Motivation in veterinary medicine can be a tricky thing. The problem with motivation is that it’s different for everyone. We all have different goals and what pushes us to reach those goals will vary by person. What are your goals? Are they similar? And your motivators? Are you all on the same page?
I like goals. I like the idea of having something to look forward to completing. I need a purpose to work towards and goals give me that purpose. It is my hope that everyone who I work with will set goals, but when I was the technician manager I made SURE everyone had goals. During the annual review, I made sure to set some goals for employees and talked with them about what they wanted to accomplish both in skills and in life. We discussed those goals and put dates to them. Example: learning to place a central line by April, or walk client through E-tube feeding by July. And I made sure to discuss them during the year. I also thought about goals for the entire technician team and how each individual fit into the bigger picture. Some were financial (let’s try to reduce our missed charges by a certain percentage every quarter), some were medical (let’s get everyone comfortable with using the anesthesia ventilator by the end of January), or even client-centered (improve client survey numbers relating to triage).
Anyone who has set a goal for themselves knows that setting is only the half of it. Now comes the work. Part of that work is voicing your plan to those around you, setting expectations and following up, but most of that work is just DOING. The doing comes from motivation. When I was managing the technician team at DoveLewis we had a management "retreat". Retreat gets the quotes because in my mind, a retreat is fun and relaxing. DoveLewis manager retreats are WORK with different food for lunch. I did get a LOT out of these retreats (even if they involved strategic planning at the end of the day) and the one that stands out the most is the one where we discussed our personal motivations for working at DoveLewis. Even within our relatively small management team we had a number of different answers. For some it was our community programs and presence; others by the compassionate care and the human animal bond; someone mentioned the education that the hospital offers. Others, myself included, were motivated most by the medical challenge and quality of medical care offered to patients. Thinking outside of our small team, it was easy to see that our staff may have very different reasons for walking into the building every day. How were we going to motivate all of these people?
As a manager I was responsible for getting a group of people, with different motivations, all on the same page and working together. What was exciting for one was certainly stupid to another. Some people want to be recognized in front of everyone, others are pleased with a personal note. One may think $25 is totally worth it to be on-call for the day, someone else may be insulted that $25 barely buys dinner (if you eat at restaurants like that). It was a challenge. I’m not here to tell you I found the answer (if I knew the secret I’d be eating at places that charge more than $15 for a nice dinner!) but I am here to tell you that I asked and responded. I pay attention to what motivates individuals and I solicit feedback. If someone came to complain that they didn’t feel appreciated at work (it happens – support staff jobs are hard!) I made sure to ask them what they needed in order to feel better appreciated.
Sometimes that’s all it takes to motivate people: knowing that they have a manager who takes the time to learn what motivates them. If you’re a manager – try it! Try meeting with your team and discussing goals and motivation. If you’re an employee – figure out what motivates you and what gives you fulfillment and then say it! I can’t help you if I don’t know what you need. A team that communicates and understands each other will move forward. We’re all different, driven by different motivators, but we all have the same goal; provide the best medicine for our patients, earn the trust of our clients, and enjoy doing it.