Staff Feedback Fuels Mutual Success

You need an effective, insightful staff for a smooth-running and healthy equine practice. They see what’s going on behind the scenes every day and might even catch something before you do.

In my last article, we discussed how feedback during interpersonal and work-related conflicts can help staff and the practice grow. Likewise, performance feedback is a beneficial tool for helping workers reach their full potential. And it doesn’t just benefit the employees; performance feedback—giving and receiving it—can serve as a basis for improving your practice.


Giving Feedback

Employee feedback should be affirmative and constructive. Sometimes this will be praise and recognition for a job well done. Sometimes it’s about correcting behaviors. If it’s corrective, you can still use it as a positive by letting employees know you are trying to help them learn. No matter the type of feedback, it needs to be timely, specific and constant.

  • Timely Reward or correct behaviors from the beginning. Let’s say a new team member is late to an appointment at an important stable or is tardy for an important practice meeting. A manager who reacts by looking at his or her watch and shaking his or her head isn’t addressing the issue. If not addressed soon, the behavior could become a habit. Or the manager might offer feedback that is not timely if the employee makes an unrelated mistake and the tardiness problem is brought up. But if the manager addresses the tardiness issue directly the first time, the employee will understand the expectations.
  • Specific Feedback can’t be vague or it won’t change behaviors. Telling an employee he or she is doing a good job or is dependable doesn’t address measurable objectives going forward. Each employee needs to have specific goals. These goals can be about starting on time every day or working up to a new role. Work with your employees to set goals they would like to accomplish each year. This way, you can give specific feedback on their performance toward those goals.
  • Constant Performance feedback is not just an annual task; it needs to be ongoing. Continuous feedback helps keep emotions at bay. Managers who withhold information are collecting baggage. Perhaps the baggage piles up or maybe it gets unloaded all at once. Neither is good. Also, by giving specific, timely feedback throughout the year, managers aren’t putting themselves in a position to deliver surprises. Remember, performance feedback and annual reviews are not tools to punish people. They are tools to develop people.

Receiving Feedback

As important as it is to give feedback, I also encourage veterinarians to ask for feedback. Veterinarians tend to be surprised by how much feedback their employees have to offer. Feedback is a gift. Equine veterinarians can learn a lot from their staff just by taking the time to ask. Employees could tell you how an office task could be handled more efficiently or how an interaction with a horse and/or client might have been adjusted to go more smoothly. Those can be touchy subjects, but they don’t have to be if you invite the feedback. Employees will be more willing to share if they aren’t punished for having opinions that might differ from yours.

When you invite feedback, you have to be willing to hear the positive and negative. When you receive feedback, even if you don’t like it, thank your employees for the feedback. Don’t get defensive. Just consider it and review it. If you get defensive or disagree, your staff won’t be as willing to offer it again. If your staff sees that you really value input, you’ll build trust, which elevates the whole organization. It also could result in a little problem you don’t know about being addressed before it become a big problem.

Feedback motivates performance. It’s a misconception that people don’t want feedback. Everybody wants and needs feedback. Practice it, make it a habit, and you will find it gets better and easier. The opportunities to learn from each other are endless.

Kerry Jones is a consultant for PeopleFirst from Zoetis. He works with veterinarians, equine business owners and cattle producers to meet their human resources, training, development and leadership needs. PeopleFirst is the industry’s first comprehensive human capital and business management solutions program. These services were created in direct response to challenges customers expressed with managing today’s complex agricultural businesses. For more ways to help develop your employees and veterinary clinic, contact Kerry or visit

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