Learning to Listen

November 2023 |

7 ways to communicate with your employees so they hear what you are saying.

If you feel like you’re not getting through to your team, it might be because of a simple failure to communicate. Too often well-intentioned team members get in each other’s way, the team is at cross-purposes and the fumbling drags on morale.

Try these communication methods to get your team back on track:

1. Provide a big picture. Create a goal for your practice and discuss it in the hiring process. The goal should include words that tap into what matters most to healthcare providers: a chance to help, nurture, problem-solve and be kind. After a few days on the job, ask new team members what they believe would be the best way for them to learn more about the goal. Ensure that they see not only how valuable the goal is, but also what they look like in it. Your employees have to want to be an essential and meaningful part of what you do as a veterinary hospital.

2. Hold short meetings. Try “morning huddles” of five to 10 minutes. Bring the whole team together in the morning, look at the outpatient appointments and decide on a game plan for the day. Figure out your next couple of plays and tee people up for success. This can be an invigorating experience, especially if it goes beyond a checklist of what everyone needs to do and reinforces your practice goal.

3. Prevent interruptions. If your meetings are constantly being interrupted by phone calls or people knocking at the door, your employees will not be able to pay attention or retain information.

4. Avoid a blame game. Blame derails too many instructional meetings. Use case studies to stimulate thought and conversation in areas where you want team members to improve. Made-up stories about fictional hospitals allow people to explore ideas without feeling as though they’re being called out. The idea: Employees will project their own experiences onto the story and discover the “why” behind what they do, and whether or not their actions are serving the greater good.

5. Give autonomy. Autonomy in any learning experience improves comprehension and retention. It’s also highly motivational. The most engaged teams are the ones that are trusted to think and act for themselves.

6. Repeat yourself. Expect to repeat your message, as repetition helps things sink into long-term memory. Repeat your target material in different forms, using a variety of communication tools. Bring something up in a meeting and have a discussion about it, then summarize it in a follow-up email. Revisit material from a training in the form of games or quizzes.

7. Know about learn-forget-learn. Sometimes it’s necessary for us to forget something and then relearn it, for it to enter our long-term memory.