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It is notoriously difficult to get professionals to work together as teams. Disagreements over leadership, goals and objectives are common. Individuals may find it difficult to acknowledge that another person has greater expertise but may also reject managerial authority that is not backed up by clinical credentials.

Professionals are also accustomed to relying on their own judgement, taking personal responsibility for their actions (and sometimes those of others) and are not easily swayed by group norms or colleagues. So, how can we persuade veterinary professionals to work together as a team?

1. Establish a common goal or mission that everyone buys into
Every day a tidal wave of cases washes up, is dealt with and recedes, only for the same thing to happen the next day. All too often the ‘goal’ becomes getting through the day and surviving to the next.
But establishing a ‘mission’ or overall values and beliefs that everyone genuinely buys in to, can bring people together. The mission statement should encapsulate what your practice is about, be unique and also inspire your team and clients.
Strip out any bland commitments to do your best for clients and pets and think about what you can offer that truly makes you better or different. Involve the whole team in creating the mission statement and apply it to all your day to day activities and bigger strategic decisions.
Check out some great mission statements and be inspired:
· Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
· Our mission statement is simple, yet the foundation of everything we do here at Virgin Atlantic Airways... to embrace the human spirit and let it fly.
· At IKEA our vision is to create a better everyday life for the many people. Our business idea supports this vision by offering a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.
· Bupa's purpose is longer, healthier, happier lives. We do this by providing a broad range of healthcare services, support and advice to people throughout their lives.

2. Target is not a dirty word
Knowing what you need to achieve as a team and as an individual gives you something to aim for and gives people a sense of progress. We don’t need to associate targets with sales – although you may want to do that – a target could relate to personal development, to acquiring a new skill or refining an existing one, or sharing knowledge within the team. Put a time frame on this and review it at regular appraisals. You may also want to define a team target and ensure that the team has the autonomy to decide how to meet its target. A task force within a team can also be given set targets.

3. Appreciate diversity
People commonly assume two or three types of roles within a team. Belbin team roles are well worth a look to help frame thinking on this idea. Hiring only people with leadership potential or only those who focus on the detail, won’t give the right blend to successfully carry out tasks requiring team work. If one person does all of the recruiting there’s always a temptation to recruit those most like themselves and involving other team members in the recruitment process is one way to avoid this happening.
Think about the unique skills people bring to the team both in terms of their knowledge and also the roles they adopt, when putting together teams and attributing tasks. That might mean making sure you have the creative ‘ideas’ person and the person who makes sure all the loose ends are tied up.
Belbin broadly divides roles into those that are task focused and those that are process focused – so those that ‘get things done’ and those who care about the impact on people and other parameters. To work effectively it’s best to pay attention to both things and being aware of our own biases, especially as team managers, can help us identify the areas where we need to develop, or enlist support.

4. Help everyone contribute
Having ground rules, such as who makes final decisions in the event of disagreement, is essential. Also ask for opinions from those who don’t volunteer their thoughts and ideas. Make sure that there is an open culture where new ideas are welcome – rather than automatically shut down. One way to do this is to switch ‘Yes but..’ for ‘Yes and…’ in meetings. Writing down every idea so they can be circulated after the event can also help ensure all are considered on an equal footing and not discounted by dominant personalities.

5. Build the team relationship away from the practice. A busy practice can be stressful and isn’t always the best place to get to know the best aspects of someone’s personality. A barbecue where the partners cook for the other team members, or an away day to talk about the practice’s overall objectives and ideas for improvement might seem like time wasting but understanding someone in a social context means we can be more patient of their foibles at work and support them more effectively through the tough times.

Having a bonded, supportive team in place is probably one of the best things you can do to maximise employee retention and what’s good for employees tends to be good for patients and clients too. There are many great achievements in human history that have only been possible as a result of teamwork – build your pyramid and build it faster and better together.