes on Facebook that seem directed at me. She doesn’t mention me or the clinic by name, but I’m sure she’s talking about me. I’m usually very even-tempered, but this is pushing me to my limits. What should I do?Facebook Eye Roll


First, question your assumptions. Unless she named you or a specific incident that only you were involved in, you don’t know for sure that she’s talking about you. It’s really easy to personalize people’s online behavior, but you need to allow for the possibility that there is an alternate explanation.

Second, don’t fan the flame. Facebook conversations are public, and the fallout from a passive-aggressive word war isn’t worth it. If her remarks really are directed at you, and she’s hoping you’ll notice, the fire will die out much more quickly if you simply ignore them.

Lastly, work on the relationship. Try communicating with her directly about any problems between you, without mentioning the Facebook posts. Be a good listener, and ask questions to get to the root causes of the problems so that you can work together to solve them.

If she ever does name you, or posts negative comments that are specific to your role or the clinic, take a screen shot and report her to the practice manager or owner immediately. Online bullying is completely unacceptable and is harmful to you and the clinic.