November 28, 2023

Why Healthcare Executive Coaching Length & Depth Matters

Clinician Leadership

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Ensuring lasting leadership transformation

Even the best healthcare leaders feel stuck sometimes, when all their past successes, knowledge and experience aren’t enough to bring about the results they seek. Maybe that’s where you are today: a new role, new organizational structure, new problem or market conditions demand that you and your teams operate differently. Figuring out next steps, driving consensus and swaying people to take those steps with you can feel like “mission impossible.” 

Failure often follows when leaders try to drive change — whether that’s change in processes, goals, strategies, team structures — without prioritizing behavioral change, starting with their own.

Studies on how adults learn teach us one thing: Sustained transformation requires behavioral change. That’s hard, and it’s why conventional training and well-meaning consultants often fail to produce change in ways that are meaningful and sustainable in the workplace. That’s where executive coaching shines and stands unrivaled as the surest path to permanent changes in leadership behaviors, leading to lasting benefits. To that end, the depth and duration of the coaching engagement are essential.

Why depth and duration matter in coaching

Many healthcare leaders attend a conference, consult with an industry authority or trusted mentor, and come away inspired to make a change. Despite their best intentions, daily to-dos and dilemmas get in the way, and all the theory they’ve contemplated never becomes muscle memory

Behavioral change, on the other hand, takes time, repetition, and shared accountability. An effective coaching relationship that’s capable of driving permanent changes in behavior starts with a thorough assessment of who you are as a leader and how others perceive you. From there, a healthy cadence of coaching calls over time and alignment calls with sponsors and stakeholders all help ensure goals are met — both your individual goals and your organization’s.

We sometimes see leaders trying to shortcut change. They want to shorten the coaching relationship (six months, for instance) to save money, or because it feels like they’re saving time. In our experience guiding behavioral change, leaders are still developing their awareness in that timeframe, versus the big shifts we see in 9 months, and sustained changes after 12 months. As coaches, it’s hard to watch someone drop out early and lose all the progress they’ve made. This is what we mean by transactional coaching (i.e., short-lived engagements with short-lived results) versus transformational coaching for sustained impact.

Back to those early months when your self awareness is developing: We all have blind spots, or what organizational literature calls “Unconscious Incompetence.” Researcher Marshall Goldsmith found that 7 in 10 senior leaders believe they are in the top 10% of their professional peer group! 

The first 6 months of a coaching-client relationship tend to scratch the surface of what’s problematic, what’s an advantage, and what’s possible for that client. When clients interrupt the process prematurely, they risk returning to their old ways. Behaviors are so hardwired into our brains, it doesn’t take much to revert to that autopilot mode.

We don’t think deep or long… Awareness and self-management are two sides of the coin. How can you manage what you don’t see? Coaching helps raise your self-awareness and contributes to your self-management and performance toolbox.” 

Psychology Today

What a transformational coaching experience looks like

You should expect your executive coach to meet you where you are, walk with you as you make intentional shifts and adjustments, and help you create that new muscle memory we talked about earlier.

MEDI Leadership coaches work at a very deep, one-on-one level with each client, guiding them through self-discovery, goal-setting and processes that (a) are designed to work best for them individually, and (b) are proven to create and sustain results. Every leader and situation is different, and we take care to customize our approach to each client. 

We know that sustained behavioral change takes accountability and repetition, so we walk closely with our clients, typically for 12+ months, to ensure that happens. During that time, clients apply new insights in real time to emerging challenges as they arise. They learn and get better by doing!

Finding your ideal executive coach

Though it’s possible to find a good coach without a healthcare background, it helps to know your executive coach has been in your shoes and understands the unique dynamics and intricacies of the healthcare environment — particularly as the industry continues to change.

Because all MEDI Leadership coaches have rich experience in healthcare, we have a deep understanding of the challenges affecting how you lead, how you grow, and even how you stay sane in this market. Whether you’re a rising clinician, a physician leader or a non-clinical healthcare executive, chances are many of our coaches have served in the same role you hold today, or the role you’re working toward. 

“I chose MEDI Leadership for two reasons. First, their bench of coaches is impressive, from various former healthcare executives to executive coaches with decades of experience in coaching healthcare leaders. Second, their approach is very practical. They impart principles and brainstorm approaches that are accretive to our daily work, making the experience not only immediately impactful, but also relevant to long-term, sustainable leadership growth.”
Mark Mgiishi, MD, FACS
Executive Vice President and Chief Health Officer

With decades of experience in coaching leaders in healthcare, we’ve fine-tuned our processes to get the results each client seeks. Just as important, our methods are rooted in solid research on how humans are wired to learn and change, and the behaviors needed to lead effectively in complex environments. 

Could you benefit from a MEDI Leadership coach? Whether you have general questions about executive coaching or specific questions about a situation you’re facing, our experts are happy to talk and help you clarify next steps. Let’s talk.

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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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