Are you serious?

Are you serious?

How you deliver information may be overriding your message—and preventing colleagues and clients from taking you seriously. Learn how to improve your presentation and earn their respect.
Apr 01, 2008

Illustration by Greg Paprocki
You work in a veterinary hospital, so you expect to see animals every day. But it's the kind you don't treat that cause the most problems. With characteristics like hurried, unreliable, and timid, these animals commonly found on veterinary teams don't command the respect and attention they may deserve.

So read each character description to discover which animal you most closely resemble in practice. Then use the advice to improve your communication skills and performance.


A careless cat does her job, but it's riddled with errors, so colleagues and clients don't trust what she says or does.

Illustration by Greg Paprocki
How to get serious: "To me, professional means doing the mundane and simple well every time," says Dennis Cloud, DVM, a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member who owns several practices in the St. Louis area. "Writing a lab request and setting the fluid machine correctly are simple tasks. But if done incorrectly, they can cause huge errors."

If you're a careless cat, don't hurry through tasks and projects just to check them off your list. Slow down and check that you've followed processes exactly. Look up facts before spouting off to clients. And correct any errors you do make. When you demonstrate care and attention, you build a relationship of trust with team members and pet owners that boosts your credibility.


A bold bull charges through life, rushing through the process to realize the result and bowling over those in her way.

Illustration by Greg Paprocki
How to get serious: Listen up when others offer feedback. Often bulls think they don't need others' help and can accomplish more faster by themselves, says Debbie Allaben Gair, CVPM, a board member and president of Bridging the Gap, a business geared to helping people work together more effectively, in Sparta, Mich. But team members can't function independently. Involving others creates a network to help you execute ideas sooner.

For example, say a team leader who shows bullish tendencies manages a group of more experienced team members. She gets consumed by her brilliant ideas and her team members' wisdom and experience fly right off her radar. So when senior team members respond to her ideas with reasons why they won't work, she pooh-poohs their opinions as cynicism.

This bold bull isn't taking advantage of a valuable resource at her disposal: her team. Experienced team members can point out potential pitfalls in their leader's ideas and help her analyze her plans and make them stronger. So before introducing her ideas to the rest of the practice, this bold bull should ask her team what's missing, then focus on improving those parts of her plan, Gair says. This way, she'll create stronger ideas to present to the whole team.


A big-dreaming butterfly flits around all day—pausing only briefly to espouse a new idea—then flutters off, chasing another dream.

Illustration by Greg Paprocki
How to get serious: Butterflies bring great ideas, and they're essential to making change in practice. But to effectively inspire and create change, Dr. Cloud recommends butterflies—like bulls—think through their ideas before presenting them.

Making your ideas into SMART—simple and specific, measurable, attainable, result-oriented, and time-oriented—goals sets the stage for change in practice, Dr. Cloud says. "Use available training materials, and don't depend on your boss to make things happen," he says. "Practice the skills that will make your ideas a reality. Relieve work from the veterinarian, instead of piling more ideas and tasks on him or her. Detail your ideas and how you'd implement them first. These extra steps launch you from star to superstar."