September 21, 2023

Do You or Your Leaders Really Need Coaching?

Clinician Leadership | Leadership Development

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We’ve all known “natural-born” leaders who seem to ooze charisma and good business sense. Often they succeed for a while… until they don’t. At some point, the skills, approaches and relationships that got them where they are stop working or delivering desired results. Despite their past successes and stellar reputation, even “natural-born” leaders hit a wall and stop progressing without intentional, guided development.

While leadership development is critical in any industry, risk factors are particularly high in the healthcare arena, where clinical outcomes, mortality, patient experience and stringent industry regulations are on the line.

What to do? Researchers for the Journal of General Internal Medicine offer this solution: “Personal coaching, long utilized in the business world, provides a results-oriented and stigma-free method” to address these challenges.

Added challenges for clinician leaders

It’s worth noting that clinicians who’ve risen to leadership roles often have an added set of challenges. The transition from a practicing clinician into leadership roles requires special attention beyond additional education and training. Those clinical leaders moving into more administrative type roles benefit the most from having an executive coach. That’s because unlike management occupations in other industries, “physicians are never taught to lead nor are they typically rewarded for good leadership,” reports the Harvard Business Review

“In most professions, the people who demonstrate strong leadership skills are the ones who take on greater leadership responsibilities at progressive stages of their careers,” the authors explain: “In medicine, physicians not only begin managing teams early in their careers, but they rise through the ranks uniformly.” What’s more, burnout among clinicians is nearly twice that of workers in other fields.

Altogether, this means healthcare organizations who leave leadership development to an occasional conference, training session or individual leaders themselves can expect to experience much loss ahead: financial loss, reputation loss, talent loss, and more.

“It’s no secret that high performers of all stripes swear by coaching. Everyone from Google’s founders to the rock band Metallica credits coaches with getting them where they are today (or keeping them there).”

“Getting Your Employees a Coach Will Make Them Happier (and You Richer)”Inc. Magazine

What can coaching do for leaders?

For starters, it’s important to understand that unlike other types of leadership training, executive coaching focuses on behavioral change: the only way to sustain meaningful transformation. That’s important because every leader in your organization (yourself included) spends 95% of their time operating on auto-pilot. 

When stakes are high, issues are complex, or if a habituated way of doing something is no longer working, leaders need to examine their mental models and adjust that auto-pilot. Transformational coaching creates change by helping leaders become aware of their unique, habituated ways of thinking, being, and relating to others.

Documented benefits of leadership coaching include the following:

  • One study found 92% of organizations reported improvements in leadership and management effectiveness since coaching was introduced. (Chiumento Research)
  • 77% of surveyed leaders said coaching had a significant impact on business measures. Productivity and employee satisfaction were cited as the most significantly impacted. (International Coach Federation)
  • The top 3 indicators of successful coaching were sustained behavioral change, increased self-awareness and understanding, and more effective leadership, according to a study by the Leadership Development Forum. (Consulting Psychology Journal)

A report by the Institute for Corporate Productivity also found that top-performing organizations cultivate a coaching culture:

  • High-performance organizations establish coaching as an organizational competence.
  • 5X as many high-performance organizations use coaching, compared to lower-performing organizations.
  • The visible support and modeling of coaching by top leaders is key to building a culture of coaching.
  • The lack of executive-level sponsorship for coaching is a prime obstacle to market performance.

Made-for-you approaches

No two leaders are alike, and coaching paths shouldn’t be either. Each leader in your organization has a unique mix of personality, skills, personal quirks and preferences, strengths, weaknesses, relationship and organizational dynamics, so it makes sense that their coaching path must be personalized to each individual.  

In past posts, we detailed what to expect from an executive coach relationship and how to choose your ideal coach

Is executive coaching for you? And is now the right time? We’d love to help you think through next steps, explore what’s possible and clarify the best move for you. Drop us a note and we’ll connect you to an expert.

Related resources:

Turning Theory into Muscle Memory

How Adults Learn: Common Pitfalls and Making New Skills “Stick”

3 Myths About Executive Coaching

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About the author

Deena Fischer, MA, ACC

A certified executive coach, Deena Fischer, MA, ACC leads business development and operations for MEDI Leadership.

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