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If you were to reflect on the number of times you’ve been inspired by management CPD yet for some reason when back in your practice nothing actually changes, I wonder how many occasions would come to mind?

I know it’s happened often to me and for myriad reasons such as ‘busy life’ and yet sometimes nothing changes because while the subject matter may have got the creative juices flowing at the time, what the trainer/presenter failed to do was to put the subject in context in terms of how to apply this new-found knowledge. They simply failed to join the dots.

So it was with some delight that I sat in on a session by Laura Woodward MRCVS in the Wellness and Team-Building stream at this years’ VET Festivalto find someone who not only knew the theory but ‘walked the talk’ AND had the ability to convey that in an interesting and engaging way.

As an avid people-watcher, subjects like Emotional Intelligence catch my interest and always have done. Now whether EQ floats your boat or not, conflict management is an art that every good manager has to grasp whether they like it or not as conflict between individuals and groups is simply a fact of life and conflict leads to unhappy and dysfunctional teams.

Why should you care? Well it may surprise you to find out that a whopping 70% of medical errors are due to dysfunctional teams! So that means in creating a well functioning team you have the power to massively reduce the number of errors occurring in your practice. Think about that!

Being skilled at managing conflict is part-and-parcel of leading a functional team and having high EQ helps you to achieve this, hence the connection.

Emotional Intelligence is described as the capacity to be aware of, control and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. Those regarded as having high EQ have good ‘people skills’ and are adept at getting the best out of others.

There are 5 competencies associated with EQ, those being:
  • Self awareness
  • Self regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social Skills
…and Laura applied these to the successful management of various conflict scenarios identifying each competency as a practical step in the process. For example:
  1. Self-awareness. How am I feeling about this situation I'm faced with right now? Am I angry, frustrated, fearful? Write down your feelings and triage them…; which is the stronger emotion?
  2. Self regulation. I’'ve identified I am angry but I am not going to shout. I'’ve identified I am anxious but I am not going to cry. And so on.
  3. Motivation. What is the best case scenario in terms of resolution of this conflict? What outcome would be best for everyone involved? What do I want to achieve in managing this situation?
  4. Empathy. What might others be feeling in this situation and why might they be behaving like this? Seeing things from someone else’'s point of view does not mean you have to agree with them but it will enable you to communicate more effectively with them.
  5. Social skills. When you apply skills such as active listening and tolerance many an angry situation can be resolved quickly and easily.
Laura then went on to describe real-life situations where she had been faced with a problem and applied these steps in delivering a successful outcome. Such as the time she and her team had performed remarkable surgery and rehabilitation in getting a quadriplegic dog walking again only to have the owner to explode in an angry tirade as her pet had been fed on a while plastic plate at mealtimes, rather than a white porcelain one like he had at home! Think now how that might be handled in your practice. Laura managed it successfully and in taking the time to understand why this lady might be behaving so 'unreasonably' she turned an angry client into an Ambassador for her practice.

If you want to know more I suggest you visit Laura Woodward’s website and perhaps consider investing some time and money in one of her workshops? Laura is a vet, an intelligent and compassionate human being, who not only knows the theory but is able to join the dots in putting it into practice and that is something that really impressed me.

Postscript: In case you are wondering, Laura does not know I have written this and this blog is not sponsored by anyone. This is me - Caroline Johnson - speaking from the heart!

The Wellness and Team-building stream at The VET Festival was sponsored by Centaur Services and supported by the VPMA.