2020 is ending, and we all seem to be holding out hope for a brighter 2021. This year’s extraordinary events and subsequent challenges have tested us, left us vulnerable, and, to some extent, made us stronger.
December is prime for considering changes that can be made in the new year to improve our lives. Whether the goal is to become healthier, improve personally, or advance professionally, change is difficult without a plan.
To excel professionally, it is helpful to emulate those who have achieved success. Managers who have made great strides in their careers tend to be ambitious, motivated, and empathetic. They also exhibit attributes that have been instrumental in their rise to the top. For the benefit of other managers committed to professional development and success in the upcoming year, the attributes and actions prevalent among outstanding managers are summarized below.
Keep your word
Reliability is a key attribute that will earn the respect of your colleagues and supervisors. If you say you will do something…follow through! And when you do it…make sure it is on time and performed with pride. If you don’t think this is a big deal, take a moment to reflect on how frustrating it is to work with someone who doesn’t deliver. It is more than an annoyance. When colleagues are unreliable, their reputation suffers.
Lend a hand
Even if you are a self-described rugged individualist, don’t let it cloud your perception of what you can offer your colleagues. You may believe in self-reliance, but don’t let it prevent you from being there for your coworkers. No one wins when you leave them out to dry. Sure, some amount of competitiveness is healthy in the workplace, but make yourself available when others are struggling and in need of support and assistance. In the end, your coworkers will appreciate and admire your selflessness, and the practice will benefit. Willingness to assist those struggling will most certainly earn you a reputation as a team player and a dependable employee.
At the very least, supervisors expect employees to fulfill the tasks and responsibilities outlined in their job descriptions. However, the job description should not deter employees from identifying areas where their skills and talents can make a difference. Offer to take on new projects---that is, if the additional assignment does not compromise current responsibilities---and be proactive. Think outside the box, propose new initiatives, and share these ideas with others.
It’s human nature to be receptive and listen intently when the comments are positive. It’s also human nature to become defensive and irritable when the comments are critical, leading the listener to shut down the conversation and discount what the speaker says. If that occurs, it’s best to take a deep breath and listen. Although painful, if the feedback is delivered constructively, it can be a springboard to progress. Rather than ignoring negative feedback, examine it honestly, determine its validity, and adjust behavior accordingly.
Take ownership of your work
Owning your work implies that you take responsibility for the good and the bad. When the work is stellar, colleagues and supervisors can learn from that success. Conversely, when an initiative goes awry, it is equally important to be candid about mistakes to make amends. The sign of a true leader is one who can discuss both and learn from mistakes.
Strive to think strategically
With the relentless pace of work in many practices, managers can feel stretched thin…carrying out responsibilities while putting out fires that erupt spontaneously. Take a pause and try to handle what is occurring in the practice and how these developments impact the big picture. Strategic thinking requires transitioning from an operational mindset to one that considers the critical factors that will have a long-term impact on the clinic, allowing for proactive responses rather than reactive.
Communication is key
Communication, both written and oral, plays an essential role in our work lives. Seldom do we communicate with one audience---we speak to clients, staff, owners, vendors, and colleagues. Therefore, we must know and understand these diverse audiences to ensure that our messages resonate effectively. To improve these skills, courses and workshops can help managers create and deliver more effective messaging.
Demonstrate your commitment to personal growth and the practice
Managers seeking career advancement, more responsibilities, and/or a higher salary can work toward these goals by committing to furthering their education. Pursuing additional training or a new course of study can contribute to general knowledge or help to carve out a specialization. Continuing education can be pursued with individual courses or as part of a degree or certificate program. Courses are available online, at local colleges, or offered as seminars or workshops.
Advanced degrees are the ultimate road to improving professional standing, but not everyone has the time or resources to devote to obtaining a degree. Certificate courses and certification can be a less time-intensive option.
Some certificate programs are offered free of charge and can help to cement knowledge in a specific area. Partners for Healthy Pets, for example, offers a Preventive Healthcare Certificate Program. After completing the program, certificants have the tools and resources to communicate the value and benefit of preventive care to clients and can be instrumental in helping promote preventive pet healthcare in the practice. The 10-module online course is free and is approved for nine continuing education credits applicable to the VHMA's Certified Veterinary Practice Manager (CVPM) program. More information is available at PHP website here.
Whatever path you follow, remember, professional growth and development is an ongoing process, not a destination.