Be a good boss by not being a jerk

And other lessons learned while attending AVMA

I recently spent some time in Philadelphia at the AVMA conference. As one of the professional development curriculum coordinators, it was satisfying to see the quality of content and presenters. The conference was well attended and I found the trade show exhibit hall very interesting.

Usually, when attending a conference pre-Covid, you would see huge booths from major pharmaceutical companies and distribution. This time, many of those booths were reduced in size and veterinary consolidators, and corporate groups had stepped into the booth space. The not-surprising story is they were not there to buy practices, but to recruit staff.

The shortage of veterinarians and veterinary technicians is challenging when you have one practice but could be overwhelming if you had over 100. But, going back to much of the theme of the conference, which focused on team wellbeing, all practices need to be concentrating on retaining their great team members.

I attended Dr. Cindy Courtney’s class on how to be a good boss by not being a jerk. Her classes are always enlightening, and it was great to do a little exercise with her on feed-forward.

If you’re not familiar with how this works, the example goes like this:

We looked at each other and asked a question about a problem we needed to solve. Cindy said in her 360 reviews she occasionally gets feedback that she is not a good listener. I get feedback from my husband that I overcommit my time. When you give feedback, it can come across negative, but when you give feed forward you are offering objective solutions to the other person’s problem.

So, Cindy said, “Deb how would you help me become a better listener?” My response was, “Be aware this is a challenge for you and lead your conversations with curiosity.” My question to Cindy was,” How can I better focus my schedule and learn to say no to interesting commitments when I am already overbooked?” Cindy’s response to me was, “When you are evaluating opportunities, focus on your long-term goals and determine if these opportunities are a fit or a distraction.” I enjoyed this exercise and Cindy gave me great advice.

As someone who loves to network, I get great pleasure from attending conferences and seeing friends and acquaintances. Prior to attending, I had already booked eight meetings in the two days I was there—see above problem with over-commitment. But spending some time sitting in the hallway with a friend from AAHA allowed me to see multiple fellow VetPartners members, former sales reps, and longtime speaker friends.

I did manage to get three hours of CE and meet Dr. Bertice Berry and shake her hand. My AVMA was a great success!

Tell me what YOU love about conferences?