If you’re working in veterinary practice and feel you’re doing a great job in your current position, it’s only natural to want to develop and grow. Perhaps you’ve been working as a veterinary nurse for some time and chasing that elusive promotion to Head Veterinary Nurse? Or maybe you’ve always wanted to be a Practice Manager?
Not matter your reasons, if you know you’re ready to take on more responsibility and want to show your organisation you have the skills to do so, here are a few ideas for what you can do to show you’re the right fit for a management position in your veterinary practice:
1. Step up for bigger projects and come up with new ideas
Opportunities to impress or take on more responsibility don’t always arise naturally. Sometimes you need to create these chances for yourself. This means jumping at the opportunity to take on more responsibility, stepping up for jobs others may not want to do, or coming up with new ideas to implement to make the practice better. For example, if you’re a veterinary nurse this could be offering new nursing clinics or coming up with new ways to promote the practice in the local community. This shows you care about your organisation and you’re a team player who is willing to put themselves forward for the greater good of the veterinary practice.
2. Let your aspirations be known
Key decision makers may not always think to consider you for managerial positions if they don’t know you’re keen to develop, or if they don’t even know you – so put yourself out there and start making connections. Letting your aspirations be known means you can ask for advice and feedback about how to put yourself in a better position. Your boss may be able to help you by allocating you a mentor in practice, or arranging more opportunities for you to job shadow managers or lead on projects of your own, to help you build the relevant skills and knowledge needed to become an effective manager in the future.
3. Strengthen your clinical and management skills and knowledge
It’s important to acknowledge that nobody stops learning and that you should never pass up the opportunity to learn something new. As a leader in a veterinary setting, you will need to be committed to keeping your clinical skills up-to-date and open to ongoing education, so that you can support and develop more junior members of the team.
Not only this, supporting teams requires excellent leadership and management skills. Whether you have management experience or not, undertaking a leadership and management qualification could help you develop your leadership capabilities and confidence to deal with a range of management challenges by undertaking a leadership and management qualification. Formal study could also pave the way to a promotion or further on-the-job training working towards a leadership role.
Ensure that you keep up –to-date with industry trends and news, and undertake regular continuing professional development (CPD) to provide valuable inside knowledge to your colleagues.
4. Be aware of what is going on around you in the wider organisational picture
As a leader in a veterinary setting, you need to have the respect and ear of all the stakeholders: the veterinary nurses, the vets, partners, receptionists – and so on. By watching and learning you can discover a wealth of useful information to assist you in building better relationships with all stakeholders and identifying opportunities for progression in the practice.
Identify other leaders around you, such as those in other departments, or your own boss, and establish what it is that makes them stand out as being deserving of the title ‘leader’. This way, you can better understand what wider business goals for the practice are, enabling you to generate ideas that will garner attention and contribute towards wider strategic objectives – which won’t be forgotten when internal opportunities for promotion come around.
5. Take opportunities to teach and help other team members
Veterinary team leaders such as Head Veterinary Nurses and Practice Managers spend a lot of time developing their staff members; whether this be by providing feedback on work, teaching them new skills, undertaking probation reviews or providing opportunities for development in areas they would like to improve in.
In this sense, it’s important that you have the ability to work with other people and they feel comfortable coming to you for help and guidance. Don’t be afraid to share your knowledge and skills with others, as this will mean that other people can grow and you’re building trust and rapport with your team members.
More than this, you could develop your teaching skills by volunteering for roles such as clinical coaching or undertaking a relevant qualification, such as in coaching and mentoring or leadership and management.
6. Get to know your co-workers
As a leader, delegation and monitoring can help you juggle intense workloads. You’ll be able to do this much better if you understand what your co-workers strengths are, what they enjoy doing and what they are good at. More than this – you work with your co-workers every single day,
7. Be professional and lead by example
It’s important to lead by example and follow your practice’s protocols and policies. Good leaders cannot enforce lateness if they are always late, or keep a strict dress code if they continuously break it, for example. Rules are there for a reason and it is often a manager’s responsibility to ensure others abide by them. Show your boss and senior management that you’re willing to be a good example for other team members, and you’re sure to be considered for future managerial opportunities.
8. Have confidence in your skills and abilities
Being responsible for teams is no easy task and is no role to sign up for lightly. You’re not always going to have all the answers or know exactly what to do; and you don’t need to pretend that you. What you do need to do, is believe in what you are doing and take responsibility for your actions. This confidence also needs to be instilled in those around you. Speak with confidence and have faith in your own ability. This will be noticed by those around you – including the key decision makers.
9. Motivate others and become the ‘go-to person’ in veterinary practice
A big part of leadership is inspiring those around you to be the best that they can be and go the extra mile for the veterinary practice. You want to be the person who encourages those around you to be motivated and contribute to practice objectives, as well as pursue their own professional goals. This doesn’t mean you need to give a pep talk at every turn – leading by good example is far more powerful than any ‘motivational speech’ you could give.
More than this, leaders aren’t necessarily the individuals who are ‘the boss’ or have ‘manager’ in their job title. It’s possible to lead from anywhere in an organisation, and a true leader is one that is followed without force. This is demonstrated when you become the person that your team always look to for support or to bounce ideas off. Make yourself this person by always giving input when asked, and offering constructive advice.
10. …lastly, don’t give up on your goals
Sometimes, you could take all of these steps and still have trouble finding opportunities. It may be that your veterinary practice simply doesn’t have the capacity or room for progression at the moment – but that may not be the case forever. If it’s something you really want, you always have the option to look for veterinary management roles elsewhere. You never know what opportunities are around the corner.
Being a leader is not about having control of other people. It is about being proactive, asking questions (and listening to the answer), demonstrating a good example and stepping up when something needs to be done. Ensure you remain in tune with what is going on around you and develop your management skills, and you will soon be on the way to landing that elusive managerial role and becoming an inspiring leader.
An ILM leadership and management qualification can help you gain the skills needed to become a manager or leader in your practice
If you’re an aspiring head veterinary nurse or practice manager, our ILM accredited leadership and management courses can help you nurture the skills needed to motivate your co-workers, manage stress levels in your team and deal with difficult situations, all whilst boosting your career and salary prospects. You’ll also look at:
- Manage team dynamics and deal with conflict
- Utilise individual strengths and motivate teams
- Delegate workloads and set objectives
- Give direction and guidance
- Contribute to planning, problem solving and decision making
- Apply discipline in the workplace
Starting in June, the courses offer a combination of online learning and study days, allowing you to fit your studies around your day-to-day commitments. What’s more – if you’re employed in a veterinary practice, you can save over £500 on course fees this Summer, and get a year’s free membership to the Veterinary Management Group.