Are We Lifters or Leaners?

As part one in a series of articles, CEO of DoveLewis, Ron Morgan, discusses recognizing and improving the positive culture in your practice.

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Doctor lounging with feet up on desk in ER doctor charting area.

At DoveLewis, we do a lot of work trying to understand the different personality types we have on staff. We have done so much work with individuals and teams that we could have our own section on the Myers-Briggs website.

We do this not for the personal pleasure of knowing what “types” everyone is, but rather as a tool for our managers and teams to better understand how to communicate and work together. We do it to help improve our culture by educating the managers to be more aware of how we need to provide information, give feedback, give praise or criticism, or how best to listen.

I’ve found the following to be true not only in veterinary circles, but in life too: The world boils down to simple ideas. In the workplace, I believe two types of individuals exist. These two types are captured perfectly in a section of a poem written by Ella Wheeler Wilcox entitled “Which Are You?”

There are two kinds of people on earth today,
Just two kinds of people, no more, I say.
Not the good and the bad, for 'tis well understood
That the good are half-bad and the bad are half-good.
No! The two kinds of people on earth I mean
Are the people who lift and the people who lean.

I think these few lines of the poem speak volumes. Each of us in our practice is surrounded by different types of people. We all work in clinics with different personalities, backgrounds and lifestyles. But in general, people can be sized up in one of two ways- as a lifter or a leaner. Is a co-worker someone who lifts you up, helps you, is a positive influence and makes you better at what you do, or are you surrounded by leaners who often pull you down, focus on their perceived negatives and always seem be resting against you like a heavy weight.

The most successful veterinary clinics must have a greater number of lifters than leaners. We must be realistic and realize that negativity can never be completely removed from any practice, and it wouldn't be healthy to try to wipe it out entirely. However, I do feel we have an absolute responsibility to create and maintain a work environment that is open, positive, supportive and uplifting. Lifters will contribute to that environment. Why wouldn't we all want to create a rewarding, supportive and positive work environment at our clinic? Why wouldn’t we want to be seen more as a lifter than a leaner among our co-workers?

Studies show some critically important facts about the workplace. First, the number one reason people leave their jobs is that they don't feel appreciated. Also, 9 out of 10 people say they are more productive when they are around positive people. One study found that negative employees can scare off every client they come in contact with - for good!

Many of the principles about the influences of "being positive" help us even more in our everyday lives. One study found that people with the traits of optimists live healthier lives. In fact, optimists average less than one doctor visit per year while those with pessimistic characteristics averaged 3.5 annual doctor visits per year.

Barbara Fredrickson, Director of the University of Michigan's Department of Positive Emotions & Psychology Laboratory, stated "Positive emotions are not trivial luxuries, but instead may be critical necessities for optimal functioning."

Nobel prize-winning scientist Daniel Kahneman states that we experience 20,000 individual moments in a working day. Each moment lasts a few seconds. If you believe that the majority of these moments provide you an opportunity to fill someone's bucket or dip from someone's bucket (to positively or negatively influence them), you will begin to see the power we have in the choices we make during these critical moments.

If you can master positive choices in your daily life, or at your practice, and the lifters can outnumber and influence the leaners, then you will be on your way to owning or working at a more enjoyable and successful practice.

Whether you are a practice owner, practice manager, or a member of the staff, I encourage you to think about the simple concept of these two types of people. It is not hard to remember: lifters and leaners. What are you and which one represents the majority at your practice?

Don’t forget those 20,000 moments, especially in front of clients and among your fellow clinic employees. All of those moments add up to opportunities to make a positive or negative impression and will surely impact the success of your clinic and you as a person.

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laura sherman's picture

This article made me think of the Ken Blanchard quote "People who feel good about themselves produce good results."

Amanda Wiltse's picture

Very awesome, easy thing to think. Lift or Lean? I like it! Can't wait for the second part!

Julie Poduch's picture

What a simple concept, but so true! It does seem that people either lift up or drag others down...although there often are people who sit in the middle/on the sidelines and aren't helpful in creating a positive overall vibe but also don't participate in the negativity. Getting those fence-sitters in the positive camp can often help tamp down the negative-nellies. I look forward to part 2!

Ron  Morgan's picture

Thank you for your feedback and comments! And thank you Laura for the Ken Blanchard quote. It is quite true that people at work who feel bad about themselves or things going on in their lives often want to drag others into their problems and/or misery. As an employer though it is important to also try to help that employee if at all possible...IF. Please let me know if there are other topics related to this you would like to read about. But it is key not to let negative people continually bring others down!

I always like to hear examples from others about their own experiences with "lifters" or "leaners." If anyone has anything to share please let us know about it. And part 2 will be posted in the not-too-distant future!

Rebecca  Rose's picture

Ron, well done! Yes, easy concept of lifters and leaners! This is the first time I have been to your site and I am liking what I am seeing. Keep it up and I'll be back....RR

Ron  Morgan's picture

Thank you for the great feedback Rebecca! I am glad you liked the article and the site as well. Come back often and keep the comments coming because we like to hear feedback. We will have the next part of this on the site this summer.

Bryan Lolmaugh's picture

Great article. Made me do some introspection and analysis of my habits. Not sure if I am either or both or if I vary depending on the day and staff surrounding me. Definitely more aware of this habit though.

Ron  Morgan's picture

Thank you for the comment Bryan. Just understanding the impact we can have on others - being a lifter or a leaner - is important. It is fairly simple in theory but hard in practice, so I am happy you enjoyed the article and have something to think about. If there are other topics you would like us to cover let us know.

Kendra Krischak's picture

This is more of a question than a comment. I believe I am probably a leaner. I do acknowledge this and try very often to change that. How would you recommend continuing to try to change, when your bosses or managers kind of keep knocking you and your positive views down?