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Issue: 66 - Jun 15, 2014
How to Boost Efficiency at Your Clinic
By: Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ
Dr. Phil Zeltzman

According to a recent worldwide study of 1,500 executives by McKinsey and Co., a consulting firm, less than 10% are “very satisfied” with their current allocation of time.

In other words, over 90% of executives are unhappy with how they spend their time. Many of them admit to chronic procrastination and time wasting.

Aaron De Smet, an executive at McKinsey, explains that the executives are evenly distributed among four types of time management and leadership styles: the Online Junkie, the Schmoozer, the Cheerleader and the Firefighter.

Which type are you?

The Online Junkie

As the name implies, online junkies spend the majority of their time chatting electronically.

About 40% of their time is spent communicating via email, phone and voice mail.  Interactions are delayed, which is called asynchronous communication.

They may feel like they have many connections with people. Yet they do not spend enough time managing and motivating their team.  The quality of such interactions is not as good as walking around, meeting people and actually talking to them.  Online junkies need more personal contact, more face to face communication.

Another way online junkies waste time is by doing research online.  Checking a protocol for a CRI on or should take less than 5 minutes.  But somehow, this seems to magically lead to a visit to a heated debate on the best way to treat pancreatitis. From there, our online junkie friend checks in to see if her question on resistance to flea medication received an answer.

What started out as a 5 minute verification devilishly snowballed into a 30 minute ordeal.

The Schmoozer

Schmoozers are like politicians: they enjoy meeting new people, talking to them, engaging them. They are energized by such interactions.  Since they are prototypical extraverts, most of their time is spent with clients and in meetings.

Because of these interactions, they feel “plugged in,” yet their own colleagues and reports have a hard time getting in touch with them.

What schmoozers lack is “me” time to set a direction & strategize, as well as face time with direct reports.

Those two concepts are not mutually exclusive. 

It’s not OK to talk about who really should have won last night’s episode of “Dancing with the Stars” to a technician who is trying to place an IV catheter in a 14 year old freakozoid cat who is 20% dehydrated.

It’s however OK to spend a short amount of time talking to coworkers, as long as it doesn’t interfere with their workload.

The rest of the time should be spent in an office or a quiet area, brainstorming alone or during quality, face-to-face interactions.

The Cheerleader

Cheerleaders are good with employees, as they spend over half of their time in meetings and face to face.  They derive energy from leading, motivating and inspiring their team.  They regularly gather their team for pep talks, alignment and working through issues.

They are good at getting through challenges, achieving their goals and aspirations by rallying the troops, getting the right team together and motivating people to achieve a common objective. They enjoy it and they are very good at it.

The problem is, when they spend so much time working directly with their people, they don’t have enough time to work with clients, communicate with business partners or set the broad strategic direction.

Again, this is a balancing act. Less time should be dedicated to pep talks, and more time should be spent dealing with business matters.

The Firefighter

Firefighters constantly deal with emergencies. They spend most of their time dealing with the latest, unexpected issue that demands their immediate attention. Therefore, their schedule is a mess because they constantly have to cancel meetings to make room for whatever the last crisis is.

They tend to micromanage and deal with problems themselves.  They communicate asynchronously via email and voice mail.

About 40% of their time is spent alone, which gives them little time to set directions, to plan long term, to strategize and to communicate face to face with their team.

They want more time to work on big strategic issues

This has less to do with the role or whether or not there is a crisis (we all face crises), and more to do with how they have trained their teams.

When all decisions escalate to the top, head honchos, managers and supervisors spend most of their time on short-term tactical issues.

This sounds all-too familiar in the veterinary world.  Crises and emergencies are unavoidable. Nobody can plan for a broken X-ray machine, a computer crash or the clogged toilet.  To learn how to minimize crises to focus on the truly important tasks, please read our previous article on time management:


Across these four patterns of unsatisfied people, there are two issues that often work in tandem:

  • Their personal preferences, the habits they have learned by spending too much time on some activities and not enough on others.
  • How organizations are set up. Most companies create job descriptions in terms of goals and responsibilities, but give virtually no guidance on what effective time management actually means.

These two issues apply to veterinary medicine just as well.

The issue is not just better time management for individuals.  The solution also requires more clarity within organizations, to explain who should be spending how much time on what activities.

This would be a great topic to discuss at your next management meeting.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ