How to be Successful: Be Constructive

Do you know or work with someone who is negative?  What, exactly, makes them negative? The description from a Podcast a Vet episode with Dr. Krull comes to mind, “Come in pretty grumpy, pissed that I either had a client, pissed I didn’t have a client.  I don’t wanna see that client, there was a walk-in, what the hell are they doing here? Everything had a negative perspective on it.”  She describes how that infected the staff and made everyone miserable. Do you want to be miserable? I doubt it. So this article is how to avoid bringing misery wherever you go, and the key I think is this: be constructive.

Being constructive means bringing something useful into a situation.  One of my favorite Cracked articles talks about someone bleeding on the street and what you bring to that situation.  Are you able to operate effectively? Maybe you could go get help. Or do you stand there and offer platitudes?  Do you critique the person operating, “Oh, they’re making a mess of it!” You want to be the person that brings something useful and meaningful to the situation.

I have been in countless meetings which had a specific problem to solve and ended up being largely gripe sessions.  People continue to harp on the problem and aspects of the problem or their own personal experience with the problem.  This CAN be useful if you’re trying to identify the problem. But once a problem has been defined, the next step is a SOLUTION, not present more information about the problem.

I can almost guarantee that you contribute to the griping during a meeting.  It’s human nature- we want to share our stories and our struggles. It requires an active effort to not join in a gripe session and instead offer solutions.  However, the people who do offer solutions are clearly the leaders. They are the ones who will be most successful. Whenever I am in charge of a meeting, I always value the people who offer constructive solutions and am annoyed at the people who just gripe and get us off course.  I have a goal in mind- help me get to that goal!

Here is my challenge to you: the next time you are in a meeting, observe who primarily complains and who puts forward solutions.  I can almost guarantee the solution-oriented people are the leaders, the ones who are well-regarded, and the ones who are more successful.

Oddly, this is one of the most obvious divides I have noticed in doctors versus support staff and professional staff.  The support staff gripe about a situation first and foremost. They may eventually come up with solutions, but it isn’t the default approach and only comes after everyone has had their say about what they don’t like.  Doctors also gripe, but not everyone contributes to the griping and some people talk about what can be done after they are done griping.

As a veterinarian, a professional, you are a leader.  You will be a leader to students, or to technical staff, or to your community.  Good leaders bring solutions, not problems. You want to bring solutions. What can be done to make things better?  Focus on being constructive and you will be more successful.

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