This week on the podcast, Dr. Andy Roark and practice manager Stephanie Goss chat about the personal and professional challenges faced by a new veterinarian who started working at a practice where she previously functioned as a technician. They dive deep into how behaviors and perceptions from her past role have affected her current role, leading to conflicts of priority and time management. Andy and Stephanie walk through their thoughts on how to establish boundaries, leverage teamwork, and handle these challenges. The conversation also navigates strategies for better self-awareness, handling requests, and the concept of creating ‘friction' to narrow down responsibilities. Let's get into this!
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.
Submit your questions here: unchartedvet.com/mailbag
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Stephanie Goss: Hey everybody, I am Stephanie Goss and this is another episode of the Uncharted podcast. This week on the podcast, Andy and I are taking an email that came through the mailbag from a new grad who is back at the practice that they worked at before vet school, during vet school, and now after vet school because they loved it so much.
It's got a great team, great culture, great leadership, and this new grad is struggling with finding balance between, uh, the team trusting them. And the team may be asking them to do too much work, tech work, and they are trying to balance all of their doctor duties at the same time and they are finding themselves on the struggle bus.
This one was fun. Let's get into it.
Announcer: And now the Uncharted podcast.
Andy Roark: And we are back. It's me, Dr. Andy Roark. And the one and the one and only Stephanie, same as it ever was, Goss.
Stephanie Goss: How's it going, Andy Roark?
Andy Roark: It's good. How are you?
Stephanie Goss: You know, I am, I am hanging in there. It is, it is heading into the fourth quarter. It is always busy at this time of year. It feels like, you know, it's, you have kind of this lull that happens when you have kids I feel like. When they go back to school and there's summer crazy has ended, there's like this six week period where things are kind of a little bit calm and then this time of year I feel like this is when it hits and then there's Halloween and then there's fall break and then there's the holidays and it's just all rushing to meet us and so it's busy. It's busy.
Andy Roark: I did not have, I did not have a lull like that. I remember the kids going back to school and me being like, holy crap, how do we get all of this done? And it has not, it has not slowed down for me. I've been, I've been just feeling like, boy, ever since, you know. Yeah, mid-August. I feel like it's, it's, it's just speeding up.
I, I feel like it's, I feel like it's going to slow down. I, so here's my thing is, it’sinteresting. So what happens for me is, you know, in the fall work, it was super busy until December and then, when you send people an email, you try to do something in December, they're like, this looks like a 2024 problem and then they just do not respond.
Stephanie Goss: After December 15th, everything slows, it slows down. That is true. And you know, it's funny because I remember when a few years ago. When our company kind of faced up to the fact that a lot of the people we work with the last two and a half, three weeks of the year are really quiet.
And budgets aren't set for 2024. Nobody has any answers. Everybody's on holidays. And so, we made the choice as a company to look at that and be intentional and take some time off. And I remember the first year that we did it, you and I were both just like, let's record a podcast, because we both were just like, I can't just sit here for two weeks and do nothing, like, we've got, like, let's get, let's get some stuff done.
Which tells us probably something about our workaholic tendencies, but also I think now we've leaned into this healthy mix. I feel like I'm in this healthy place, I actually really enjoy it. I enjoy when it slows down and actually being able to spend time with the kids, and do things and not feel the pressure of work.
And I also really like when it gets quiet because I like having that creative time. And I like being able to, you know, be like, hey, do you want to, you know, you want to jam out on some, some ideas and, you know, plan some things and gives me time to do some, You know, reading and get inspired and that kind of stuff.
So I actually, I really like this time of year, but I am with you.
Andy Roark: I think it's because we're older. I don't– I've thought about this a lot.
Stephanie Goss: Is this your way, I was going to say, is this your way of getting back at me and telling me I'm old too?
Andy Roark: Yeah. Welcome to old age. No. So I thought a lot about this, right?
I thought a lot about this in that I, I have definitely come very far in being able to just relax a little bit and kind of let things just be.
Stephanie Goss: Yes.
Andy Roark: I do. I think there's an age component to it. I really do. In my thirties, I would work so hard. I'd be like, I need a break. And then as soon as I got a break, I'd be like, “why isn't there work to do? Clearly we're failing. This is the beginning of the end” And I would, and I would forget it was always that it was always either, you know, stress about working too much.
Stephanie Goss: Feast or famine.
Andy Roark: Yeah, exactly. It was feast or famine. And I just, I really struggled to find a sort of middle ground. And then I think, you know, when I hit, for me, a lot of things happened when I turned 42. That was, that was when I burned out and kind of got depressed and everything. I sort of just got a, a different perspective on what the heck are we doing here? I think that was a big deal for me, but I think it kind of, it kind of took that, but I don't know, maybe other people can get it earlier in their life, but I had to be in my, in my mid forties before I was like, you know what? This is okay. It's going to be okay. I, this, this personal development thing I'm working on right now is this, and it's like I, I don't know, everybody's got to make their own path and stuff, and this may sound just ridiculous, but I noticed, Stephanie not long ago, how much my perception and perspective of the world changes in a week.
You know what I mean? Like, the number of times it'll be Friday and I'll be like, God, this was a terrible week. Ah, this is awful and blah, blah, blah. And then the next week I'm like, Hey, great job, everybody. We're the best team. I love our stuff. I love what we're doing. You guys are the best. Man, I hate to go away for the weekend.
I'll see you on Monday. And I'm like. And then I realized like one week ago, I was ready to pack my suitcase and go live in the forest. Like, because that's where I was going to end up anyway. I was like, I was looking, I was literally figuring out which bridge I would live under. I was like, that's, and it's been one week and I'm like, this is amazing.
I don't think I'm alone in that. But I have, I finally recognized how different four days make me feel. And so when I start to be panicked or overwhelmed, I'm like, you know what? I am going to, I'm going to get to Thursday and I'm going to see how I feel. And then I, I, I don't feel like, I don't feel like I'm powerless because I have a plan to reassess on Thursday.
And that has helped me to enjoy the moment a lot more, you know what I mean? And so it's helped me to like, get into like downtimes and go, you know what? I am not going to freak out until the 1st of January. Then we'll see where we are. But I, I had to, I don't know.
Stephanie Goss: Note to self, put Andy's January 1st freak out on your calendar.
Andy Roark: Yeah, exactly right. You're like, happy new year. Like shut it Goss, we got work to do.
Stephanie Goss: Hey, Ron Sosa, if you're listening, put that on your calendar, prepare for the meltdown. No, I am I, I am with you. I, I do think that there's something to that age or I was going to say, you know, influence. I am a really slow learner, but I feel like after six years of listening to our good friend Eric Garcia talk to me about unplugging and finding harmony in your, your work life I don't think there's work life balance, but, you know, finding, finding that place where it's good. Like, I, I'm, I'm with you. I definitely lean more into the, I like there to be some unstructured.I won't say unproductive because I find when I'm wildly productive but I need some time to just kind of, like, do the things. And I actually am finding that I'm looking forward to them. Whereas before I used to dread feeling like there's no schedule. There's no, like, I should be doing something.
There's work that's got to be done. So I'm, I'm with you there. I am excited about today's episode speaking of living in a box under a bridge in the woods we got an email from a new grad but this is a new grad, I love this email so much. We got an email from a new grad. Who is apparently a long time listener of the show and said wonderfully kind things. And so I want to say thank you for being a listener. And I've always wondered if students listen to us and this made me feel good because they were like, I listened to you all through vet school.
Andy Roark: That made my day.
Stephanie Goss: I know. Me too. I love it so much because I love the students, but I always wondered like, do they, do they listen? Anyways so it's a new grad. They are working at a, at a practice that they worked at before vet school and which is awesome. And they're struggling with something that I, it makes total sense to me.
And there's a couple of different ways that I've seen this before. Which is, so they you know, kind of grew up in this practice. And now that they're back in the practice, they're struggling with the image that the team has of them, because they worked previously in the practice, and they worked as a technician before vet school, and they came back all excited to be the new grad, as they should be and they love the hospital.
They, you know, they, it's got a great culture. They've got great leadership, great medicine. They're struggling to find some balance right now because the team is asking them to help, a lot, which is, which is a wonderful thing. And they're struggling because they're getting asked to help the other technicians and the other support staff with all of the things that they used to do before they became a vet. So patient care, you know, drawing blood, placing difficult catheters, those kinds of things. And they are struggling not because they don't want to help the team, they absolutely do. This is a practice that highly leverages their support staff. And so they are struggling with the fact that the, the support staff is being used And they are kind of getting asked to do a lot of support staff tasks by, by the other support staff, not by the doctors.
And so they're struggling to find the balance because they get behind on their schedule and then they feel stressed out. They feel like everybody's waiting on them because they're helping out the rest of the team. And they are struggling because they have gotten feedback from the management team that although it's being delivered very kindly, like you're not a technician anymore, please delegate those tasks, like use your time to be the doctor and practice medicine.
And at the same time, they're also getting feedback from the hospital leadership like, thank you for being a team player. Thank you for supporting the techs. Thank you for helping out. And so they're like, these two messages seem at odds. Like, don't do the thing, but also thank you for doing the thing.
And so they are struggling to find the balance where they can be helpful, but also get to be a doctor and make space for themselves in this practice as a doctor. And I just thought this was such a wonderful challenge. And I'm excited to, I'm excited to talk through it with you.
Andy Roark: Yeah, I, I, I like this a lot.
Okay. I love this. I love that this person came up in a practice and they liked it there and they liked the culture and they went to vet school when they came back. I think some people are like, Oh, you shouldn't do that. I disagree. You should– every case. Is, is different. You should do what you want to do.
If there's a place that you love being, then you should be there. And I just, I, I think that that's, I think that's great. This is not at all uncommon, right? We have people who are, who are doctors who are, who were techs at a place and then they change roles and they come back and, and people remember them.
It's called the anchor principle, right? The way that we. The way that someone was when we met them is how we tend to remember them. Like I, I still have people every time they introduce me to someone, they're like, I knew Andy in vet school and it's like, I graduated vet school 15 years ago, you know but, but that's, but that's how they remember me and, and they'll tell me, I still remember this.
It's like, I'm on–I can see 50 from where I am, like I am not, not a vet student anymore, but again, but like it's, I don't take it in a bad way. But it's a good illustration of how people remember. And so anyway, so this, this does sort of happen. I love this message in that like there's the question about sort of going back to the practice that you were in before and I do get that and wrapped up all around it are a lot of sort of the insecurities or the communication challenges that come with just being a new grad.
Stephanie Goss: Yes.
Andy Roark: Just being a new grad going into a practice has a lot of weirdnesses and things like that and sort of trying to find your Place in the practice in the world.
So I think I think this is, I think this is good.
Stephanie Goss: Mm hmm.
Andy Roark: Let's let's get it. Let's get into some headspace.
Stephanie Goss: Okay,
Andy Roark: Ready?
Stephanie Goss: Yes.
Andy Roark: All right, cool. All right. So you're this vet and you're getting pulled into doing a lot of tech stuff and the management is starting to be like “hey don't do tech work” and the techs are “hey, we need help” and you know and just this person says they're sort of running behind and so they're kind of stuck in the middle. They're kind of trying to balance it.
All right, headspace. If you're this person, you know what it's good to be wanted. And it's good to be capable. It's good to be someone who someone says, “Hey, can you place this catheter? Hey, can you do this?” And there's a lot of vets out there who would say that they, they might secretly say it, but they take great pride in being able to hit veins that other people can’t hit or place catheters that other people can't place. And I get it. I think it's fun to take pride in that. It's good to be wanted. It's good to be liked. It's good to be trusted. It's good to have the staff to say, “Hey, you're my friend. Will you help me out?” And the reason all of those things are good are, you know, we talk a lot about leadership and, and, and running effective teams if you're a doctor.
And I always say, you know, there's two levers that you can pull to motivate people. There's the organizational power and relationship power. Organizational power is “Hey, I'm the vet and you're the tech, so you need to do what I say.” That lever sucks. That's a dumb lever. Don't pull that lever. Nobody likes that lever.
The other one is, “Hey, I like you and I trust you and you like me and you trust me and I need your help and I, you know that I'll be there to help you and that's how we get things done.” That's a great lever to pull. And so like you're clearly in that relationship. Building relationship power place, which is going to be good and healthy in the long term.
I think that's really good.
Stephanie Goss: Yes.
Andy Roark: I want to, I want to frame this up as some stakes here because I think it would be easy to be this doctor and to feel like you're failing. Like, ah, I'm doing all this work for the techs. At least for me, especially as a young doctor, I would catastrophize, I'd be like, they're just, they're gonna ask me for stuff and then I'm gonna do it, and then they're gonna ask me for more stuff, and I'm gonna get farther behind.
Stephanie Goss: I'm never gonna get outta the treatment room.
Andy Roark: I'm never gonna get outta the treatment room, and I'm not gonna see my family, and I'm not gonna get married. I'm not gonna have the kids. I'm not gonna do any of the things that I want to do, and ultimately I'm going to grow old and I'll just, just. Die here.
And you know, and then, then the hospital will just follow the ruin. Cause nobody could do what I do. It's ridiculous. Everything's fine. It's going to be fine. This, this, this is fine. This is not insurmountable.
Stephanie Goss: Insights into Andy's brain.
Andy Roark: I know it's ridiculous. It's not. It's not all or none, right? It's not.
I'm not going to help the techs. I'm going to stand here with my arms crossed and they will be my instruments because they are fully and completely leveraged. Or I'm going to do all the tech work that people ask me to do. And that's what I like. It's not all or none, it doesn't hurt you to help somebody, and at the same time, it's not going to be the end of the world if you're not available to help somebody.
Like, it's okay, we got this, we're going to sort through it, it'll be fine, but do not beat yourself up if you decide to help somebody, and do not beat yourself up if you decide not to help somebody, because I know people who do that all the time. They kick themselves for helping and they kick themselves for not helping.
And I'm like, Ooh, you put yourself into a horrible position. Why are you doing this? And they're like, I don't know.
Stephanie Goss: Yes, that was, that was me. That was me as a manager at my last practice. And Andy heard about it regularly. It's a hard spot, but I, but I think that this new grad has a really good outlook and they gave themselves the answer.
I think this is one of those episodes where they answered their own question because they asked the question about finding balance. And I think that that your point that you just made is, is so important that it's not all or nothing. It's about finding that balance base. And I agree with you. I would say really.
The number one thing from a Headspace perspective for me is you're trusted, and that is a good thing. All of these things that are happening are indications of the strength of your relationship with the team, and that is important because that will help you with the action steps. And so I think leaning into, like you said, it's good to be wanted, it's good to be capable, it's good to be liked, all of those things are true, and it does not have to be all or nothing, I think is so, so important.
Andy Roark: Yeah, I, I agree. So I want to, I want to lay down a couple other things here. So say, get this, I do, I love the way this person wrote. I love the question about how do you find balance. I think there's, there's wisdom in that question. That makes me very optimistic. I really, I like that presentation. All right.
There's, there's a couple of things here that I don't know. And so I get questions like this and I always do kind of run in the back of my mind. What is, what is really happening here?
Stephanie Goss: Okay.
Andy Roark: And so You know, you were talking before about, the image that the staff has of this doctor, right? And so, so the person was like, Oh, you know, I, this is, this is sort of the image they have of me as of a technician.
And I said, well, you know, we don't know what other people really see. And so it's, it's the perceived image. It’s how the doctor believes that they're being seen. Sure. And so I go. Do they really see you as a technician, or do you think that they see you as a technician, but in reality they see you as a doctor they really like, who's awesome, and who will help them?
I don't know, but it's easy to tell ourselves stories. There's this communication technique that I really like to have hard conversations where it sort of goes basically it's, let's say you and I were doing, we're having a conflict and, and so you were doing something and it, and it bothered me.
And so let's just say you and I are co-lecturing, right? And I feel like you're sort of cutting me off or sort of stepping on my feet and sort of taking, taking control. Let's just say.
Stephanie Goss: Okay.
Andy Roark: The basic setup would be, “Hey when you do this thing, when you sort of kind of, when we step on each other and then you take control of the conversation, the story I tell myself is ______. It’s that you know is that you don't think that I know what I'm talking about or that you don't think I'm doing it, right? I'm sure that's probably not what you mean, help me understand. You know, let's work through this. And that’s the story I tell myself and so when I look at this and I go, “you know, the techs are doing this because they still see me as a tech”. That's not what this person said. But I would say the story you tell yourself is that they're doing it because you're tech, but I don't really know if that's true and so I think, I think having some, allowing yourself to say, “I'm not really sure how they perceive me, this is kind of the feeling I get, but maybe that's not, I don't really know,” I think that that can help us be more open and flexible in kind of how we deal with the situation, as opposed to saying this is definitely a perception problem that the staff has. Maybe they have it. Maybe, maybe they don't. I don't, I don't know. So I'm kind of, I'm kind of playing with that.
Stephanie Goss: Okay.
Andy Roark: From a headspace source, you know, a headspace point, you know, the other, the other sort of question I have is what are you, what are you doing in the treatment room is what I would want to know.
And so, again, it's not, this is not. I'm not trying to poke, I'm not trying to poke, but I want to know honestly. And so if you're the doctor and you're in the treatment room, are you doing something that sends the signal that you're available? That's what I'm trying to get at.
Stephanie Goss: Sure.
Andy Roark: You know, like what are, what are they seeing?
Cause where does perception come from? And so I, when I think about if I'm running behind, if I'm running behind. It's very rare for someone to ask me to help them because I'm usually head down doing stuff. You know what I mean? Like I'm, I'm typing up my records. I am, you know, moving to the next room. I've got a telephone receiver in my hand.
Like, you know what I mean? I'm doing it. And so that would be part of it. It's just sort of running the audit and being like when you get asked, this is sort of the diagnostic phase, when you get asked, what are you doing? Are you standing there? Are you waiting for your next room? Are you, you know what?
Yeah, how is this interaction happening? Because I do think a lot of what you say and how you say it comes along with the context. I think it's pretty darn hard to look good if you're a vet and you're standing there with your hands in your pockets and someone's like, can you help me? And you say, well, that's technician work.
I think that's a bad look. You know, I think it's a bad look. I think if you’re head down typing up your medical records and somebody goes, can you help me? And you say, “I can't, I, I am already behind for my next one. What do you need? Is there some, is there somebody else who could support you?” I don't think that, I don't think it looks bad.
You know what I mean? I think that's being honest and that's kind of where it comes around to me with this. Again, I was going to say in the headspace, one of my favorites, “clear as kind.” Which is when they say, “Hey, can you help me?” And I'm, and I'm running behind for my appointment. I'm going to say, “I, I, I am running behind for this appointment. Is there anybody else who can help you?” And if there's nothing, I'm, I'll help them, you know what I mean? I'll, I'll do it. But I'm going to, I'm going to kind of push back on that. There's, there's this idea that we talk about a lot, you know, you and I are both big fans of positive reinforcement training and that's for humans.
That's not for pets. It is also for pets, but for both pets and humans, positive reinforcement training, right? It's this belief that people are pretty simple, no matter who they are. And if people exhibit a behavior and they get positively rewarded for that behavior, then they're probably going to do that behavior again.
And what my thought here is like, okay, I want to, I want to do a quick assessment of what is, what is the behavior and how is it getting rewarded? So, is it the case that the technicians look around, they see this doctor, they know that he or she will jump right in if asked. And so they ask, and the doctor drops what they're doing and immediately jumps in and helps.
And if you do that, it's good, in a way, that you have jumped in and helped. However, you have to be really careful about training your staff to ask you to jump in and help them do their jobs.
Stephanie Goss: Yes.
Andy Roark: And so, you know, part of the thing in the headspace here is I would just sort of say, maybe this is action steps, but I, I want to introduce the idea of a little bit of friction into this equation, meaning I don't think it's wrong.
And this is true, we teach this to our managers as well. It's definitely not wrong to help people. I want to help people. However, I'm a big fan of helping people with a little bit of friction, which means they have to need my help. You know, we, we all know people who jump in and help and give their time and their energy and their hearts just at the drop of a hat.
Stephanie Goss: Yes.
Andy Roark: And I would say, I, I think. I think you would be better off if you made people ask twice, you know, before you, before you poured your heart and soul into whatever they ask, because you see those people and they're always just completely overwhelmed with work. And a lot of times they're not that appreciated.
That's the thing is people just, they're so used to asking and you just go, sure, I'll do it right away. No problem. At some point they go, well, it's not a problem for her and she's just super happy to do it. And so she doesn't need it to be thanked or appreciated. And so anyway, you don't take this too far.
But I do, that would be a question I have is, what are you doing to sort of create friction? Are you dropping everything and immediately helping people out? Or are you saying to them, which I often say, they'll say, Hey, can you help me with this? And I will say, I am, I am going to, I'm about to finish this record up.
And when I get done, if you still need my help, then I'll jump in and help you. And then I go and finish them and I finish up my record. And often they will find someone else before I get done with my record. And, and, and that's just kind of the way it is. But but that brings me sort of to the last point, which is, which is priorities and thinking about what your priorities are.
I think as a doctor, especially if you're getting some pressure from management to be doing doctor things, and you're getting pressure from technicians to do technician things, remember that you can't be all things to all people, and you cannot make everybody glowingly happy. At some point, you have to decide what your priorities are, and you have to work to your priorities. Which means, for me, Getting, seeing my own patients is a higher priority for me than seeing other people's patients.
Stephanie Goss: Mm hmm.
Andy Roark: It is, and I don't, I hope that doesn't make people mad, but it is true. Like, I have patients that I am responsible for, and I have clients that I am responsible for. They're the clients who came to see me, and so if you, if I am getting ready to go into an exam room and somebody else is like, “hey, I would really like help with this patient that I'm working up for this other doctor.” My higher priority is going to the exam room or is to go to the exam room. Now, if you say, no one has helped me, it's been 30 minutes, this, I was like, you know what? Fine. I will, I will help you because I'm a, I'm a nice guy.
Stephanie Goss: Well, and that's, that's teamwork. Right. Like recognizing that everybody needs to give and take.
And so that other doctor's patient, there's a big difference between you're just the first person they saw. They've literally been holding the pet for two seconds, jumping in and helping versus I have been waiting. This client has been waiting. Can you please help? Those are those are two very different things.
And I think that that's really that that perspective is really important.
Andy Roark: Yeah. So, so that those are, those are the things that I would start to kick around as this, as this doctor, just to get your head straight, you know, and again, we'll talk about sort of conversations and how to kind of have conversations.
But feel good that you're wanted and that you can do all these things and that's great. Be gentle with yourself. This is you'll never get it right. You're always looking for the balance. And the idea with this funny with balance is I think a lot of people picture in their head, like, I'm going to get this perfectly right. To me balance is not balance. Balance is the alternation that you're alternating between overdoing it and not doing enough. Overdoing it and not doing enough. And today I overdid it and tomorrow I didn't do enough. That's balance. Like when you zoom out and you look at the week and you look at the month, the year, your career, that's balance is alternating days of doing too much and not doing enough.
And so you're, you're never going to get it perfectly and keep it there. Just, just be kind and gentle to yourself. Right? Remember do a quick self assessment and say, what am I doing? What am I, am I doing anything that is inviting people to ask me for my time to help them with technical work? Am I, you know, am I, am I, am I standing around, you know, should I, I mean, it's just basic simple things in the clinic.
Like there are certain places that I know that if I go and I stand, people will ask me to jump in and do stuff. They just will. Because that's where stuff is happening. And I also know that if I want to get my charts written up, there's a computer back near the surgery suite. Nobody goes back there after surgeries are done.
I can sit down there and I can bang my stuff out and people are not going to ask me for anything. And so when I have free time. I hang out in the place where people are going to ask me to do stuff. And when I start getting behind, I'll be back there at that, at that, you know, back workstation hammering out my work.
That's not bad. That's just about me pursuing my priorities. Priorities being, I have clients that I am responsible for as a veterinarian, the technicians are responsible for the pool of pets coming in. I have clients that I am responsible for. And so my higher priority is getting my clients taken care of and it's the responsibility of the techs to deal with a pool of pets.
And so anyway, that doesn't mean I can't help them. But when it comes down to, do you take path A, which is going into the exam room, to take path B of going to help with somebody else's patient, I'm going to the exam room because that's my priority.
Stephanie Goss: Yeah. I like that. Do you, I know we already started kind of talking about some of the action steps.
Do you want to take a break and then jump in with maybe some action steps and how to have some of the conversations?
Andy Roark: Yeah, let's do it.
Stephanie Goss: Okay.
Stephanie Goss: 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 some 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 kind of skills are most often not taught to us. And so we sat down and outlined seven of the crucial building block skills that any leader should have, and we are putting it out into the world with our, 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 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 in 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.
Andy Roark: All right. So, so let me start talking about this a little bit as far as the first action step for me. Well, the first action for me is to run your diagnostics. Like, where are you? What are you doing? When people ask you for help, what exactly are you doing? Where are you standing? Do you have your hands in your pockets?
Do you look available? Are you standing there waiting for your technician to come back to you? Then my thought would be maybe we need to change this up because if you stand there and wait for your tech, you're going to end up getting grabbed and pulled into other things. Maybe you need to be going to where your technician is.
Maybe, you know, maybe we need to figure out a workflow that gets you out of the treatment room so that you get to work with your technician as opposed to getting pulled into other things. I don't know. So, run your, run your audit, run your diagnostics on, on how you're getting pulled away, right? The second thing is introducing friction.
It is, you are not the go to person to do technician work, right? You, you're capable of doing it, you're competent, people will ask you to do it, and if you are the fastest path to getting what they want, they will continue to ask you for that. Do not be afraid to introduce some friction so that other people are more appealing than you are.
That doesn't mean being a jerk and dragging your feet. There's nothing wrong with saying. I'm not going to be available for a couple of minutes. I need to make a phone call before I can help you. If you haven't found somebody, when I get off the phone, I will certainly help you.
Stephanie Goss: Yeah.
Andy Roark: And it is starting to get your phrases down like that, that introduces that friction. So I'll help you, but I'm probably not going to be your easiest solution.
Stephanie Goss: Yeah.
Andy Roark: Action step number three, clear as kind. Work on your phrases of politely saying no. You know, how do you, how do you gently redirect someone who helps you when you don't have the time to help them because you have your own fires burning?
And we can sort of talk about what that, what that sort of looks like.
Stephanie Goss: Yeah. I think that the gentle part is hard. Not because people don't want to be gentle, but because it's like, Oh, I don't, you know, you want to help. And so you're like, I don't want them to get mad at me because I say no.
And like, that's, I have had the internal, argument and knowing, like, if they're, in my thought, in my head, I'm assuming good intent, and the story I'm telling myself is, if they're coming to ask me, they've probably waited and asked everybody else. Like that, I'm assuming good intent on their part, and so, and so, If I'm telling myself that story, then it becomes really easy to say, of course, I'll come help you because I'm sure you've asked everybody else in the building.
And I will tell you, once I started, I was, I was this person, but as a manager and some of the coaching that Andy gave me was introducing friction. And it was amazing how when I started asking, I struggled with asking the question, have you asked anybody else? Because to me that felt mean, I guess? Or, I don't know, offensive?
I didn't, I didn't want them to be offended. Like, I didn't want them to assume that I was assuming, I didn't want them to think that I was not assuming good intent, and so I struggled with how to ask that question. So for me, the preferred path became, and the language that I felt comfortable with was your alternative, which was I, this is, I'm finishing this thing, giving them a specific time point.
Like, I, I need two minutes, I need five minutes, whatever. If you haven't found anybody else, then I can come help you. And it was trying to figure out what words felt comfortable for myself. And trying to figure out how to ask that question. Is there anyone else available? And get over the, like, guilt I was putting on myself. Because I, just because I asked them that question doesn't mean that I was not assuming good intent on their part. Like, it is also okay to say, I'm assuming that you've asked everybody else for help, right? Because then it gives them the opportunity to say, oh, well, no, I actually haven't. And it was amazing to me how many times they were, they, in the beginning, it was just like, Oh, well, but I assumed like, no, I just came to ask you because I know that you can help me and we can get it done really fast.
Andy Roark: It is really common. I want to play another part of this because we're sort of talking about, about sort of why this is important. I'll tell you one of the things that I didn't realize that I was doing to employees early in my career is this. And so, and you, you will remember this as soon as I start telling the story, I, I tend to move fast and ask people to get things done.
You know, like, like, Hey, we're, we're doing these things. And I have been truly blessed to work with wonderful people like Stephanie Goss in my career who desperately want to do great work and really bust their butts. And so I would say, Hey, Stephanie, can you do this thing for me? Or, Hey, Stephanie, can you help me with this?
And she would say, yes. And I didn't realize all of the things that she was juggling when I asked her, can you help me with this? And the way that I would find out, and this is not necessarily with Stephanie, but this is a pattern, was the person would break down. They would be, I would be like, can you help me with this?
And they would cry and I'd be like, I'm sorry, why are you crying? Like, you don't have to, you don't have to help. It's like, I can do this. Why are you crying? And they're like, because I have all these things and I'm way behind that you're going to be upset because I didn't do this thing. And I'm like, I, I just, I had no idea.
And so I really, I had to. Have, I developed a speech, I developed a speech that we do at Uncharted when I say to people when they come and work, listen, I am going to ask you to do things and I need you to communicate back to me when you have other things that you have to deal with. And if you're getting overwhelmed, I need you to say that.
And the best, the way to do it is the way that, that I think works best for our employees that I hold up as an example is I will say, Hey, can you help me with this? And this came from Jamie Holmes, but Jamie will say, okay, I am, I've got these other two things that you asked me to do. Is this a higher priority than those, or do you want me to do this after I get done with them?
You know, or she'll say. Okay, I am working on this other thing. Do you, are you able to wait for this until tomorrow, you know, or something like that. But the pattern was the same. It is, I received, she received the request. She said, this is what I am currently juggling. What is the timeline? For your request, or how fast do you need this?
Or is there someone else who might be able to get to this first? And, and I, I, I, and I use her phrases as examples for the rest of the team because I do not want people to say, yes, I will help you. And then they go home and they cry because they're overwhelmed and they're burned out. And I'm saying all this because I truly believe the technicians do not want this doctor to get in trouble. They don't want this doctor to get behind.
They don't want this doctor to get in trouble with the management. They they just they don't they're just in the moment. They're like I could use some help and she's really good and she's standing right there. And so they ask, you know and so anyway, but I but I say that In that, as the person who makes the request, I want the person receiving the request to communicate their needs back to me because I don't want to burn them out and I don't want to make their life hard and I don't want to ask them for a favor if it's going to make them go home and feel like they're failing.
I don't, I don't want to, I don't want to do that, but I can't know, that's the case if you don't communicate with me. And so getting these phrases down of, “Hey, have you asked somebody else?” I think that's important. The piece that I would add into the wording that you said was, I really like I really like sort of Jamie's approach of when they say, Hey, can you come and hold this cat?
And I say, I'm getting ready to head into a room. Have you, is there anybody else you could ask? Or have you asked everybody? That, that doesn't sound bad to me. It doesn't sound bad. Other people would say, ooh, that's too much conflict, Andy.
Stephanie Goss: Right.
Andy Roark: Like, that's too much conflict. And I get it. I don't like conflict.
I used to be very conflict averse. I'm still fairly conflict averse. I don't enjoy conflict. However, I will tell you as I have gotten old, as I have aged.
Stephanie Goss: He's not afraid to hold up his get off my lawn sign.
Andy Roark: It's not that, I've just had enough bad days that I know where this goes. You know what I mean? I have been soft and non confrontational so many times that I know exactly where it goes.
And I spent so many afternoons or evenings being mad for having to do something that I was nicely asked to do and immediately and enthusiastically said yes to. That finally I realized this is ridiculous. Like I'm angry you in control. I'm resentful because I said yes, right to this thing. When they asked me, yes, that's bonkers.
Yeah, but it's just, and again, and so at some point it sank in and so I said, I don't like confrontation. But you know what I hate more? Just going home and being angry or feeling like I'm overwhelmed or feeling like I'm in trouble. And so I'm going to pick my poison, which is what we do a lot as managers and leaders. We pick our poison.
Stephanie Goss: Yeah.
Andy Roark: And so you're going to pick your poison one way or another. You're either going to say something fairly soft. And respectful, like we just said, or you're going to say yes. And then you're going to deal with the consequences of saying yes. And being in doing technician work instead of doctor work, I can't tell you which one to do.
And here's the other thing too. Some days I'll pick a different poison.
Stephanie Goss: Right.
Andy Roark: You know, some days I'll just do the thing because I'm in a good mood. I'm not behind schedule and I'm happy to help other days. I just can't, I can't even. And so I am going to I. I am sorry. I am absolutely buried. Is there anybody else you can ask?
I am absolutely buried. Can I take a look at it when I come out of this appointment? If you don't, if you can't find somebody else before then, and I will say it and it, that may some, for some people, that's, that's a conflict that they go. Ooh. To me, that's not a lot of conflict. And I am fully aware of the pain of not having that conflict.
And so I will experience less pain if I suck it up and say the thing.
Stephanie Goss: Yes, so, okay, so for me it's an and, not not an or, but I, I hear you on the either or phrasing, and I agree with you, so I think part of it is figuring out what you feel comfortable with to introduce that friction, and I think the idea for me shifting the language in my head helped a lot when I stopped thinking about it as being mean to them, or, you know, in my head, the story I was telling myself was that if I said no, I was being mean to them, or I was not giving them what they needed, and therefore I was a horrible boss, and I was living in a box in the woods, like that was the catastrophizing I was doing, and so for me it was about switching that that language.
And I love your, your calling it friction because that was easier for my brain to be like, Oh, I'm not telling them. No, I'm telling them what I can do for them. By saying I need to finish this chart or I have to call this client back because I told him I would call them by 10. I will come downstairs as soon as I'm done and if you still need my help, I would be happy to help. Right. Like it's a, it's a yes. And what it's just like client service. What can I do for them? So that was part number one. And then the and is also when we think about training them and we think about the positive behavior, the other piece of this for me, action steps wise, besides the ones you said, which is giving them the touch of friction, is is a communication. And so part of it for me is telling, asking them for their help and saying, Hey, I want to help you when you really need it. So it would help me a lot if when you came to ask me for help, you let me know to your point about Jamie's wording. What is your time frame?
Is this immediate? Or have you asked somebody else and start training them to do the thing that you want? And so I asked, I, I did ask my team. I said, Hey, when you got, I'm happy to help when you come and get me. Can you please be just really specific? I've asked everybody else. Or there's no, we've been waiting for, like, to your point, we've been waiting for a half hour.
This client's been waiting. I really need some help. Can you come downstairs in the next five minutes and help me do this thing? Because that helps me. Give them more yes or no answers like I know what they need and it helps me frame my needs as well And so asking them for that help and so I just went to the team and I said, hey, I'm really struggling. I really want to help you guys.
I love you. I know that you're overwhelmed. I know you're short staffed. I want to help you and I'm struggling to stay on top of my duties and my schedule and I'm trying to find some balance. And so I could use your help when you come and ask me, could you please try and tell me these two things? Like, what have you already done and what is your time frame?
And I was amazed at how much that helped. My, even just my own emotions and instead of getting super irritated that someone was coming in asking me for help again, I knew that if they were coming to me, the chances were they had already asked everybody else for help and they were going to tell me exactly what they needed and when they needed it by.
And it was amazing how much that helped me be able to, um, take the emotion and the, the frustration at not being able to stay on schedule out of it. And it was both of us helping each other, you know, I knew what they needed. And then it was like, if they said, if they said to me in the next 10 minutes, then I said, great, let me make this really quick client phone call.
They're not going to answer. They've already told me that I just need to leave a message two minutes. I'll be downstairs, right? Like then it's really clear communication on both sides and nobody has to feel. hurt or angry or any of the things that that happen when things are unsaid and it's like to your point clear as kind and so asking them for help was really was really really important and that was gonna be for me the the big action step is like acknowledging to them. “I love that you guys trust me I love that you want to ask me for help and I'm kind of struggling because I'm trying to like trying to be a good doctor and I'm trying to take care of my clients and my patients and that means I need to stay on time and so can you help me do that by…” and then ask for what you need?
Andy Roark: Yeah, yeah, I agree with that. The last in the moment trick that I have that I use is this, and it is, it is refusing to do the technician part. And so here, here's, here's what I mean. And this writer put it really nicely, it's like we have, we have well leveraged technicians, we want them doing what they do.
And then I'm getting asked and I'm coming over and I'm doing the technician part, so the catheter placement, the blood draws, the cytology reading, whatever it is. Right, they're doing that. One of the tricks that you can use as a doctor is, you can refuse to do that part, and the way you do it is, you take the assistant position and push the tech into the tech spot, and so for example, like what this looks like is, let's just say that I'm, busting it, hustling around the treatment room, and one of my techs is holding this dog, or this cat, and he says, hey, Dr. Roark, can you get blood on this cat? I will say, no, but I can hold that cat so you can get blood on it.
Stephanie Goss: Right.
Andy Roark: And then, and then I will go in and hold the cat and push him into the blood draw place.
And so at first you might say, but Andy, you're still helping. It's like, I am, but I'm not letting them dodge the stressful part, you know, and I'm continuing to push them to develop these skills. And I'm still holding this as this is what the technicians do. It's not what I do. And so I am not going to draw blood for you, but I will hold the pet for you.
It's also funny, too. It's. It's fascinating that people will ask you to draw blood, but they feel bad if you restrain the pet. Does that make any sense?
Stephanie Goss: It doesn't make sense, but it absolutely does make sense.
Andy Roark: Yeah. It doesn't make sense, but it does make sense. And you're like, Ooh, and it's funny because I will say, I, I'm not going to try. I will hold the cat and you can draw the blood. I will do that. And then there are a couple of things happen here. They have not been relieved of the part.
Stephanie Goss: Right.
Andy Roark: That they were hoping to give away. I'm like, no, you're, if you ask me, I'm still gonna make you do the thing. You're still gonna have to and now you're gonna have to do it with me, the doctor, watching you do it.
Which I know stresses them out. I'm not trying to make it more stressful. But when the doctor is holding the patient and you've got the needle in your hand, you, I'm here helping you. I, it just got more stressful for you because I'm here. And again, I'm not, I'm not trying to play this up. Don't think that I'm, I'm trying to make it worse.
It just, it's just the way it settles and it feels. And that by itself is the friction I was talking about before of, I really rather not have him holding the pet. And me having to do the thing. And then the other part is for whatever reason, people will see me holding, holding a dog or whatever and they, they're not okay with that. They don't like seeing me in my, you know, in my slacks. Hold it, you know, holding this, holding this pet. And so I have found that people will get loose and be like, Dr. Roark, let me, let me take that. Let me take that pet for you. Maybe I'm doing it terribly wrong and that's why they're doing it.
I don't think so. I think that they just genuinely, maybe I'm a terrible holder and no one's ever told it to me. I don't think so. I'm fear free certified. I've done the thing. But they seem a whole lot, they're a whole lot more willing to push me out of the way if I'm holding the pet than if I'm holding the syringe and pulling the blood.
They're not going to come and push me out of the way. But here's the thing. I want to be pushed out of the way, so I'm going to go and do the thing they're most likely to push me out of the way. And that is holding the pet. Now, if I have,if I have an assistant, a young technician, I mean young in her, in his or her career I can take a coach role here and they'll say, Hey, will you draw this blood?
I'll say, I will not, but I will hold this and I will see if I can help you get blood on this, on this cat. And I've got a little bit of a coach role. And again, that also, reinforces my role as the doctor, right? And I'm not trying to be condescending. I'm not condescending. But again, all these are weird.
Stephanie Goss: You’re teaching.
They're weird politics to play, but just let me put that in your head as, as a play. And I do use that one a lot. I just, I have found it to, I have found it to work. I found it to work well, and it still empowers my tax. It gives them, it keeps them doing the things that are in their license that I want them to do.
And it also, it also gets me out of there fairly quickly. I feel like it, I feel like I still get points for helping and also I'm not going to be their first choice to ask to, you know, to, to hold in the future because it's stressful.
Stephanie Goss: Yeah. And I think the end result getting, getting out of there faster is, is the bonus. Because I think if we think about it from the perspective of this practice, this new grad told us they have a great culture. Their culture is leveraging. the paraprofessional staff at the top of their level. And so you're just reinforcing that. When you ask them to do the thing, and I'll hold it for you, you do the thing.
You're reinforcing and living the value of the practice. And the unintended, or intended unintended benefit, side effect, bonus, is that you get out of it, usually to your point faster, because people will come by, Oh yeah, let me hold, let me hold that pet because it's easier to step in mid thing and hold a pet than it is to step in midway and to somebody who's drawing the blood, to your point, and I think that it doesn't it's really easy, it could be really easy to look at it from the perspective of, oh, that's like, you're just, you're playing mind games, but that's not what it's about.
It's about reinforcing the values and living the values of this practice and to your point, being it. being that coach instead of the player and supporting the team. Like, yeah, I want to support you guys. I'll hold it for you. You do the, you do the thing, you know, and I, I don't think you're not refusing to help them.
You are still helping them and you're supporting the culture that you've, that this practice has built that attracted you to it in the first place. Like, that's why this new grad loved it. You know, was because they thought they had a great culture. So I think that's a, I think that's a win win.
Andy Roark: Yeah, no, the last one I got is not on the floor.
This is kind of the last, this is the, the, the last play for me is if it's really gotten out of hand and you feel like you're getting pulled all the, all the, all the ways and the things that we're talking about before as far as sort of communicating the moment are not working and there's not subtle changes to make, it's time to go to management and ask for help.
And so what that looks like is the leadership team can do what we call a team reset, which is where it's where you bring the team together and you say, guys, Dr. Smith is is Dr. Smith was here as a technician and I know that you guys are all friends with him. And we want to make a shift to make sure that he's not getting pulled into technician work so that he doesn't fall behind seeing appointments.
And so I'm going to ask you guys, and this is great, I wouldn't do this at an all hands meeting. I would just do this as a technician meeting, but just be like, Hey we're trying to keep Dr. Smith on schedule. Or yeah, we, we want to make sure that we're utilizing Dr. Smith as a doctor. Guys, please, if there's someone else that you can ask for help, please ask them first and blah, blah, blah. And we call it a team reset because a lot of times if we have behaviors that are in the practice and they're widespread, having individual conversations is inefficient. Yeah, absolutely. At some point, it's better to bring everybody together, tell them why you're making the request and what your request is, and then start to do or lean into doing the in the moment feedback that we talked about, which is after everybody's been told, then I, if I was Dr. Smith, I would lean hard into the things we talked about before because they've gotten, they've gotten a reminder. They've gotten a heads up about why we're trying to make this change. And it won't be the first time that they've heard of it. And so anyway, I don't know if that's necessary. A lot of times we can kind of work it out in the moment if it's not a big deal, if it's really widespread and especially if management is giving you a hard time and saying, “Hey, you know, we want you doing doctor work, not tech work.” I might push back and say, I need your help letting people know that I have a hard time saying no, and I need their help in not getting sucked into the technician work.
Stephanie Goss: I, I love that. And I think that the Jedi the Jedi trick is as a, as a manager, as a leader is remembering and recognizing that the anchor principle is real.
And so whether it's the practice owner's kid who's gone to vet school, but grew up in the clinic and the people who've worked there forever, see them as the teenager cleaning the kennels, right? Or the doctor like this who worked as a technician and just recognizing that people are going to see that person as how they were when they first met them.
And so from a manager perspective, I've been in this scenario twice and, and the way that I went about it the second time was very different from the first because I learned living this experience with a new grad who really did struggle. And so the second time around, When they started, I started off on the right foot and I said to the whole team, Hey, today is Dr. Roark’s first day.
And I just want to remind everybody, like he kicked ass, he went to vet school, he worked really, really hard. And so I know that you all know that he's super capable of helping out on the floor. I know that you know that he can draw blood and everything. And I need to ask everybody's help because today is his first day as a doctor.
And we want him to be successful as a doctor. And so let's remember. You can absolutely ask for help. Ask everybody else first, right? Like, let's support each other. Let's remind each other. Let's try and, you know, help each other. Like, let's just be extra cognizant of it. And asking them for the help right out of the gate really, really made a big difference.
And just gently calling it out. In my case, it happened to be. It's a situation where there's a practice, practice owner's kid and I said, you know, they're, they're an adult now, you know, like they're, they're, they're, they went to vet school and they can, they can do, do all the things. So like, let's just, you know, let's just recognize that and, and be supportive of them.
And it went well. Significantly smoother, shockingly, than the first go round where they had to come and say, I'm really struggling because everybody keeps asking me for help and I really want to help, but I'm so behind on my charts and I just don't, you know, I don't know what to do. Please help me. And so I think recognizing that as a leader, if you're in this situation, like that's, that's the next level trick.
Andy Roark: Yeah, no, I agree. Well, cool. That's, that's what I got. I don't know. I hope that that's, I hope that's helpful.
Stephanie Goss: Yeah, I think this was this was fun. Hopefully it helped our, our new grad listener. Have a great rest of the week, everybody.
Andy Roark: Yeah, everybody take care of yourselves.
Stephanie Goss: 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 at uncharted vet. com. Take care everybody and have a great week. We'll see you again next time.