The Business of Practice: Takeaways from the 2022 AAEP Convention Keynote Speaker

pulling on each end of frayed rope
The AAEP Keynote presentation discussed how veterinarians are often pulled in many directions at once, resulting in burnout. Getty Images

John Townsend, PhD, gave the 2022 AAEP Convention Keynote address titled Boundaries: When to Say Yes, and How to Say No When You Need To.

In this podcast, Amy Grice, VMD, MBA, gives an overview of the AAEP Keynote speaker’s presentation during the Convention. She said while some in the audience complained because Townsend didn’t have a visual presentation, “there really were important take-homes”

One take-home was that people became equine veterinarians because of a passion for the horse. He defined that passion as “an endeavor that allows you to lose track of time.”

Grice said his discussion talked about “when you give from an ’empty’ cup, it kills passion.” That means when you are burned out, it will kill your passion for your profession.

Townsend focused in his AAEP Keynote discussion on boundaries. He said boundaries are important to keep people able to give. Grice said that while some people think boundaries are selfish, “they keep us in our career.”

Townsend said you have to learn to say no. Grice said if you find that hard, you are not alone. “Plus there are financial challenges, including educational debt” that make young veterinarians want to work as much as possible, she said.

The burnout equation discussed in the AAEP Keynote address was look at your responsibility and divide that by your resources. That’s the burnout equation. If there is too much deficit, then there will be turnout.

Grice said it is hard to deal with clients who feel entitled, or that their needs are more important than the needs of the vet or other clients. “Many vets are people pleasers,” said Grice. “They don’t want to lose a client.”

Townsend talked about some “cool” tools about boundaries and priorities.

The first was having a Task Priority Page for your life. Grice said she loved this idea.

Veterinarians need to create four categories:

  • Must do and time fixed. Townsend’s example was a daughter’s ballet recital. If you miss it, you can’t redo it.
  • Must do but time flexible. His example was having dinner with the family a certain number of times a month. Workingout/exercise
  • Important but not a must do. His examples were traveling or updating tech in your office.
  • Would be nice. Townsend had examples like a spa day, having a massage, or doing a Netflix binge.

He said starting a monthly, visual calendar allows you to plug in those things. It allows you to realize how little time you have, and if you don’t plug them in, then you don’t get them done

Another suggestion he had was the language to use when someone asks you something, and it doesn’t fit on your calendar. He said the words to use were: That doesn’t work for me.

Townsend said you don’t have to say I’m sorry. You don’t have to give an explanation.

Grice said one important aspect that equine vets need to consider is setting ground rules for accessibility of clients. Otherwise, you have people “after you” all of the time.

There were so many more tidbits of advice in this AAEP Keynote presentation from Townsend. Listen to the full podcast to pick out gems for yourself!

About John Townsend, PhD

The introduction to Townsend by AAEP noted: “Leadership involves making the right decisions, and those decisions often bring conflict. Whether in the C-suite of major corporations or within the dynamics of an equine practice and the veterinarian-client-patient relationship, many leaders experience feelings of burnout, compassion fatigue, guilt, and anxiety about saying no when they need to. 

“During his keynote presentation, renowned boundaries expert Townsend will provide clear principles and actionable skills to help you conquer these feelings and take charge of your life and your leadership.

“Townsend is a business consultant, leadership coach, and psychologist. He has written over 30 books, selling 10 million copies, including the New York Times bestselling Boundaries series, People Fuel, Leading From Your Gut, and The Entitlement Cure. 

“For more than 20 years, Dr. Townsend has engaged with leaders, organizations, and individuals around the globe, offering life-changing solutions to their problems. He hosts his own online live video call-in program, “Dr. Townsend Live.” He is also co-host of the nationally syndicated talk show “New Life Live!” which is heard in 180 markets with 3 million listeners. In addition, Dr. Townsend spends considerable time developing others through the Townsend Leadership Program as well as the Townsend Institute for Leadership and Counseling at Concordia University, Irvine.”

You can find Townsend’s and co-author Henry Cloud’s book Boundaries on Amazon.

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