A survey of veterinary professionals conducted by the Veterinary Management Group and the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons has concluded that veterinary leaders, chiefly vets and practice managers, lack the man management skills needed to improve staff motivation and retention. 

330 people who took part in the survey were presented with a list of management and leadership skills. Those of the respondents who are leaders were asked to rate their confidence in applying the skills, whilst those in non-management positions were asked to rate their line manager's skills. Both sets of respondents were also asked to place the skills in priority order.

The management skills were: Setting clear tasks and objectives. Providing clear roles and responsibilities. Communicating clearly and effectively. Monitoring and evaluating. Planning and organising. Effectively managing difficult situations.

The leadership skills were: Providing rationale and explaining why. Regularly providing and seeking feedback. Building trust. Providing guidance and training. Creating development plans and opportunities.

Interestingly, the survey found a close correlation between how the leaders and the employees prioritise these things, with management skills being perceived as more important overall than leadership skills. 

Communicating clearly and effectively was deemed the most important skill of all (ranked 9 out of 10 by both groups). Meanwhile, creating development plans and opportunities for others was prioritised the least (ranked 3.7/10).

But hang on a moment. If both the managers and the employees agree that creating development plans and opportunities is the least important thing, then surely it is? In other words, if employees say that creating development plans is unimportant, then surely it is unimportant, and if leaders think the same, they would appear to be right.

Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps employees don't know what's good for them, and leaders don't know what employees don't know what is good for them. If you take my point. 

Veterinary leaders were then asked to rate their confidence in applying the listed leadership and management skills. The skills which elicited the largest number of 'not confident' responses were: monitoring and evaluating performance, regularly providing and seeking feedback, and creating development plans and opportunities for others.

The skills with which leaders were most confident were: communicating clearly and effectively, building trust, and providing rationale and explaining why. 

Again, there was a close correlation between prioritisation of these skills and confidence levels. 

VMG Vice President Richard Casey said: “The survey has helped us to identify priorities for learning and development both at our 2020 Congress and during our joint CPD programme next year.  It is striking that the very skills required to motivate colleagues to remain in veterinary medicine and to support them in doing so are the ones which so many veterinary leaders admit that they lack confidence. Given the challenges the profession faces, it is also concerning that they appear to be undervalued both by veterinary leaders and the team members who report to them.

"Delegates to SPVS-VMG Congress and our other 2020 CPD events will benefit from a wealth of evidence-based lectures from experts on all aspects of veterinary leadership and management, enabling them to improve their own performance and contribute to an overall raising of standards of leadership and management across the veterinary sector." 

Peter Brown, Senior Vice-President of SPVS, said: "We know that veterinary students receive an excellent clinical training and, in recent years, universities have started to include more non-clinical skills on the curriculum. However, these results suggest that when professionals move into more senior roles, be it leading a team or running their own practice, they find they still need to acquire new skills. SPVS’ role has always been to equip veterinary professionals to be effective leaders and SPVS-VMG congress is an excellent opportunity to both hear inspiring speakers and meet and learn from fellow leaders within the profession."

The VMG-SPVS 2020 joint Congress takes place from 23-25 January at the Celtic Manor Resort, Newport, and will feature dedicated streams on effective leadership, management mastery, practice profitability, preparing for a digital future and sustainability in practice.

Details on the VMG-SPVS 2020 CPD Programme can be found here: https://spvs-vmg-events.co.uk/cpd-events/ 

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