Spotlight sessions: Thoughts on New Year resolutions, leadership buzzwords and the world of Impact Players. Applying corporate knowledge to veterinary practices.

Advice for leading in 2023 by Ian Bryant, Managing Director, Covetrus, UK and EMEA

By Kim Lam

6 February 2023 5 min read


As we dive into the new year and its “resolutions”, many leaders are undertaking strategy sessions, kick-offs and embodying a new level of motivation!

The following content can be found in Ian’s newsletter on LinkedIn: Through the Lens where you can also subscribe and keep up-to-date with his leadership advice.

As we dive into the new year and its “resolutions”, many leaders are undertaking strategy sessions, kick-offs and embodying a new level of motivation!  In the world of leadership, there are of course plenty of buzzwords going around which can either be inspiring or vomit-inducing. You’ll see teams go forth with wanting to “spearhead”, “transform”, “galvanize” or “unite” and whatnot. My view around this is that, whilst it can feel cringey sometimes, if we didn’t have these cliches or energetic phrases, we’d live in a very flat, uninspiring world. Think about how strategies, conversations, presentations, training and any interaction would be without these terms… you get my point!

“One of the jobs of a manager is to instil confidence, pump confidence into your people. And when you’ve got somebody who’s raring to go, and you can smell it and feel it and give ’em that shot.”

 Jack Welch, American Business Executive, Chemical Engineer and Writer.

Leaders and managers are meant to be there to live and breathe those buzzwords. And one that has caught my eye recently is…Impact Players and Impact contributors.

The anatomy of an Impact Player or Impact Contributor

When I think about leading people or Impact Players and the innate traits it requires, Liz Wiseman, a key author and leader listed on the Thinkers50 ranking (as well as being recognised as the top leadership thinker in the world) defines it well.  Some of the characteristics and fine distinctions include:

  • Maintaining present-mindedness
  • Being open
  • Being flexible
  • Being curious
  • Being ready to ask and adjust
  • Being ready to make themselves useful
  • Makes work light

Some of these may be obvious but the action of being so or embodying that can be a far distance from saying so. In other words, lip-service only. I think it’s important for contributors and leaders to remember these traits or at least train themselves and their teams to absorb those values. It also directly plays into what’s known as the “performance guarantee.”

Liz Wiseman states:

“Impact Players deliver these values with such consistency that it, essentially, creates a performance guarantee that their leaders and colleagues count on. Thus, Impact Players get handed the most visible opportunities and they aren’t micromanaged by their bosses. As more people operate with this ‘performance guarantee,’ the organisation becomes more performance-focused. Leaders can then provide the right targets, and contributors can figure out the most effective and efficient way to hit those targets.”

Small differences in how we think and act (for ourselves especially, not solely for the companies or practices we work for) can go a long way. When we can have a huge impact and do work that’s meaningful, it feels much better. Having the “performance guarantee” can create extraordinary value.  Yet it requires the right environment and ecosystem.

Creating the right environment for Impact Players

However, it is our job as leaders to create an environment where teams and individuals can contribute meaningfully at a practice. Going back to my first newsletter, I talk about the importance of role clarity, performance reviews, training and the digital and physical environment. All of these emotional and physical structures; and guardrails provide the necessary support enabling Impact Players and contributors to not only do their job, but flourish and enjoy life whilst they’re at work.

Nobody is going to serve to anyone on a platter to figure out what’s important, so your job as the Owner, Director, Practice Manager or otherwise, means providing transparency and clarity in the best ways possible. It also means laying out what opportunities are available to your team in terms of career progression so you can demonstrate that you care for their development and nurture how the practice can thrive at the same time. It might mean that your front-of-house staff go on a course for better communication with customers; or your practice manager gets more training on the current Practice Management System in place to utilise more functions; or you help your staff identify areas of interest for their career progression. In our Paws, Rewind and Play podcast interview with Elle Payne, a registered veterinary nurse, she spoke of her trajectory and liking for specializing in neurology. Without the open conversations or performance reviews as suggested by Kay Ritchie, a Veterinary Recruiter, you can’t help nourish or nurture your staff.

Filling the transparency gaps

Also discussed in one of Liz Wiseman’s podcasts is around being proactive in the paradoxical situation where there’s less clarity or transparency.

“In absence of a leader’s top priorities, it’s important for Impact Players or contributors to pay attention. For example, an Impact Player asks ‘what does she or he care about or spend time on.’ It’s being in the mindset of ‘I’m going to fill in those gaps’ and whilst it’s a leader’s job to provide clarity and guidance, the most Impactful Players don’t wait around for their managers and leaders to do this. They are self-managing in this respect.”

When people are self-managing, this creates a good outcome in that the leader can actually lead without micromanaging their teams. It creates a win-win. I liken it to raising a toddler. In some respects you have to guide them and give them the training, tools and encouragement to walk or achieve something new, but also allowing them to wobble and fall over a few times, making some mistakes in order to sharpen their skills. Provide too much bubble-wrap, then there’s no sense of freedom, independence and instead, a stifling environment is born. Success often doesn’t exist without failure. Having a fine balance between transparency and ambiguity also creates trust, self-efficacy, trust and a sense of achievement for both parties. Be the leader that creates an environment of innovation and allows room for all sorts of ideas, creativity and spawns proactive, independent, self-managing and effective individuals. If there’s too much hand-holding, you create co-dependency and end up having to manage more than lead.

“When we self-manage, we get the dignity of not being managed.”

It’s also important to point out that one of the traits outlined is “ready to make themselves useful.” Along the lines of proactivity, it means going beyond the bare minimum and providing additional value. But I want to caveat this by clarifying that it should not mean to acquiesce or slave yourself to do additional work such as workload increase; doing extra hours in consultation or working way beyond contracted hours etc. Veterinary staff are overburdened and stretched as they are! But it does mean encouraging teams to find meaningful work that both adds to their own satisfaction and provides value to the business and practice goals.

Being the recipients of great leadership means that your staff can feel excited, trusted and worthy. Instead of being micro-managed, observed or watched. Interestingly in Liz’ research, when leaders were surveyed on what they appreciate and value from impact players, it was to:

  • Do things without being asked
  • Anticipate problems and have a plan/ solution
  • Help team-mates
  • Be a deputy by their side
  • Do a little extra (not overwork but add value where possible e.g. print off a summary report of today’s appointments and invoiced revenue for the day to avoid missed charges at the practice)
  • Be curious and ask questions.

Managers don’t want to be “bossy”, they want their teams to be able to step in and take care of matters. Each entity should be leaning on each other to help solve problems and run operations together.

Using technology to empower your teams

As a technology and Practice Management Provider (PMS), it’s important for me to mention the ultimate power that a PMS can provide in enabling team collaboration and creating Impact Players.

It’s where automation and seamless workflows can help facilitate things like having quicker consultations, or automate better client communications. Ascend, our cloud-based practice management system is known for its intuitive nature, happy colours, simple interface and strong functionality that allows practice staff to be more efficient, effective and contribute as high-performers and Impact Players. All the whilst taking care of mental health, by making things easier and automating heavy administrative tasks.

Ascend’s predictive auto-fill capabilities in patient and client data management means that jobs can get done quicker with more accuracy ensuring GDPR data compliance and more time for other important tasks that Impact Players want to focus on, like spending proper quality time with pet owners and patients. In dreaded or mundane tasks like stock-take, it can also empower teams with the right data and order values to ensure the practice is full stocked with key revenue-generating opportunities.

There are endless possibilities in what a PMS and other technology do to help your practice build key Impact Players! For more ideas on key areas of improvement, you can also check out our recently published and now most downloaded 2023 eBook Veterinary Trends and Insights: creating a forward-thinking practice.

Here’s to a successful 2023!