Animals – Planning and communication

Veterinarians spend a large amount of their time promoting changes in client behaviour to improve animal health, welfare and productivity. While we spend time talking and listening, clients spend time listening and talking.

We don’t always hear what is meant. The basic summary can be related to goal-setting and expectations.

Dan John, an excellent American sports trainer and strength coach, clarifies this idea well in his book ‘Intervention-course corrections for the athlete and trainer’. Dan defines our expectations as either a “park-bench” attitude or a “bus-stop” attitude. When we are at a bus stop we have expectations of immediate results, but when on a park bench we have a relaxed approach, knowing results will come with time.

An example of “park-bench” versus “bus-stop” for cats and dogs could be when veterinarians promote regular flea treatment (often every month, all year round). With year-round treatment, cats and dogs will remain largely free from the annoyance of fleas crawling through their hair coats and it can help prevent unwanted skin conditions.

Our expectations are “park-bench”. Time is required to achieve the desired results. However, clients often have a “bus-stop” attitude, expecting results immediately and are disappointed when the product doesn’t achieve their expected result. Being aware of the attitude difference is important.

Similarly, when advising farmers about adequate regular fertiliser applications, the results of increased pasture growth requires a “park-bench” attitude. Pasture plant density, and hence overall production, will change over several years of good fertiliser applications, while clients often have a “bus-stop” expectation relating to the results of the fertiliser application.

This is compounded when nitrogen will give immediate results, suggesting that the farmer can expect a “bus-stop” result from all fertilisers when, in fact, phosphorus, potassium and sulphur provide long-term changes to plant growth. Additionally, when fertiliser application is reduced, is less than required or is dropped completely due to budget constraints in one year, the true results or effects may not be seen for several years.

Dan John extends the idea of goal-setting and suggests you need to understand where you are now, decide where you want to go to and make a plan to get there while objectively measuring your progress. Veterinarians are lucky to have clients who we can continue to build a relationship with.

Over time, with ongoing communication, we can clarify and build on suggestions, and track how the implementation process is working. From time-to-time we all want “bus-stop” results, but taking a “park-bench” approach often benefits all parties.

Animals - Wellsford Vet Clinic