Leadership in Healthcare

4 Ways Executive Coaching Helps Develop Inspired Leadership in Healthcare

A Physician & An Executive Coach Walk Into A Bar…

Executive Coaching

How Executive Coaching Helps Build Inspired Leadership


Why Executive Coaching?

He is a successful surgeon and a master at his craft, not only an MD, but a Ph.D. as well.  Having been promoted to the title of Chief, he now needs not only to produce results, but to inspire others to higher performance and to drive organizational change. He is no longer merely a high performer and team leader, he is now the most influential person in his organization and responsible for its forward trajectory.

Yet with all of his success, he sits before me wanting to know how he can grow faster and stronger, be more strategic in his actions and accelerate the vision he has for his division. He is excited and determined, while also slightly unsure about how to move forward. He has worked hard to build his own success; his success going forward will depend on the success of others and how well he can activate the strengths of his team to drive results.

I am smiling as he shares his thoughts, intentions and vision because I know that his choice to invest in coaching is what is going to get him there. His choice signals just what an extraordinary leader he really is.

Behind Every Inspired Leader is an…Executive Coach?

Today’s dynamic and emerging healthcare industry has changed the game for physicians, veteran and new. It is more complex, increasingly stressful, and fraught with risk and uncertainty – not to mention the speed of change due to technology and patient care innovations.

Physicians undergo extensive training to reach the mastery required to serve patients. But for many physicians, meeting clinical challenges are only part of the job. The way healthcare is organized today, many physicians are also asked to assume leadership roles. The problem is, they are not getting training for leadership commensurate with the demands of that part of the role.

In addition, in an increasingly competitive market, there is even greater emphasis on patient care metrics as a measure of performance and success (Schneider, Kingsolver & Rosdahl, 2014). Higher patient care ratings require empathy and emotional awareness, which are not currently emphasized in traditional physician training. Even further, and likely related, physician burnout rates are on the rise; at least 50% of US physicians are experiencing burnout according to recent research from the Mayo Clinic.

Given that healthcare systems are operating in an uncertain environment, time is the scarcest of all resources, and there are increasing demands to boost the bottom line, it is essential that these leaders learn the skills and tools to operationalize efficiency and accelerate their ability to produce results.

Anthony Grant, Ph.D. at the University of Sydney, recently published “The impact of leadership coaching in an Australian healthcare setting.”  According to the report, leadership coaching facilitates goal attainment, fosters resilience, and leads to greater ambiguity tolerance in those who are coached—all factors in preventing burnout and supporting professional and leadership growth. Investing in a coach who works with physicians to build these skills is a smart strategic choice.

Executive Coaching & Organizational Goals

Leadership coaching offers value in a variety of ways; below are four areas of impact that physicians often focus on in executive coaching.

4 Ways How Executive Coaching Helps Develop Inspired Leadership

  1. Relational Coaching – physicians and other healthcare practitioners are “hard science oriented,’’ often underestimating the importance of relationships and the need for exceptional emotional intelligence. Through coaching, clients will able to bolster their technical competence with greater self-awareness and emotional intelligence allowing them to build relationships that support their vision and goals. This benefits client relationships while also increasing leadership performance with their teams and colleagues.
  2. Inspirational Leading and Teaming – in complex systems and organizational/reporting structures, physician leaders must be able to inspire those they lead to team success. Coaching will provide leaders with a plan for inspiring themselves so that they can ignite it their many stakeholders.
  3. Strategy Coaching – as physicians and other healthcare leaders integrate into new roles and transition from medical expertise to management executive, coaching can support them to bring best practices from business administration and strategy to inform decision making and drive operational efficiency.
  4. High Growth/High Change Roles – today, change is neither incremental nor infrequent.  For leaders to perform optimally in this environment it is necessary to have the skills and competencies to anticipate and lead through change. Coaching will provide tools and frameworks for navigating change, and increase their leadership agility to support their teams to transition as smoothly as possible.

According to Robert M. Pearl, MD and Alexander L. Fogel, MBA, “Leading medical teams is as complex as performing a surgical procedure. Intelligence and medical expertise are required, but not sufficient“.  It is clear that physician leaders today will need expanded business and leadership skills to accelerate their own performance, the performance of their teams and the greater organization.  

While many look to business schools and the pursuit of an MBA, the cost in both time and money often make it cost prohibitive.  Executive coaching is a way for physician leaders to gain these most important skills, accelerate the learning process and produce results better, faster and stronger.


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