Shawn’s Blog

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.

Meet My New, Exclusive Sponsor

I’ve got a shiny new design for my newsletter masthead! Want to know why? Because I’m announcing the next step in my business’s journey: exclusive sponsorship by Veterinary Growth Partners!



My Dream

My long-term goals have always been to:
  1. be a change catalyst for the veterinary industry, and
  2. truly make a difference in your lives–the people who work, day in and day out, caring for pets.
For more than 20 years, my fans, groupies, supporters–and even my detractors–have pushed me to keep creating new material, keep challenging them, and push our profession to greater heights. I am still gobsmacked that you all continue to ask for–and sometimes even demand–more, more, more! I want to honor that desire for more with progressive change for me and for my business, McVey Management Solutions.


What I’ve Been Doing Lately

During the last four years, I ventured into practice ownership and became a partner in Pathway Partners, LLC, a management service company that owns and directs the operations of veterinary practices throughout the United States. During that time, I was introduced to Veterinary Growth Partners (VGP). VGP is a membership organization for forward-thinking veterinary practice owners and managers. The company provides a Pathway to Success through a proven management system, education, tools, resources, and savings programs.


I was so impressed with VGP’s vision that all of my practices became members. I decided to become a co-owner of the organization. And (drumroll, please)… I will be merging my consulting business with VGP! They are already the exclusive sponsor of my Pathway Planning workshops, but from here forward, being a VGP member will allow you exclusive access to my Emotional Intelligence and Conflict Competence workshops. By 2017, I will speak exclusively for VGP members or at VGP-sponsored events.


My Advice

What does that mean to you? Well, you really should become a VGP member. There’s no reason not to. I’ll sponsor your first year of membership (more details here). After that, I think you’ll find that the benefits (education, management tools, discounts, and rebates) will pay for your $300 annual membership fee many times over. Third-quarter rebate checks averaged more than $1,000 per practice–that’s for one quarter of participation in the VGP rebate programs!
And if you attend just one of my workshops, you receive an approximate value of $1,000 in registration fees, meals, and supporting materials. I know many of you have wanted to attend the in-depth, three-day sessions, and now you can! All you have to do is become a VGP member, engage with their core partners, and pay travel costs. (A VGP Practice Coach will discuss the details with you once you’ve become a member.) The first workshops are scheduled for this fall:
  • Emotional Intelligence: September 9-11, 2016, Boca Raton, FL
  • Commando Conversations: November 4-6, 2016, San Antonio, TX


How to Stay in Touch

For the next few months at least, until the merger becomes final, I will continue to post as usual on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Follow me for words of wisdom about leadership, management, team-building, communication, conflict competence, and emotional intelligence. After that, my messages will be co-branded with Veterinary Growth Partners.


Thanks for Your Support

VGP is growing by leaps and bounds, and I want to grow with them. It is through this partnership that I can get the message of “IQ/EQ: Business with Feeling” to even more veterinary professionals around the world. If you have questions about my role in Veterinary Growth Partners, please contact me or my assistant, Cindy, via email. Or get in touch by phone at 888-759-7191. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for your continued support. It means the world to me.

Change: Ready or Not, Here it Comes!

The single biggest impediment to growth is the inability to change. Building quick reflexes and a culture that embraces change will protect your business and allow it to thrive.
“The only thing that is constant is change.” –Heraclitus

How Do You Respond to Change?

Your environment is constantly changing: the people you work with, your clients, who gets elected to public office, and your teenager’s taste in friends. You can choose to interpret change in one of two ways: pessimistically or optimistically.

Pessimistic Interpretive Style

Are you filled with panic at the mention of an impending change? Are you unable to concentrate, impulsive, and apt to complain? Do you resort to sitting on the couch, sucking your proverbial thumb? Does finding alternate ways of doing things give you a headache? Do you long for the good old days? If you find yourself nodding and answering, “Yes!” to these questions, you are a pessimist when it comes to change.
Even positive changes involve loss, uncertainty, and some degree of emotional turmoil. But you will not be successful at work if you typically interpret change as:
  • Permanent,
  • Universal,
  • Internal, or
  • Scary.

Optimistic Interpretive Style

Do your ears perk up when there’s talk of change? Do you meet the challenge head on? Do you take initiative instead of waiting for others to address the problem? Do you spend your energy on solutions rather than emotions? Do you take risks, use your imagination, and keep learning? If these statements describe you, you are an optimist when it comes to change.
Change initiatives succeed because people adapt their attitudes and behaviors as fast as the practice needs them to. You will be successful at work if you typically interpret change as:
  • Temporary,
  • Specific,
  • External, and
  • Exciting.

When Making a Change

Dealing with change doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Here are some ways to make it easier:

Break down the process.

Look at each step of the change, and identify exactly where you need to make improvements.

Estimate implementation costs.

Factor in training, lost productivity, and unexpected challenges.

Evaluate your plan.

Do you need to write new procedures before you can implement the change? What can you address before beforehand to circumvent potential obstacles?

Share information.

Constantly communicate and educate. Your team should understand what the change is about, and what it’s not about. Help people see the “why” of the change. Relate it to the vision, mission, and core values of the practice. The transition won’t begin until they understand the change.

Encourage participation.

Help employees see how they, the clients, the patients, and the clinic will benefit. Emphasize teamwork. You’ll get buy-in through participation; people don’t argue with what they help create.

Get going.

Get in the trenches with front-line employees. Roll up your sleeves, improvise, and learn.

Next month, we’ll dig deeper into strategies that improve your chances of being successful when implementing change at work.

This article is adapted from content in Shawn McVey’s presentation titled, “Managing Change and Growth” and “Manager’s Guide to Implementing Change.” 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? 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!

Are You the T in Toxic?

In this blog post, we discussed the telltale signs of a toxic work environment. But how do you know if you’re contributing to the negative atmosphere? What can you do if you’re the “T” in toxic?

The Desire to Control

According to Swiss psychologist Ellen Miller, everyone has experienced some degree of neglect, disappointment, unkindness, or pain as a child. In our adult lives, we have two choices: pull it up to our conscious awareness, or repress it. Most people choose repression, because the process of becoming aware of the associated “bad” feelings is upsetting.

Controlling, improper, demoralizing, and sometimes violent behavior can be the result of the repression of a childhood trauma, especially when combined with pressure at home or work. You may be the T in toxic if you’ve developed a misguided belief that rigid standards and controlling behavior leads to better performance. Have you blurred the line between being demanding and being an ogre?

Signs You’re a Super Controller

Do any of these statements ring a bell?

  • You’re greatly bothered when people seem to get away with not doing a job right.
  • You go to great lengths to force co-workers or subordinates to maintain the highest standards at all times.
  • New freedoms in the workplace irritate you.
  • You tend to wither, tune out, or get angry when people complain about what’s wrong.
  • Disorder of any sort bothers you immensely.
  • You often find yourself impatient and easily angered.
  • You want things your way.
  • People tell you you’re too much of a perfectionist.
  • You think it’s right for people to learn lessons the hard way.
If you’re seeing yourself in this description, you’re likely a source of stress to others at work. In other words, you ARE the T in toxic!

Fix It!

Separate the negativity around you from the person you truly are. Never justify your bad behavior by blaming your difficult work situation. You can’t control what other people say and do, but you can control yourself.

How to Distance Yourself from Negativity

Implement as many of these new behaviors and routines as necessary to help you deal with your feelings more appropriately.


A daily regimen of inspirational quotes, scriptures, poems, or self-help books specific to your needs provide guidance and positivity.


Find assessments online, like this one from TalentSmart, or invest in a professional evaluation. Take stock of your interests, values, personality traits, and skills. The process of getting in touch with who you really are enhances employability, boosts confidence, and leads to a higher quality of life.


Share your feelings with your partner, a family member, trusted friend, or HR representative at work. Just speaking up is therapeutic, but you might also find that it’s easier to brainstorm solutions with someone else.


When you can’t talk, write in a journal, or blog (but don’t trash-talk anyone publicly!).

Seek a Professional

Get help from a professional counselor.

In addition, you can revitalize your career and self-confidence by negotiating new hours (and flexibility), building a relationship with a mentor, becoming a member of a strategic support group, or asking for more supervision from someone you admire. Do what it takes to enjoy your work again!

This article is adapted from content in Shawn McVey’s presentation titled, “Take the Test: Are You the T in Toxic?” To schedule Shawn to give this presentation to your group or team, contact Cindy Oliphant at 888-759-7191 or by email.