On this week's episode, Dr. Andy Roark and veterinary practice management nerd Stephanie Goss look back at the past year and talk about some of the the leadership lessons they've learned. Together they discuss learning to lean into the uncomfortable things, how learning to have patience is key as a leader and how slowing down is sometimes necessary when you want your team to eventually get faster. Let's get into this episode….
Do you have something that you would love Andy and Stephanie to roleplay on the podcast – a situation where you would love some examples of what someone else would say and how they would say it? If so, send us a message through the mailbag! We want to hear your challenges and would love to feature your scenario on the podcast.
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Do you have something that you would love Andy and Stephanie to role play on the podcast – a situation where you would love some examples of what someone else would say and how they would say it? If so, send us a message through the mailbag! We want to hear your challenges and would love to feature your scenario on the podcast. Head over to the mailbag and submit it here: unchartedvet.com/mailbag
Hey everybody, I am Stephanie Goss, and this is another episode of The Uncharted Podcast. And sadly, we are down to the last two episodes of this year's season. But, we've got some good conversation and I'm hoping that the holidays don't keep you all away from listening to this episode and next week's because they were really fun discussions.
So this week, Andy and I had a great conversation. We kind of took a look back at 2023 and talked about some of the leadership lessons that we both individually learned through our work in Uncharted as a company, through participating in conversation with our Uncharted community members and our experiences in the clinic over this last year. So lots of lessons learned. Some of them really, really good ones, some of them a little challenging, maybe a little bit painful. But ultimately, this year was a year of growth and we had a really good time getting into the weeds, discussing some of our favorite lessons learned. So now let's get into this.
And now, The Uncharted Podcast.
Dr. Andy Roark:
And we are back. It's me, Dr. Andy Roark and the one and only Stephanie, another Turning Point of fork stuck in the road, Goss.
I love it. How's it going, Andy Roark?
Dr. Andy Roark:
Oh man, it's crazy. We're sitting down here to do our end of the year episode. But as we're recording it, we haven't really started the holiday yet. And so I'm just kind of like, I wonder how I'm going to feel when we get to the end. But yeah, things are good here. Just looking ahead. I thought that things were going to slow down a little bit right around now, and they have not. They have just-
Kept on going.
Dr. Andy Roark:
Yeah, they've just gotten super, super busy. But we are getting ready to unleash the top secret project, which is, it feels weird to be talking about it because it's not out yet. And so we have kept this thing under wraps for a long time. But it's our Leadership Essentials Certificate that we're partnering with VetFolio to put out. It's a big deal. And whenever I think about the future, I'm like, man, I wonder what people think of our certificate? Because boy, we worked hard it.
Yeah. I am excited. This has been a fun thing. I remember when you and me and Ron Sosa were sitting together and brainstorming, where could we go? Right after Ron came on board, our team had changed, we were imagining the future and we just started nerding out about what are the things that our community members ask us for and what are the things that our experience in practice tells us, in terms of people needing? And we were all excited about the idea of creating foundational building blocks to then help build on when it comes to leadership and business-
Dr. Andy Roark:
… stack going, yeah.
Business skills. And so I am excited for this and I am excited… I think much to the team's dismay, sometimes you and I get excited about the thing that we're doing because we're also excited about the five things that come after that. And so I am excited about this and I'm also excited for what I know the future could hold, and all of the other things to come because we've got so many ideas. 2024 is going to be a good year. I am excited. Lots of new things coming.
Dr. Andy Roark:
It's going to be a big year. It's going to be a real big year. It's funny, when we were planning this thing out, I knew at the time we were planning it out. I was like, this is the biggest project we've ever really tackled. And we're in it now, buddy. But people don't recognize it was a dozen massive flip chart pieces of paper laid out. It was like, you've seen the top half of the first one so far. But this thing is going to be huge. But it's exciting, it's super exciting.
Yeah, it is. And it's funny because this time of year is normally, like you said, normally we kind of get a lull here in the fall and we get a chance to catch our breath. And I remember in the clinic it was the same way. School would start and then there would kind of be this lull before the holidays started and we did boarding and stuff and you're always busy over the holidays, you do boarding. But there was always kind of this time period where everybody got to catch up and I just feel like it's been going, going, going. And here we are, we're recording this at the beginning of November and we're talking about 2024. We're already planning events and I literally just recorded a podcast with Tyler from our team and our friend Eric Garcia, and we were talking about VMX and things that are happening in January. And so the world feels like it's on fast-forward right now in a lot of ways.
Dr. Andy Roark:
Yeah. I think a lot of that is us and kind of where we are. And so I was thinking about the last year sort of for us. And so we've been banging away on this project with Vetfolio behind the scenes. And man, they've been a wonderful partner. I've really loved working with them. But this thing was a huge lift and we needed a partner to do something of the scale that we're setting up to do. But it's been a lot. We ironed out those details and we're filming this stuff. And with the Leadership Essentials Certificate, the whole point was to make a learning tool for the things that people really need to have if they're going to manage other people.
And again, you have to get real specific about that and you have to really drill down. But just to say, look, if these are the things I could give you before you start leading other people or as you're leading other people. And for a lot of people, if you've never had any management training, this is if I could have you for one day, that was the general idea is if I had one day to help you as much as I could, what would I do? And that's you and I have been working with groups for the last three years, four years. And boy, we've done a lot of training and a lot of workshops. And this was you and me in Greenville looking at all of our stuff and saying, “Let's build it. Let's build the first one.” And we did.
Yeah, I'm excited because some of my favorite stuff is in this. I think we approached it very, very holistically when we were talking about it. Where do I wish, if I could rewind time and look back at new manager Stephanie and I would want… I don't know so much. I didn't really think about it in the context of how to manage other people. I think I look at this first one as what is this stuff that I wish that I knew before I started running the practice? Because we do talk about stuff that's relevant to working with other people. There's content in there about communication styles and we've got stuff in there about giving and receiving feedback and coaching and those kinds of things. And at the same time, part of it is also about how do you bring a team together and how do you start to work together as a team?
So I'm really excited for that. I agree with you, that's the stuff nobody teaches us. That's why I said I'm really excited about there's so much more because you and I have big ideas for the lessons that we didn't learn in terms of managing people, how to communicate with each other, the kind of leadership stuff that we both learned a lot of it by trial and error, but also then going and seeking our own learning and knowledge outside the industry. And so I'm really excited for all of the things that are to come. But it's interesting that you brought up looking back at the year because we were talking about what could we do here at the year-end for the podcast? And we were talking about we've got all of this stuff coming up and we talked about should we flip it forward and talk about what's coming in 2024. And I think we're excited to do that.
But today, we're not going to do that. You might think we are because we started that way. But today we wanted to talk about this year. And I said we had so much fun having the conversation with each other about some of the lessons that we learned and leadership lessons that we learned. And it's spawned some great conversations for me with some of our friends in the industry on their lessons learned and stuff. But I said, how about if we talk about some of the lessons that we learned this year?
And I think one of the pieces of feedback that we get most commonly from podcast listeners is that they love when we talk about what's happening in our lives and in our own experiences. And we've learned so much and we've grown up so much in so many ways as a team, as a company, and as an industry. There's been so much change this last year. And so I think you and I were like, yeah, let's talk about this last year and kind of our top takeaways, like what are some of the things that we learned that we want to move into 2024 with? And so I think this one will probably be a little bit different. We'll probably dive into a little bit of headspace and action. Subsequent more than anything. I think we wanted to have a conversation about what are some of the things that 2023 taught us.
Dr. Andy Roark:
Yeah. I kind of gave up on New Year's resolutions a couple years ago. Probably more than a couple. But this just never worked for me. And I don't know, I was always kind of like, “This isn't going to work. What am I doing here?” And I started thinking about, I really like having an end of year ritual. And the ritual that has worked for me and really stuck is a good reflection on the last year. And what have I learned? What would I take away? What am I glad that I experienced so that I can take that forward? And it's much less about committing to something in the future and more about just stopping and sitting with what happened in the last year. So I really like that. It's just sort of a way of, I don't know, enjoying life a bit more.
And so when we start talking about this and we're looking here, we're here doing our end of the year episode and we're sort of looking back, it's been a fascinating year. It's been kind of a tumultuous year for me personally. But not bad. It's been hard, it's been a hard year. It's been a hard year. I'm happy to talk about that. I said this to somebody recently, “I can tell you, I can look you in the eye and tell you that I am better at my job now than I was a year ago.” I have no doubts that I'm better at my job than I was a year ago. And it's because of hardship.
And so it's funny, because the only way that you know that you're better at your job is by struggling. Because if you don't struggle, you don't know that you're better. I can look back and go, “Yeah, I would do that differently. Yeah, I would set that up differently. Yeah, I would've intervened faster there and slower in this other place. And I know why I would do that, and in the future I will do that, which is why I know that I'm better.”
But you have to be able to look back and say, a year ago, this is where I was and I would not do that again. So anyway, that's kind of where I'm, as I sort of look back on the year. No regrets and everything has worked out really well. But boy, it was a year of growth for us. Just sort of looking back, for me, a couple of things happened. We basically doubled in size. Our team doubled in size. And boy, that really stretched our infrastructure. The way we talk to each other, keeping people on the same page was a much bigger problem than it's ever been in the past. Just the way that we communicate, sharing information, just those sorts of things, that stuff was a big deal.
People's job descriptions was a much bigger deal than it's ever been before because we have so many people and just not having people step on each other's toes. And again, these were all challenges. We've handled them at some level. But just as you grow quickly. And then also it's a combination of growing quickly so your infrastructure gets stressed. And we're going to tie this back to vet clinics because it's the same thing there. But you bring in, you grow quickly. You go from two doctors to four doctors and support staff for those doctors, it's the same thing. But the systems that you have get stressed. And then onboarding is really an art. There's significant art to onboarding. And I learned a lot about effective onboarding, when you can't just baby one person. I've always been able to bring on one to maybe two people at a time and really baby that person.
But man, when you've got half dozen people kind of onboarding at the same time, you can't baby them the same way. And I learned a lot. I learned a lot about doing that. And so boy, I learned a ton. Personally, it was funny. I was looking back and I kind of have a journal and I just sort of jot things down and every now and then, and I was paging through it over the weekend just because. And I saw notes from last Thanksgiving and it was last Thanksgiving and my wife was just starting radiation therapy.
She held off on starting it until after the Thanksgiving holiday. And so I was Thanksgiving and I was wondering what this was going to be like, and things like that for breast cancer. And everything has gone great because people always want to know, you brought it up… but last year was a lot of uncertainty and it was a lot of perspective taking for me. I don't know, work just didn't seem all that important for a good part of the year. I think that's probably a good thing. That's something I'll hold on to forever is clarity of perspective about what really matters. But anyway, that's where the story of my year I think, and I'm happy to share the lessons that I learned. When you think back about the story of your year, Stephanie, how do you see it? What were the big factors for you?
It's funny because I think mine for completely different reasons is very parallel to yours. I think the lesson, as far as the team goes and our growth and change as a company has been a lot. My first lesson that I thought of was we learned very much the hard way, I guess, is by doing that what works with one doctor doesn't work when you have five. And I knew that because I have done that journey in the clinic and yet, I don't know why I expected it to be different in our company. But it is true. There is growth in the things that you pointed out, knowing how to communicate with each other, having clear roles and responsibilities and job descriptions. We went through that journey together as a group.
And I think the thing for me this year, as far as work goes, this year was a lot about learning to step back for me.And it's interesting because I would agree, I think you have grown so much. I can see so much growth in you and change in you over this last year, and I can see it in myself. But I remember when we were onboarding a bunch of our new team members all at once and it was fun and exciting and it was also painful for me because, and I mean that in a good way. My whole career to this point, being in the clinic, onboarding is my jam. I love it, I love talking about team culture and building and that is my place. And this year was really, for me, was about stepping back and leaning into the pleasure of getting to watch you do some of that. And with a bigger group. You've done it with our smaller team, and it was really fun to watch you grow and change as a leader.
And there have been moments when we've done podcast episodes where I'm like, “Oh, Andy said it first.” He said, “What would your handbook say?” Or he's like, “What would you do with job descriptions?” And it's been really exciting for me. And at the same time, it's been really hard because I am a natural doer. I want to help. I want to get things done. And so the inclination for me is to go into problem solving mode and just do the thing. And so this year I think the growth for me and the lessons have been about learning to step back and sit back.
But I would agree with you, the number one at the top of my list was definitely that idea that what works with one doctor doesn't work with five. And you've got to figure that out for yourself. And there's no going around it. It is the mountain that everyone has to climb. There is no going around it. If you make those changes, you will have to figure it out. And the journey to figure it out is going to be different. Our journey as a team was different than anybody else's because we're made up of different human beings that bring different things to the table. But the actual journey is the same, one that all of us have to go on. There's no skirting around that.
Dr. Andy Roark:
I think that's important. No, no, I think that that's really important. I think that was one of the lessons for me as well, is it's always great to get advice. And there's definitely smarter ways to approach problems in other ways. There are some problems that are just going to be painful, they're going to be hard. And a lot of it revolves around other people and human beings, meaning you are trying to get a group of people onto the same page and get them to communicate. It's not a computer problem where you're like, “Oh, if I run the right code, everything will click into place.” You go, no. And especially you've got people who have done things a certain way and now you're asking them to do it a different way. And I don't think there's any way that that's not hard. It's always going to be hard.
I don't care how graceful or smart you are. I think that I kind of naively thought that I could talk my way through it in a fairly pain-free way. And I don't think that's possible. It's too complicated. There's too many people, have too many different expectations and wants and needs and concerns and fears and insecurities. And you're just going to have to manage your way through that. And it doesn't have to be terrible, it doesn't. But I don't think it's an easy path. But I think the alternative which is not doing it, I think that's a worse path.
Yes. It's funny that you said that because I think the second thing for me really was getting to this place where I realized and truly I think understood that for true growth to happen and for us to really get to a happy place, but get to a place of good communication and safety and where when you just walk in the door to the clinic and everybody is happy to be there, you've got puppies and kittens, everybody's working well together, the emergency walks in the door and it just runs so smoothly and everything just gels. When you have a day like that, to get to that place where everything just jams so smoothly, it takes the hard work and it takes being uncomfortable. And there will be painful parts and that growth, we don't grow without discomfort.
And so I think for me, the second thing was really focusing. We did a lot of focusing as a team and as a group this year on communication. Because when you're small, it's like when you have one doctor and you're all working in the same space, you can shout out things to each other and communicate across the room. When you move into a 4,000 square foot building that has upstairs and a downstairs, you have to learn how to communicate differently because it doesn't work to just shout across the treatment room to somebody else and have things happen. And it was the same for us within our team. And so we did a lot of focusing on communication and the foundational stuff. And so I think for me, the lesson that I learned is if we really truly want to create a space, and I knew this from the clinic, how important psychological safety and good communication within a team was, I knew how important that was because in the clinic I had experienced it being really, really good and I had experienced it being really challenging and the space in between.
And so I kind of knew that lesson. But again, I don't know why. I just assumed it would maybe be radically different not being in the clinic and doing it as a team. But I just really came to that place where I realized that if we want to have psychological safety and we want to communicate really well and we want to work really well together, when you're a group made up of human beings, you all have to get okay with being uncomfortable and leaning into the fact that it's not always going to be puppies and kittens and it's going to be hard work. And we have to be okay with that discomfort. And I think this year was a lot of learning that lesson for me of just sitting in the moment.
Dr. Andy Roark:
Yeah, there's a lot of unpack there. I think the defining if overarching theme for me, if I had to be like, what was the Andy Roark chapter? The title of the chapter this year was patience. It was learning to sit in discomfort, as opposed to just flailing around and trying to fix things because sometimes we flail around and we make it worse than if we just sit with it for a little bit. And I guess I would start with that. I would say it's patience.
So key things for me this year, I was thinking about this recently, and it came to me, so we do our all hands meetings on Friday, we get everybody together and talk about how the week went. And we had a lot of meetings that were absolutely great and we were like, “Man, this is amazing. Everything is going really well,” high five. And we keep a really positive attitude. But then we had other weeks where things would sort of end and everybody would kind of be like, wah wah. It was hard. All right, we made it.
And again, we're human beings. And so even with the most positive culture, you still have these times when you're like, “That was hard.” But the thing that I realized at some point about halfway through the year was how radically different one Friday was to the next Friday. And there would be Fridays where I'd be like, “This is amazing. This is the best job ever.” And then next Friday I'll be like, wah wah. And when I realized how often I went from one to the other in one week, it kind of clicked in my brain how much can change in one week. And so that was one of the first things about patience is there's things that happen and you go, “Oh my gosh, we've got to fix this. This person can't continue to believe this or say this,” or whatever. And it's like, it's amazing how much just a little bit of time, 48 to 72 hours makes in how you feel about things and how big they seem.
And it's always scary to talk about things that are big or try to fix big problems. I'm just trying to think of an example to make up. But it would be something like just say that you had an angry client, you had an angry client at the clinic. Man, the day that happens, it feels big, especially if the thing they're angry about feels valid. You're like, “This is awful.” It feels so huge. If you can just not freak out for 48 hours, if you can just get through two days, three days most, it's not going to seem like that big a deal.
It's like, yeah, it's a thing. Yeah, we're going to have to deal with it, but it is not catastrophic. And I finally had that emotional maturity I think to say, just because you are wildly uncomfortable right now doesn't mean you have to do something. You can just sit here and relax and you can start to think about what you want to do. But if you give this a couple… I'm not talking about not calling the client, we deal with the client. But just as far as perspective on the team and the company, it's amazing how much a couple of days will give you peace and help you get some better perspective.
So anyway, that's true. It's true, dealing with people, you'll have a behavior that you don't like and it feels like if you don't jump all over this right now, it's going to be catastrophic. And the truth is, as long as you don't let it go, probably in a couple of days it won't seem like that big a deal to you. It won't seem like that big a deal to the person who is involved in it. And it can just be an easier conversation in some cases just to give things a little bit of time.
And the last part is sometimes, it's funny, I'll go home and I'll be exhausted. So you're just kind of burned out and you go home and you're like, “This is terrible.” I think the knowledge that, you know what? I bet that I won't think this is terrible at the end of the week. If I still feel like this is terrible one week from now I'm going to really think about doing something differently.
And I learned to say that to myself and I would make a note on my calendar, pay attention. And the truth is, a week later I'm riding high, because I got thank you notes and somebody was really excited about what we did and we had some wins, some great outcomes. And it's just amazing how often I can say to myself, all right, I'm going to make a note of this. And if in one week I still feel this way and I continued to feel this way, we're going to get serious. And we're just going to see where we are. It's amazing how often a week later I'm like, “You know what? That was not a big deal. I was taking that way too. Not a big deal.” So anyway, those are the first part of patience that I kind of learn.
Yeah, that makes sense. I've been thinking about it a lot in the context of the podcast, and we get such wonderful emails in the mailbag. And that's one of my favorite parts of my job is getting to read through all of the messages from all of you listeners, is so much fun. And I think about it and I was looking back at a lot of the letters that we got this year and realizing how many of them had to do with the uncomfortable. And a lot of it has to do with conflict, a lot of it has to do with communication, miscommunication, challenging personalities, toxic cultures. There's so many different facets of it. And at the same time, I think at the heart of it for a lot of us is discomfort and the hard stuff. The reality is we can't ignore the hard stuff.
And so I think I love your perspective because I think a big part of the healthy work this year for me was defining some of those rules for myself and giving clarity to those rules of what am I going to do for processing time? How am I going to decide if this is uncomfortable? To your point, is this uncomfortable in the moment because all having a bad day or is this uncomfortable and I actually need to do something about it? Whether it's dealing with a client who is maybe over the top nasty to someone in the practice or dealing with a team member who was having a bad day and was really mean to another team member. Okay, you can recognize that they're having a bad day, but that doesn't necessarily mean the behavior doesn't need to get called out.
And I was thinking about how often we get messages that have to do with avoiding the uncomfortable, because it's part of the human experience. None of us want to deal with the discomfort and the suck. But I think that has been part of the journey. And honestly, one of the things, we have several people on our team and you are one of those people, but because you'll acknowledge and you do not like conflict. You are not a conflict person. And I have seen you grow tremendously, I think, in terms of the way that you approach it and the way that you're looking at it. And we have our teammate, Tyler has set some goals for herself this year on communication and it's been really fun. She and I have had some really great conversations about the hard conversations and how do we have them and working through some of them. And it's amazing how often, as human beings, we tell ourselves stories in our heads and how often we make things so much bigger than they actually are.
And it's amazing how many times I've had follow-up conversations with friends, even with my kids or with you where it's like this thing that we were dreading and then we deal with it and we deal with the conflict. We're like, “Oh, that really wasn't as bad as I was expecting,” or “It was as bad as I was expecting, but I feel so much better for having dealt with it.” And I think that's part of what I love getting about getting to do this podcast with you is we get so many of those messages from people who are like, “What do I do?” And I always laugh at how often you all give us the answer in the letters. People know what they need to do, but they're just afraid of that uncomfortableness and the conflict.
Dr. Andy Roark:
They're hoping that we'll tell them something that they don't. It's like you clearly know what has to happen here.
Dr. Andy Roark:
All right, so you and I talk about communication styles a lot. And so actually, back to our Leadership Essentials Certificate with VetFolio, Stephanie's got a session on communication styles because people communicate differently and that, as a thing is one of the sessions that we covered because it's so important. Anyway, when you teach that, one of the things that I love is the fact that there's research backing up the idea that our communication styles can absolutely change over time.
Dr. Andy Roark:
My favorite example of this is, and I hate to gender it, but the research is this way. One common time that we see people's communication styles is in mothers, when women have children. That is a time in your life when your communication style might actually change and it tends to become more direct because you often have little people and you don't have the time to not be clear about what you want. And it leeches out into the way you talk and the way you communicate with others. And so there is research saying that… it's in women, but I don't think it probably has to be. But it's people when they have little kids can get more direct in their communication. And you understand why. I think that this 100% also happens if you are leading a team and that team gets to be a certain size because when you've got… first of all, when you're not in charge, you can be non-confrontational AF. And when you have a couple of people, you can do the soft touch. You can kid glove them, you can be like, “Hey buddy, listen, how you feeling? Things good?”
And then you can take 27 minutes to get around to, “Hey look, could you wipe down the exam room when you're done? Is that okay?” And you can do that because you've got three people. And at some point though, you get enough people, it's just necessity. You're like, “Hey, I need you, don't forget to wipe down the exam rooms, please. Thank you my friend.” And that's it. And you say it because that's all the time that you have.
And I definitely hit that part of my life of just being like, look, that's it. The way I started this journey, this is what we teach when we teach conflict management stuff. But it's like for me, the big motivator was at some point I realized I have to pick my poison, which means I can either spend 27 minutes asking someone to walk down the exam room, which I don't have, and I can do it again and again because people are going to keep forgetting, and I can live with that suffering of having to have this long thing. Or I can live with the suffering of just being direct kind and I can do this well, but I can live with an awkwardness of saying, “Hey, I have to ask you for a favor. Will you do this thing for me please? Thank you my friend, I really appreciate it.” And then go on.
And I'm like, boy, the suffering of the latter is a lot less than the suffering of the former and I don't want any more suffering, and so I just do it. But I recognized it and you were not there. It was when Maria and I were working together and you were out. I regret it because I wish you'd seen this, because you would've absolutely died. We were working together with this group in person. And so me and Maria Pirita were there and we were doing case studies. And we told them, we said, “Okay, you've got this. You have a gossip problem in your practice, and it's coming from the lead technician.” And that's like you've diagnosed it. Let's go ahead. Let's jump, how do we address this problem? We were just talking at a high level. So great, that's what it is. How do we address this problem? And the first person raises their hand and goes, “We hold a team meeting about gossip.” And I just sat there and I looked at this person, I was like, that's Andy Roark from seven years ago.
I saw this person so clearly. And I almost burst out laughing. It was so funny, like you have gossip problem and it comes from this one person. Hold a team meeting about gossip. And it's funny because this other person who'd been a manager for a long time was like, “I would just go talk to the person, tell them it's not acceptable.” So I asked the person who said that, I was like, “Why do you say that?” And she's like, “Because I hate conflict.”
Dr. Andy Roark:
It's so funny. I said to the group, okay, what's going to happen when she goes and has a team meeting and another person goes, “The people who really try hard and bust their butts are going to freak out because they think the meeting's about them. And the person who's doing the gossiping will be like, that person needs to shut up.” And it was this perfect picture of conflict averse Andy from eight years ago just being like, “Guys, I need to bring everybody together.” As opposed to just being like, “Gosh, you're killing me. You got to stop, buddy. You got to stop.” So funny. But I saw my younger self in this person, in that moment.
It has been fun this year to look back and see, okay, we've grown. Whether it's seeing changes that we have made as a whole group, or like I said, there have been moments where I have watched you and I've been trying to be good about telling you. Because as a leader, one of the painful lessons that I learned in the clinic was just because you're the leader doesn't mean that you don't need to hear feedback, and good and the constructive. You need both. And so I've been trying to be intentional about giving you praise the way that you praise the rest of the team because it is important to hear it back. But there have definitely been moments where I've sent you a message and I'm like, “Do you see old Andy? Do you see yourself in what is happening right now?”
Dr. Andy Roark:
Again, you can do it with five people. With five people, you can be everybody's friend and bounce around. But when you cross the 12 person mark heading up at some point, I'm like, there's just not enough hours in the day to not be more direct. That does not mean you just had an episode when we're recording this. You had the episode with Phil Richmond that you two did that just came out. And I didn't listen to it, but Phil Richmond… just kidding, it was a great episode.
Phil Richmond has this saying where he says, “Honesty without empathy is cruelty.” And it's like you can be direct. That does not mean you have to be cruel. You can be very nice and also just matter of fact about what you need. But that's been a huge thing that I learned is picking my poison and just say it.
And I'll also tell you, when you have more people, oftentimes not saying it clearly… talk about picking your poison. It's a lot worse poison to sort it out later because people imply different things and then you're cleaning things up and you're trying to get people back together, when you could have stopped it all by just saying, just so everybody knows this is not what we're doing. I just want to be clear. I'm not interested in doing this. This is not where we're going. And some people are not going to like that. But I'm going to say it clearly now and then we're going to go on. But I do not want to have to sort it out individually later on.
Well, it's like you were saying, when you have a bigger team and you don't have the 27 minutes to have the roundabout conversation before you finally ask somebody to do something. You want to be more direct and be clear. And the level up that we've kind of been learning to make as a group and as a team is not only do you have to be clear, but you have to think ahead and set it up for success to be like, what is my expectation? I don't just want it to happen this one time that you clean the exam room, but I need it to happen every time. And so figuring out how to be clear and really leaning into Brené Brown says clear is kind, and really leaning into how do we make our expectations known? And I think that kind of goes along with the idea that the bigger the team gets, it really is a different process.
And you can say to somebody when there's three of you, “I want you to go clean the exam room,” and it can get done really clearly. But to your point, when you say to a team of 10, “I need somebody to go clean the exam room,” not only is there going to be the, “Well, is he actually talking to me? Do I need to go do it? But I'm doing this thing and that's more important than what you're doing.” And there's all of that. But then there's also, if you ask 10 people how to go clean the exam room, you're probably going to get at least five different answers. And so if I as the leader have an expectation in my head, I need to be able to communicate that really, really clearly. And so I think that there has been a lot of that growth for us is figuring out that clarity. And I think a lot of the lesson that we both have learned, but that I think has been kind of your mantra for part of this year is we need to slow down to be able to go fast.
Dr. Andy Roark:
Stop reading my mind.
But I really do think that recognizing that change happens and it does not happen overnight.
Dr. Andy Roark:
Oh, gosh no.
We're a change averse industry where if everybody listening probably can think of at least two people on their team who hate change. Because that's just us vet med, you know?
Dr. Andy Roark:
I love change.
Dr. Andy Roark:
It's freaking hard. It's hard. Changing yourself is hard. No, I'm going to tee up on this. That was exactly my next point and where I was going is one of the big lessons for me was slowing down to go fast. And I have always gone fast to go fast, and it has worked really well for me. Don't get me wrong, I get more stuff done than anybody I know. Again, I'm not trying to… it's not all positive stuff.
The cappuccino machine at work.
Dr. Andy Roark:
It is. I crank out espresso and I get stuff done and maybe not things that need to get done, but they get done. But I have always gone fast to go fast. And so going back to the example of cleaning the exam room, and I learned with this growth and really in the last year, this goes back to patience, because this is really hard for me because patience is not my strength. But me, my growth in the last year has been developing the internal strength and it is strength. It is an effort for me. It's exhausting for me to hold back and to not go around individually and tell everybody to clean the exam room because it's not done yet. Because what I found is if I just, “You need to clean the exam room. Hey, somebody clean the exam room. Guys, can somebody clean the exam room?” What happens is nobody can clean the exam room right now and I'm mad, but I have no idea what they're dealing with. And so I'm being unfair. I'm getting frustrated.
And the people who care the most are the people who are feeling the most pain because they know that I'm angry or they know that I'm frustrated and they're doing their absolute best and they still can't get there, and that makes them upset. And those are good people that you don't want to burn out. And so the first thing is, my instinct is go around and rattle cages until it gets done, which works at a small scale. But then what happens is everybody gets loose at once and they all show up in the exam room at one time and now they're arguing with each other over who's supposed to clean the exam room, or someone's in there cleaning it and someone else says, “Hey,” after they're three quarters of the way done, someone sees them and goes, “Hey, I already did that.”
And they're like, “Oh, I wondered why this is going so fast.” But still they just spent time doing something that somebody else had already done because I asked another person and they're doing it in radically different ways. I know it sounds silly, but all these things are true and they're an analogy for everything else that happens.
And so hear me out. As the team has expanded, I have had to learn to be patient. And yes, I would tell someone, “Hey, could you clean the exam room? Hey you, can you clean that? You person, can you do that for me?” And just ask and just be okay with it? But if I want to fix this problem, ultimately, it involves slowing down. It probably means bringing all the techs together, not just one, which means I probably have to wait until the end of the week or next week when we have a meeting and I'm like, “I got to wait until next Wednesday to tell everybody about cleaning the exam rooms?”
Yes you do, because otherwise you're just making noise, you're sending Slack messages or emails saying they're getting a ton of them. And it is like going fast means everybody hears the same thing and they hear it together. And they can all ask questions and they can all get the same information. And now we're all on the same page and we can all move forward. And it might also mean the doctors need to be there. It might mean that I need to speak separately to the doctors, the doctors get this information. And you go, “That's ridiculous.” In my experience, I shot myself in the foot so many times the last two years of pushing to go fast and then spending twice as much time doubling back because some people did not get the message and they're frustrated or they were confused or they didn't know what was happening.
And honestly, at some point, it becomes faster to wait until next Wednesday and do this right and communicate it to everybody and then start holding people accountable than it does to run around and try to have a half dozen side conversations, which are just going to confuse people and they're going to talk to each other and get information at different times. It's just going to be a mess. And so that internal strength to add the problem to the agenda next Wednesday, as opposed to attack the problem right now. God, that's hard. But it is like I'm learning. But it has been so challenging for me. But it's good, but it's good. I know it's the right thing to do and I know I am proud of how far I've come in doing that. Man, it's not easy.
Yeah, well, you should be because you've worked really, really hard. The whole team has worked hard, but as a leader you really leaned into this is a challenge for me. This is not my strong suit and I recognize that I have to overcome it and so I'm going to work on it. I think it's the same too I think from the clinic perspective because I remember being in the practice and I remember growing it very quickly and feeling like all of these things are breaking. It's all breaking because we've got 10 new people that we're trying to train at once. Coming out of Covid and we had hired a bunch of people and it was great and everything was falling apart. And I remember feeling like, we've got to plug all these holes right this second. And there was so much flailing about, trying to solve all the problems at once, and it was really, really painful and it was messy and there was lots of confusion and lots of miscommunication.
And the lesson of learning to slow down and just telling myself, which has really become a mantra is that you've got to slow down. Rome was not built in a day. And the only person that has the expectation that this problem get fixed tomorrow is probably actually me. The reality is maybe it's the kind of problem that clients expect that you fix right away and knowing how to prioritize those things. But the vast majority of the challenges, particularly when we're talking about communication challenges and conflict challenges within our teams, those things don't change overnight because they didn't get that way overnight. It's like that stank mouth that comes in and you get that chihuahua mouth and you open it and the owner's like, “I need to get on your dental schedule tomorrow.” Yes, yes, there's disease here. And yes, we've got work that we need to do and full well that you're probably going to extract half that mouth. But it didn't get that way overnight.
And it is okay, we can do the education, we can start the steps and we can get them on the schedule three weeks from now when we can fit them in. It does not have to be an emergency. And it's funny how we know that and how easily that comes when it's the conversation about that chihuahua mouth. But when it comes to our own teams and it comes to the human beings, we struggle so much with that, myself included, to remind myself, I don't have to fix this overnight. And even if I want to fix it overnight, I can't fix it overnight. It's going to take time. And we have to sit with that discomfort sometimes.
Dr. Andy Roark:
God, you and I are so up in each other's heads right now. But that was say you talk about sitting with discomfort, that is sitting in discomfort. And to know, yes, this is a problem and it is not a high enough priority for me to pull the resources away and direct them at this problem to make that worthwhile. And so I am going to sit here and allow this problem to continue. Not because I can't fix it, not because I don't know how to fix it, because it's not the right time to fix it. And I have other priorities that we are addressing, and this is going to get fixed, but not right now. God, that's hard. But it's absolutely vital.
Let's take a short break here and then we'll come back and I want to talk about what I've seen in you in the last year and the number one… because you've grown as well. I'm going to fluff your pillows when we get back. Fluff your pillows and talk about the growth I've seen in you and what it's meant to me. So let's take a quick break and we'll get back.
It's finally here. That's right, our very first Uncharted certificate. What's that, Stephanie? Well, I'm glad you asked. See, Andy and I had a conversation along with the members of the Uncharted team where we were wondering what skills does a leader have to have? And we talked about the fact that as leader, you have the ability to shape your team's culture. And there are some very specific skills that are needed and unfortunately, those kinds of skills are most often not taught to us. And so we sat down and outlined seven of the crucial building blocks skills that any leader should have, and we are putting it out into the world in partnership with our friends at NAVC and VetFolio, we have launched the certificate through VetFolio's platform.So it is seven workshops that are all broken out into modules. We start with talking about building trust and relationships, how to set a vision for a team, and even a more granular, how to figure out what your core values are as a human, as a smaller team within a bigger team and as a practice as a whole.And then how to use those core values to make decisions to communicate, to really run your practice as a well-oiled, in-sync team. We talk about communication styles and using DiSC as a tool for how you communicate better and more effectively as a team. We talk about how to give feedback, how to do coaching. And that applies whether you're someone's positional boss or not. We have to talk to each other as human beings and practice.And so we dive into how do we do that and how do we do it in a way that feels less scary than it might feel to some of us. We talk about how to get team buy-in, how to get everybody excited about ideas and initiatives in our practice. We talk about how to set priorities and then how to achieve those priorities and get stuff done. I am thrilled that this is now available for all of you and there's much more where this came from. So head on over to UnchartedVet.com/certificates. That's right, certificate with an S at the end and check out the Leadership Essentials course. You can get the link from there to VetFolio. You can buy one piece, you can buy all seven and get the certificate as a whole. But either way, we are so excited. And now, back to the podcast.
Dr. Andy Roark:
All right. So you've been very kind, but I want to point out one of the things that I saw with you as-
Wait. Before you change the subject, you have to put on your own crown because I'm super proud of you, friend. This year has been really, really hard and that is one of the lessons you have taught me and I have learned and I have changed, and I'm becoming more comfortable with being in the spotlight. But you too, it's the same. You deflect the compliments and you're going to sit here for a second because the growth as a leader has been huge.
And I think it's funny because one of the things we did with our community this year was have them look back and force them to hold the trophy, man. Take the time to let it sink in. Because to your point about setting New Year's resolutions, so often, we look ahead from the perspective of like, well, this was a hot mess and so here's how I'm going to fix it next time. And I think this has been, just the conversation so far, has been so much fun because thinking about the things we're talking about, there's been a lot that has gone sideways, but so much that has been good about this last year. And so much growth, and I think it's really important for you as a leader to just sit here for a second and be really proud of yourself and your team and the kind of space in veterinary medicine that you're helping us all make because it is a good place.
Dr. Andy Roark:
Well, thank you very much. That really means a lot. So I will hold that trophy. I appreciate that.
Dr. Andy Roark:
It's been good. And again, we said we had a big year, we tackled really big projects and some of it didn't work. You know what I mean? And we ran into headaches and we're like, this is not the solution we thought it was going to be, and we're going to backtrack. And that's just what it is. Some of the things that I've seen you do well, one of it's the personal thing and was the organizational thing. But your comfort in stepping up and presenting in public and being in the spotlight, that was not what you like. You like doing podcasts where you sit in your closet and you just talk to me, and that's basically what it is. You're just like, “I'm very comfortable.”
It's a true story.
Dr. Andy Roark:
It was so funny how off guard I was caught the first time you had a panic attack going to talk to 50 of the nicest people that I knew. And I was like, “What is wrong with you? We talked to literally 10,000 people a week on the podcast.” And you were just like. I was like, “There's like 50 people. They're all nice. We know these people.” And you were like, “Oh my God.”
And then I saw you this year in a room of like 600 NABC, and I couldn't get into the room. They were like, “I'm sorry, sir, this room is full.”
You can't come in.
Dr. Andy Roark:
It was so funny. I only got in because Eric Garcia was there and he has power and let me in. That's the only reason I got in. So what is that? But from the organizational standpoint, you have really grown in running and managing big projects. And we just didn't do a lot of big projects.
But the classic Stephanie Goss approach, which I hope you don't mind me letting the cat out of the bag, but it was procrastinate, procrastinate, panic, and get it all done. And like, bam. But that doesn't work when you're doing international programming. You know what I mean? And we're setting down one year agendas for these projects that we're working on. They're just huge. And you have adjusted and adjusted and pushed farther forward and just grown your discipline in being, “I know that there's no screaming deadline right now. But I also recognize and understand the scope of this project and know there's an internal deadline that I've created that has to be honored and met and communicated.” And I just feel like neither one of us, buddy, had experience in running projects of the scope that we have been doing recently.
And so sort of tying that back to the vet clinic, at some point you're talking about getting AHA certified or you're talking about changing your PiMS system, or you're talking about building a new building. Those are projects of a scope so far beyond starting an employee the month program. Not even remotely. And you got to manage them differently, and you have got to really lean into that patience. You've got to think farther ahead, you have to be disciplined in starting the work and setting your own deadlines. I'd like to hear you comment on that, but you and I are both creative people and I worked the same way for a long time in that deadlines would show up and I would stay up all night and get the stuff done. And at some point, I ain't young enough to do that anymore.
Dr. Andy Roark:
But then the other thing is the project gets so big you, it's not a one night project. You need to be work long. And so what I have seen from you in the last year is your ability to run big programs and we're running some big programs has just really leveled up multiple times. So congratulations to you on that. That's what I have seen in you and I've mentioned other people.
Well, I appreciate that. Thank you. And I think it's so funny. I have no problem with you calling me out, part because that is just my personality since I was a kid. I'm a procrastinator. And I work well under pressure. Our friend Phil Richmond, in fact, he and I will often text each other when we're doing our last minute procrastination work because we're two peas in a pod in that way. And I also think that being in the practice honed that for me in not a really healthy way. And it's funny because when we're recording this, I had just recorded an episode with our friend Eric Garcia and Tyler Grogan, and we were talking about our experiences unplugging because I thought that'd be fun. This is our second year of it. And so we're doing a look back on what changed this year.
But one of the things that we were talking about was recognizing how some of this things that became skills for us in the clinic actually probably were pretty unhealthy. And this was one of them. So as a manager, I put everybody else first and you take care of the clients, you take care of the patients, you take care of the team. Everybody else comes first and then all my work starts. And so I learned how to be the master procrastinator and work under the deadline and the pressure because that was what I thought the expectation was of me. And in doing a lot of personal work this last year, I did a lot of painful work looking at myself and looking at my career. And what I recognized is that the majority of the time, I put that expectation on myself. Nobody else said to me, “I expect you to work a 10 hour day and then take eight hours worth of work home and get it done.”
I did not. I was avoiding conflict in not saying, “Hey, you've given me 25 things and I have time to do 20 of them. Which five things would you like me to put on the back burner?” I was afraid of that hard conversation, whether it was with my practice owner or my field leader when I was in corporate practice. I put a lot of those expectations on myself. And so I think that was one of the lessons that I learned. And Eric and Tyler and I kind of got into that in the episode and I'm excited because it was a really good conversation about how often we let the clinic environment, we celebrate that. We celebrate those days where we don't take a pee break or we work so late. Because we're constantly one-upping each other. It's like, “Oh, let me tell you about the week I had.”
And I think that that's a really unhealthy place to be. And I found myself there. And when I switched to being out of full-time practice and working full-time with you, it was a big shift for me to kind of look back at some of that and recognize that I wasn't necessarily ending my full-time practice career on a good note, and that there was a lot of unhealthy things happening. And I think that that is true. And so that has been work that I have really had to do this year is recognizing that in myself and like you, recognizing that this is a superpower, but it's not a healthy superpower, the ability to procrastinate and work well under pressure and get things done. And so I have had to be really intentional about it, and I am still very much a work in progress, and I still screw it up.
And there are still days where I'm like, “Oh God, I'm going to put that off because I just can't.” And also recognizing that it isn't just me, but in a much healthier way. Because it wasn't just me in the practice, but I put everybody else's needs before my own because I thought that that's what I was supposed to be doing. And I think this year for me has really been about dismantling some of those ideas about what it means to actually work together and be a part of a team and recognizing that everybody has different needs. And sometimes it means putting other people's needs before yours and sometimes it means stepping up and saying, “I have 20 things on my plate and you've given me 25, Andy, I need your help. Which five would you like me to take off my plate today? Because I can't do it.”
And when we've had those hard conversations, the things that have been reiterated to me by you have been that like, “Oh yeah, I never would've expected you. I would never want you to take that home.” And that's where I mean so many times as a manager, I put that on other people, but it was the story I was telling myself in my head. There are so many times where I told myself, “My practice owner is going to be mad if I don't get this done, so I'm just going to take it home and get it done.” Whereas if I really stopped and asked them, I don't think that I would've gotten the same answer that I let myself tell myself in my head.
And so I think that that has been part of it is for me, that's definitely has been the third lesson, is that getting curious about things and challenging the stories that I might be making up in my head has been the best gift that I've given myself this year is when something happens just asking, is there more to this story? What else could this mean? Could I be making something up in my head? And really slowing down to ask myself those questions, because it is really hard work.
Dr. Andy Roark:
Yeah, I agree with that. I think that there's a level of discipline, again, that comes with growth of when it's a small group and it's all for one and one for all, and we can only do as much work as five people can do. I think throwing in and helping everybody as much as you can, I think that's noble. At some point, the hospital or the business gets so big that if you throw in on every emergency, you will never go home. You know what I mean?
And so I think that's a good way to look at it. And so at some point, it's the discipline of as you grow, it's staying in your lane. It's staying in your lane, which it sounds so counterintuitive. But it's sort of like as the organization gets bigger, it's more helpful to stay in your lane than to just dive in and try to rescue other people. It's better for the other people, it's better for you. I think that that's really interesting. But anyway, all of these things are just things that you think you learn as you get older. And at some point you get tired and your choices are, I'm going to readjust my workflow and my expectations and I'm going to kind of set some boundaries in how I do it.
And it feels like you're letting the team down. Sometimes you're like, “I'm setting boundaries,” which means I'm not going to work as hard. And it's not even necessarily that. It's just looking at what's truly important and saying, “This is how much energy I have to give or how much time I have to give. I'm going to make sure that I'm putting it into the place that matters the most.” And again, that's that discipline and that patience. And boy, it's hard. It doesn't come naturally. It is an intentional choice that's challenging.
100%. And I would say that that was the most powerful thing that I took away from this year, and I think is a good ending spot. One of the stories that I told myself as a manager and with our team was that I have to be available. A good teammate means being available. And I was the manager who would answer the call. I answered the phone in the middle of the night, I answered the phone at four o'clock in the morning. I thought that I was doing a good job if I was constantly plugged in and constantly connected to my team. And it was no exception when I came on board with our team.
And it was interesting because when I started working with our team, I was working around my clinic schedule. And so the expectation was that I was doing work at odd hours. And I just realized this last year that I told myself a lot of stories about that in my head in the sense that I was like, “Oh, I have to be there,” and if somebody asked me to do something, I got to get it, I got to do the thing for them. And what I realized the most powerful lesson that I learned this year was that I had a moment where I recognized I am getting crispy. I am a little burnt out, and I am tired and I am frustrated, and we're going through so much change. And if I'm going to keep going, I've got to make some changes. And I took my work email and I took Slack off of my phone entirely. Didn't just turn off, removed them both from my phone. And it was just like, the world is going to explode.
And you know what? The world did not explode. The world did not end. And there were times where there have been things that have been important. And what I realized is if it's really important, you guys all know where to find me. You can pick up the phone and call me. And that's how I know that it's important. As a manager, I was so afraid of that. I was so afraid of disconnecting and taking email off my phone or not being available to my team. A lot of that was wrapped up in what I was telling myself about what it meant to be a good leader.
I think it was so funny because I was so afraid of it. And now, I actually look forward to coming in on Monday and starting the day and not feeling like I'm starting behind. But nobody actually had the expectation… if Andy gets an idea and he sends me a message over the weekend, he's telling me because he's excited to talk about it. He's not telling me because he has the expectation that if he sends me a message on Saturday that I'm going to pick up and start working on the thing that he sent me. But there was something in my head that the voice that was telling me like, “Oh yeah, I'm really excited about this too,” and if I want to be a really good employee, then I'm just going to go ahead and get the thing done because I know that we have other appointments and I know that we've got other stuff on our schedule is not dissimilar to the clinic. And I think that that was a really powerful life lesson for me this year, was learning to lean into some of those boundaries.
And I think some of it comes from, we often get told how often that our listeners say to both of us, “You guys just seem to know and be talking about the thing that I needed to hear when I needed to hear it.” And it's so funny for both of us because I can't tell you all how often Andy and I will do an episode and go, “Gosh, that has so many parallels to what's really happening behind the scenes or in our own lives right now.” And it's true for us as well. And so I think that that was very much the case. We got a lot of great emails from the mailbag this year that really helped us go, “Maybe we need to look at this.”
Dr. Andy Roark:
Yeah. Yeah. Well, it's been a good year. It's been challenging in a lot of ways, but challenging in good ways.
I am looking forward to 2024, and I hope all of you are too. It's going to be fun to see everybody out there. And it seems crazy to be thinking that we're recording this in November and we're already talking about events in January and February and beyond. But I'm looking forward to seeing everybody out and about in the vet med world in 2024, and there's lots of exciting things coming. It's going to be a big year.
Dr. Andy Roark:
Cool. I'm looking forward to it. Thanks guys.
Have a great week, everybody.
Well, gang, that's a wrap on another episode of the podcast. And as always, this was so fun to dive into the mailbag and answer this question. And I would really love to see more things like this come through the mailbag. If there is something that you would love to have us talk about on the podcast or a question that you are hoping that we might be able to help with, feel free to reach out and send us a message. You can always find the mailbag at the website. The address is UnchartedVet.com/mailbag, or you can email us at podcast@Unchartedvet.com. Take care everybody, and have a great week. We'll see you again next time.