Leadership can be a lonely experience. That loneliness is a common reason why many healthcare leaders turn to executive coaching. You see, leaders are always in the spotlight in their own organizations. They have few safe places to turn and share their misgivings, their quest, and just be themselves. The coaching relationship provides a safe space to think out loud.
Creating safe thinking spaces
One of my favorite coaching experiences was with a very seasoned CEO. (Let’s call him Steve.)
Steve had worked in healthcare for many years, leading both for-profit and nonprofit organizations. He’d been a CEO for a long time and had just completed his PhD in leadership and strategy. Prior to working with me, Steve had been coached by a famous coach and author.
In my early coaching days, I’ll admit that was slightly intimidating. How could I add value to this leader?
As our coaching relationship completed a year, Steve said: “Lee, it’s been great. Sign me up for another year.” I knew him well enough to ask — “What are you getting out of this?”
“Lee, this is the only place where I can think out loud and the only agenda at play is my success,” Steve responded. For a senior executive, that’s gold.
Our coaching philosophy
Consider a spectrum from zero to 100, with zero being pure consulting, and 100 being pure coaching.
At zero, the pure consulting end, you’re paying someone to come in and tell you what to do. At 100, the pure coaching end, your coach carries no answers. Rather, your coach partners with you and helps to draw answers out of you.
Our philosophy at MEDI Leadership is that as your coach, I should be around 75–80 on that spectrum. Most of the time, we’re approaching challenges with a pure coaching stance. At the same time, what’s unique about MEDI Leadership is that our coaches have amassed deep experience and success as healthcare leaders long before they became executive coaches.
There’s tremendous value in drawing from our healthcare experience once in a while and saying, “I’ve sat in your position before; here are some suggestions.” That “been-there” perspective is incredibly valuable to our clients. It’s also important to know that sustained behavioral change begins with self-awareness and occurs over time. The coach is there to support and challenge you while you are building new “leadership muscle.”
Whatever your goals are for the weeks and months ahead, don’t go it alone. To paraphrase Steve, find yourself a safe place to think out loud where the only agenda is your success.