While it is common in many other industries to have an internal coach hired to support and maximise the development and performance of a team and its leader(s), this concept is relatively new to the veterinary industry. It seems strange (given how well recognised the stressors and risk factors for veterinary professionals are) that the need for coaching is only starting to emerge. Coaching works by developing a strong personal foundation that provides an individual with a better ability to cope and make decisions under pressure.

The demand for change has never been greater in the veterinary business than it is today. Client expectations are moving exponentially as pets are further elevated as family members. Dr Google has provided unlimited information and challenged veterinarians to have the knowledge to interpret it for their clients. Traditional vet-centred models for practicing medicine and surgery are under pressure as business owners look closely at their EBITDAs and wonder how they can influence the top-line performance and achieve this with less staffing costs. The urgency to execute change can result in some undesirable behaviours emerging and previously happy teams can quickly get offside with the new expectations, especially when they haven’t been properly prepared for the what, why and how. Coaching helps people cope with change and enables them to initiate changes in their personal and professional lives.

Clinic acquisitions and consolidation into bigger groups result in ‘new’ cultural expectations, new standards and new operational systems. “Acquired people” are often placed in roles they are not prepared for or necessarily suited to, which requires leadership and people management. During the consolidation process, individuals can lose their sense of purpose and values as trust is eroded through perceived indifferences, leading to a lack of belief and general unhappiness in a previously functional team. People affected by changing environments need adequate time, support and coaching to find their own way of thinking, feeling and behaving in their ‘new’ world.

Coaching is future focussed and works on getting things done faster. Many business owners have great ideas, know where their problems areas are and want to do something about these; however, they can’t find the time or energy to initiate change. Often people expend a great deal of time and energy tolerating situations that they could eliminate to create space for themselves. Coaching will assist with removing tolerations and creating time to get actions completed.

I have witnessed some spectacular personal and professional transformations with people in the veterinary industry by using the ‘coach approach’, often resulting in business turnarounds. This approach starts with effective communication of the what, why, how and benefits of any change initiative. This is then combined with the alignment of belief systems and values with a common sense of purpose, by focussing a healthcare team’s attention on best-care patient outcomes, and clearly defining everyone’s roles, expectations, performance goals and required actions. Add leadership development and self-belief and people start to engage and move forward together.

Doesn’t sound that difficult does it?