In veterinary practices I often see leaders that seem stuck or trapped in a mindset that is completely in the way of achieving what they define as success for themselves. As humans we are sometimes our worst enemy when it comes to throwing roadblocks in front of ourselves on our way to something that matters to us.
Sometimes this shows up with leaders as they think about their team, or their situation, or even their boss. And it’s impossible to move towards success if our own thoughts or perceptions are the things in our way.
Here are a few roadblocks that I hear commonly in practices as leaders talk about their current world and the challenges in it. You can often identify these by just a few words that illustrate the deep seeded beliefs we can have.
1 "They should..."
Whenever we use these words, it can be a sign that we think the problems we have or the changes that need to be made are completely out of our control. What follows these words is usually an opinion about what other people should do differently.
What usually doesn’t follow is anything that we can do to move ourselves forward in the situation we are talking about. This can be a statement about our team, our boss, our government, our friends, or anything. But it never serves us well. If we can shift it to “they should…and I can help them get there by….” now it has leadership value. Otherwise, we are just stewing in our frustration with absolutely no thoughts around how we change or influence it on the way to our own success.
2 "I told..."
It’s common to hear a leader say something like “I told them they needed to do that differently.” It could be around their work or their results or their thinking or any of that. It generally illustrates this belief that what we say as leaders will be accepted and acted upon by others, and that once we have “told” them something, our job is done and it’s now their turn. If that’s all we needed to do to cause humans to change behavior, we could give one speech to a team and take the rest of the year off. We could say things like show up, do your best to care for our patients and clients, learn and develop, have a great attitude, work well together, achieve amazing results. Then we could simply walk away and have a truly incredible team. If this were true, it would also mean that anyone could lead a highly productive team.
However, people change because of their own thoughts, not because of our words. Yes, we get to influence those thoughts, but that involves more than telling. Ever told yourself you should do things that you haven’t done? We don’t always act on what we say, even to ourselves, so it can seem pretty foolish to assume others would with any degree of consistency. “I told... and we discussed their thoughts and ideas on how they might execute, and here’s how I am supporting them in that,” has leadership value. “I told, “does not and it’s disengaging unless you stumble across people who can’t wait to get out of bed and be told what to do all day.
3 “I don’t have time...”
Veterinary practices are busy, often chaotic places to work. I often feel like a charter member of the “I don’t have time” club. And yet, I watch it derail leaders every single day. We can look at anyone who has achieved the things we define as success and know that they had the same 24 hours we did every day. We can know that if our car broke down, or a kid got sick, or we had a team member upset and needing to talk to us, we would make time in that moment to deal with that situation.
Where this gets in the way the most with leaders is when they apply it to the very things that help them lead well. “I don’t have time to coach, or teach, or develop, or support my team” is a road to mediocre leadership at best, unless you can find a leader who does those things poorly and is the kind of leader you want to be. I find it challenging to identify someone who devotes lots of time to those things, practices them, does them well, and then fails. I find LOTS of busy people who feel like they are falling short of what success means to them.
I feel that way myself for far too many days. “I used up all my time today and I did not take meaningful steps that will make me more successful or happier.” (Happiness should be included in your definition of success by the way, but I called it out here too.) Here’s something to try: “I don’t have time at this moment, but this is important, so I am scheduling it here.” Once it’s written down and attached to a time, we have a shot at working on it. Even better, schedule it with someone. “I don’t have time now, but Shelly can be even more amazing at her job with my help, so I am setting up a one-on-one with her to talk about her goals next week.”
Our mindset always influences our actions, and our actions always determine our results. What are some mindsets or thought roadblocks that you put between you and your definition of success? And, how do you want to shift them so that you move toward that definition more consistently?