4 leadership archetypes: Why negative data gets your boss in a tizzy and what you can do about it

by By Kate Zirkle

13 min read

Do you know what your owner’s leadership archetype is? Read on to find out.

If you’re in any sort of leadership position at your practice, there’s no doubt you’ve been the bearer of bad news to your owners at least once or twice.

Even with a booming pet industry, there’s still the potential for lackluster revenue numbers, failed marketing programs, and lapsing clients. As a practice manager, it’s your job to report the good, the bad, and the ugly.

No one likes giving or receiving negative data

Let’s face it, no one likes bad news.

Author and data thought leader, Avinash Kaushik, points out in his popular Occam’s Razor blog that “a decade ago, people delivered a lot less bad news because so little could be measured with any degree of confidence.”

Technological advancements have enabled us to measure anything and everything related to veterinary practice management with pinpoint accuracy.

Rationally, we all know how insight and data, especially negative data, benefits our practices in the long run. Emotionally though, no one is super jazzed to hear that compliance is down or revenue per patient just isn’t where it should be.

In fact, Kaushik speculates that our bosses and practice owners likely “grew up, succeeded, and were promoted during the era of no data and hence a ton less negative news. They are not natively wired to receive data-delivered reality checks.”

“You want the truth … you can’t handle the truth!”

Sadly, this combination of increased negative data and a propensity to dislike it results in some less than stellar reactions from practice owners.

Kaushik has seen this response to negative data so often in his career that he’s been able to lay out four leadership archetypes for us to chew on and compare ourselves and our bosses to. Let’s take a look at the four leadership archetypes and determine the best way to handle each one in a veterinary practice.

4 Leadership Archetypes

From Avinash Kaushik

1. The Bubble King/Queen Leadership Archetype

“This individual lives in a bubble, so their reaction to any data is… Nothing. Data, unless it is super-positive, never makes it to them. Bubble Kings are comfortable making decisions that sound good – decisions just as likely to be informed by their long experience as the quest for shiny objects.

Their most common reaction to negative data, if it makes it through, is to try to discredit it by asking analytically-nonsensical questions.” Avinash Kaushik

How to handle the Bubble King/Queen?

Maybe your practice owner takes a very hands off approach or is repeatedly disinterested in meaningful data. What can you do? Honestly, not much with your owner directly. You can, however, get your DVMs, techs, and support staff involved. [bctt tweet=”As a practice manager and leader, you can encourage your staff’s love for data and use it to effectively manage their performance. “]

This could be considered the “go around them” approach for getting things done and, while less than ideal, is fairly sustainable. Ambitious practice managers may even prefer this leadership archetype due to the resulting independence.   

2. The Attacker Leadership Archetype

“They attack. They attack the data. They attack your knowledge. They attack your intent. They bring up that one time in 2013 when your analysis missed an important assumption. They attack your personal attributes.

In the face of factual negative data related to their decisions, they will counter-attack. At times, harshly. Sometimes they counter-attack, in a twist of irony, by trying to drown you in enormous detail and minutiae. You will be branded Ms. Bad News or Mr. Not A Team Player or some such ugly moniker.” Avinash Kaushik

How to handle the Attacker?

Depending on the severity of the attacks, you can either update your resume to start looking elsewhere or try to find that sweet spot within the Attacker that actually encourages their ability to hear you out. Find out what makes them tick, what their goals are, and try to appeal to that.

For example, let’s say you notice that client satisfaction is down and you’d like to improve that as an empathetic, caring practice manager. If your owner irrationally prides himself on being “the best” in the area, appeal to his vanity as opposed to his empathy for others by pointing out that your coveted Yelp rating may start to slip soon. You can then take action on the same issue, just with different motivations.

3. The Rationalizer Leadership Archetype

“Their trigger instinct in face of factual negative data is to make excuses. To provide context. To identify circumstances to blame. To poke holes in the data/methodology regardless of the Rationalizer’s analytical competence. To create enough uncertainty to fuzzy up any negative – or remotely negative – data.

A Rationalizer subtly sows doubt. They dilute the analysis with non-facts. They force the inclusion of unrelated nonsense in the quest to paint a fuller picture. At their worst, they commonly turn diamonds into coal.” Avinash Kaushik

How to handle the Rationalizer?

This leadership archetype is right on par with the Attacker when it comes to the level of difficulty in dealing with them. Handling this archetype will require you to fully immerse yourself in data, facts, and analysis in order to be properly prepared for offsetting their denial. Persistence is key here.

An approach you may want to experiment with is front loading your report or presentation with positive, affirming data and then carefully choosing one or two negative points to include at the end. This may soften the blow enough to calm and soothe your practice owner.

4. The Curious One Leadership Archetype

“In the face of negative data, the Curious One asks you questions to understand the why behind what you are presenting. The Curious One does not question the analytical approach of data collection methodologies – they trust you to have applied fanatical quality control. The Curious One demonstrates, well, curiosity about what biases might be in the data or what assumptions you might have made.

They have two critical attributes: 1. They demonstrate open mindedness in the face of negative data. 2. Their posture is not to instinctively blame (backwards looking), but rather the posture is to identify and fix (forwards looking).” Avinash Kaushik

How to handle the Curious One?

Pinch yourself because you’ve basically hit the boss/owner jackpot. This is quite obviously the most ideal and easiest to work with of all the archetypes. All you need to do is stay sharp and prepare for the questions.

Make sure you know what you’re talking about and have the latest data at hand. The VetSuccess Daily Dashboard is great for staying on top of trends with a single view of your most critical data refreshed daily.

So, which leadership archetype personifies you or your practice owner?

Practice managers have the unique responsibility of straddling the line between owners and employees. We must take a hard look in the mirror to see how we respond to negative data and identify our leadership archetype.

If we’re anything other than the Curious One we’ll want to make personal development a priority. A great place to start or your next right step is Brené Brown’s leadership book, Dare to Lead.

We also should take a moment and identify which leadership archetype our practice owner most closely resembles. Having this knowledge allows us to more effectively “manage up” and set appropriate expectations.

Kate Zirkle is a Marketing Manager for VetSuccess. She is passionate about animal rescue, personal development, and travel. When not working to advance the veterinary industry, she can be found kayaking, reading, and planning her next trip.

Kate Zirkle

Kate Zirkle

Kate Zirkle is a Product Marketing Manager for Vetsource. She is passionate about animal rescue, personal development, and travel. When not working to advance the veterinary industry, she can be found kayaking, reading, and planning her next trip.

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