Your Team Has Talent!

If you find yourself repeatedly criticizing and judging your employees’ nonproductive behaviors, STOP! Put those same people in different roles, where they can do what they do best.

Identify Your Team’s Talents

Before deciding which role is right for each employee, you’ll need to understand the difference between talent, knowledge, skills, and a strengths.

A talent is a pattern of thoughts, feelings, or behavior that a person does well without thinking about it. Examples are instantly converting pounds to kilograms or effortlessly making small talk with every client.

Knowledge is what an employee knows in a factual way. Examples are the specifications of different types of computers, the physical signs of a disease, or the features of an ultrasound machine.

Skill is the ability to perform the fundamental steps of a process or procedure, such as a tooth extraction or collecting a client’s payment and entering the sale in the computer.

Strength is the ability to perform a task in a consistent, near-perfect way. It takes practice to turn a skill into a strength.To identify an employee’s talents, ask these questions:

  • What part of your job is most satisfying to you?stretching
  • Given a choice, how would you spend your time here?
  • List five characteristics that describe you.
After observing the employee hard at work, ask yourself:
  • Where does the employee focus her efforts?
  • When is she most productive?
  • When does she seem happiest?

Fit the Person to the Role

After getting to know your employees better, you will be able to put them in the right roles and give them the right projects. Write down which talents, knowledge, and skills are required for each role or project you have available. Then match up the employee to the role.

For example, you need someone to call clients whose pets are more than two months overdue for their annual exams. The goal is to set appointments. Which talents, knowledge, and skills are required for the role? You need someone who:
  • Easily converses with people (talent)
  • Knows all of the reasons why a dog or cat should have an annual exam (knowledge)
  • Enjoys talking on the phone (talent)
  • Is persuasive (talent)
  • Can schedule appointments in the practice management software (skill)

Two employees are available for this project. Beth has a knack with people, is familiar with the practice management software, has worked as a technician, and loves the challenge of turning a “No” into a “Yes!” Mark is a manager who is skilled at organizing and jumps at the chance to improve the day-to-day operations of the clinic. He is a computer whiz who loves process. Mark is a nice guy but doesn’t have any sales experience or much people know-how.

Who is the better fit for the role? Assigning this project to Beth makes more sense. It’s inherently easy for her to talk to clients in a way that will lead them to the desired action. She has the knowledge based on her background as a technician, and she is skilled at using the practice management software. Mark may be enthusiastic and able to learn on the fly, but his talents don’t lend themselves to this project. Don’t set him (and yourself, and the practice) up for failure by putting him in a role he isn’t suited for!

Employees who are able to showcase their talents at work are engaged and happy. Put your team’s talents to work in the right roles, and watch as productivity and profit increase and turnover decreases.



This article is adapted from content in Shawn McVey’s presentation titled, “Turn Talent into Performance.” To schedule Shawn to give this presentation to your group or team, contact Cindy Oliphant at 888-759-7191 or by email.

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? Dealing with an Unethical Associate Doctor


I am a tech and work with an associate doctor, “Dr. B,” who makes what I think are ethically questionable medical decisions. It happens infrequently, but often enough for me to see it as a pattern. This usually happens when he is rushed and trying to move quickly. Dr. B is very tight with the owner. If I take my concerns to her, I’m afraid she will not believe me or will take Dr. B’s side. What’s my next step?


If you’re not positive the decisions are unethical, gather more evidence and document it before proceeding. Once you are certain the decisions are unethical, confront the associate doctor directly. Unless you believe there could be a risk to your own safety when dealing with Dr. B, schedule time to speak with him at the hospital, in private.

Describe specific examples of the unethical behavior, and explain why you believe it puts the patients and the hospital at risk. Ask Dr. B to commit to stopping the behavior. If he won’t agree to change, tell him you have no choice but to take the problem to the practice owner. Follow through and repeat what you told Dr. B.

The practice owner probably doesn’t know about the ethical violations or how they are jeopardizing patients or the hospital. But if she does know about these decisions and doesn’t care, you should find another job and report the violations to the state veterinary board.

Good luck!

What Would Shawn Do? Dealing with Employee Burnout


Our clinic has gone through some tough times, first dealing with a bad economy and then suffering through growing pains. One employee has been with us through these hard times and has contributed to our success. But now this person is slacking and showing up late, and seems resentful of our enthusiastic new hires. It seems like a case of burnout. How can I help this employee get back on the bus?


Congrats on surviving and thriving! There are many stressors that can contribute to an employee’s burnout, but the factors that typically cause the most problems are organizational culture, opportunity for growth, and fairness.

Culture: You’ve got to define it and live it. Do you have a written vision statement, values statement, systems, and processes? If not, creating them should be job number one for the leadership team. And once you’ve created them, you must hold yourselves accountable to them. Clearly and routinely communicate your vision and goals to the whole staff so everyone feels like they’re working toward the same purpose.

Growth: You need to consistently delegate and elevate. This means giving different and more responsibilities to staff that are in alignment with their core competencies and concentrating on your own core competencies. Avoid micro-managing, and allow for growth in skills and position.

Fairness: Create a clear rating policy for every employee so that everyone knows what to expect. Take a fresh look at your compensation plan. Is everyone earning a fair rate for the contribution they’re making to the success of the company? Do you have written compensation policies that you have shared with the employees? Written policies fairly applied are key to employee satisfaction.

Finally, your employee may no longer be the right person in the right seat. If you have communicated and consistently followed your vision, processes, and goals, you may need to tell this person to move on.

Good luck!

Invest in Your Star Performers

The employees who live your values, work toward your vision, and nurture great relationships with clients and team members–those are the star performers. Give them your time, attention, and resources.

Why? First, it’s good for your business. The more you invest in them, the better they will be at their jobs. Developing the right people is a much better use of your time than trying to improve the performance of the wrong people.

Second, you are not the only shop in town. There are other companies out there competing for your most talented employees. Invest in them if you want to keep them.

 Delegate and Elevate

To develop your star performers, “delegate and elevate.” Give them opportunities to take over tasks or projects that will help them grow. Give them a say in the responsibilities they will take over.

To identify delegation opportunities, ask, “What am I doing that you would like to be doing?” Or, “What I am doing that you think is more appropriate for you to be doing?”

Demonstrate Trust

Offer direction and support, but don’t micromanage. Remember, your star performers are the “right people” who are already living your organizational values. You don’t need to constantly monitor them. Focus on your own core competencies and leadership duties.

To demonstrate that you trust them, ask, “In what ways, or on which projects, am I micromanaging you?” Then listen and be open to feedback. Keep it safe for them to communicate openly.

Encourage Growth

Encourage your high performers to write their own personal purpose, vision, and values statements. As Peter Senge points out in The Fifth Discipline, it’s good for the company when employees define themselves through their own personal vision and values. During the exercise, your star performers will make connections between their own passions and goals and the opportunities and needs of the organization. Their commitment to your organization increases in the process.

To encourage people to see the connection between their personal goals and the organization’s needs, ask, “What opportunities or issues do you see that you could take ownership of, or take responsibility for solving?”

When you have the right people in the right seats, and you work to help them reach their maximum potential, everyone benefits–you, your company, your team, your clients, and the star performers. Developing the right people is an investment in your business’s success.