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Hire Great Leaders, While Avoiding the Wrecks

By Randy Hall

One of the questions I hear time and time again from practice owners and managers is “How do I hire the right leaders for my practice?” First, as a practice, you have to define your culture. Many organizations hire leaders that represent the culture they want to have, not the culture they currently have. That’s a great decision, as long as you are willing to give the new leader the freedom to actually help make those changes. That can become a bit of a conflict if you are the practice leader because, consciously or not, you created the culture that already exists. A battle ensues that pits the new person against the current culture, and culture always wins.

If you really are going to bring in a change agent, you have to be crystal clear about the latitude they will have and make it clear to the rest of the organization that the new person is there to help the company change and grow. Then you have to actually let them.

Assuming that you have already built the culture you want in your practice and you are hiring leaders who complement it, the hiring process needs to focus on three key areas.


What has the person caused to happen in their career? It’s so easy for us to get caught up in where they’ve been and not what they’ve done. Remember we are hiring a leader here, and that means we want someone who directly caused positive things to happen, not just someone who was there while they happened. Make sure you use questions that drill down on the specific actions the person took to create impact. The more specific they can get, the more likely they actually did all of the things they say they did.


Where do they think the practice needs to go? One of the greatest things a leader can do is articulate a compelling, clear vision to help others connect to it. Make sure that they know the opportunities and the strengths of your organization and can formulate and communicate a vision of what needs to happen to move the practice toward its full potential. If they have a great list of accomplishments but no vision, keep looking.


Can they be successful in this hospital? Speed is often the issue here. Entering a new veterinary practice is like merging onto a highway. If you are moving too fast or too slow relative to the rest of the traffic, there’s gonna be a wreck. And the only way to prevent one is with quick and drastic adjustments. People don’t often make quick, drastic adjustments in the way they operate. Understand their pace and style, especially as it relates to communication with others. Be candid about whether it will work in your practice. Hire a visionary, impactful leader who isn’t a good fit and pretty soon you will be looking for another visionary, impactful leader.

The interview process is a courtship of sorts and too often we hire during the infatuation phase. We have to get past the initial euphoria of a good impression and start looking with a critical eye toward what they’ve done, where they want to go, and how they want to get there. After all, if we’re going to marry them we need to know these things. Divorce is expensive for our practice.

Hire slowly, take your time, and pay attention to these key areas. You'll find yourself more successful at finding leaders who help you take your practice to the next level.