Doctors are under a lot of pressure, from stepping into system leadership roles, managing demand, expectations and complexity, funding issues... the list of challenges continues to grow. Executive Coaching provides an evidence based alternative to counselling for doctors wanting to make changes in their working lives and careers around topics such as wellbeing, career planning and leadership skills development.
I see a lot of doctors as coaching clients who feel their working lives have got out of balance and are feeling on the edge, are recovering from an episode of burnout or ill health, or who wonder 'is this it?', 'have I made the right career choices?'. We work together to understand their own deeply held values and motivators, their needs, their basic personality traits, and use cutting edge behaviour change theory to develop plans and actions to begin to transform their careers. Finding meaning and satisfaction in the workplace really matters to most doctors and taking action to (re)create vitality and wellbeing at work is entirely possible.
1. Help you to understand yourself and your context
‘We know how we feel when we hear ourselves speak’ is an old counselling adage and a skilled Executive Coach will be able to help you to understand yourself, what is happening in your career and work life at the moment, and why you might be feeling under pressure, having difficult relationships at work or at home, why you might be feeling overwhelmed or in a downward spiral. For those in leadership roles, the Executive Coach will help you understand what clinical leadership is, and what kind of leader you want to be. Understanding the present situation is a first step in gaining insight into what needs to change in the future.
2. Help you to clarify what you want the future to look like and how you are going to get there
Executive Coaching is future focused, that is to say it is about what you want and how you are going to get more of what you want in your life generally as well as your career. This is very much dependent on each person individually, but for many doctors they want a better work-life balance, better relationships at work, greater wellbeing, sense of meaning and purpose, or new skills to stretch themselves in clinical leadership roles. The Executive Coach will work with you to be really clear what you want in the future and will help you to identify the steps you need to take to get more of what you want, starting immediately.
3. Support you to develop new skills and approaches to implement the changes you wish to see to build your resilience
If making changes in our working lives was easy, we’d have done them already! Making change is actually very difficult, it may involve stepping out of learned ways of behaving, communicating our needs clearly and seeing if they are reasonably met by others, and continuing in the direction of travel even when things get difficult. An Executive Coach will ‘be on your own side’ walking every step of the way with you and helping you to overcome obstacles (real or perceived) to help you fulfil your potential and have a career which better suits your needs. For example I teach basic mindfulness skills which transforms doctors’ abilities to notice their thoughts and emotions on a moment by moment basis and also to be able to take effective action in line with what deeply matters to them in the face of difficulty and set backs.
4. Help you to draw out your own learning through reflection and experimentation with new ways of thinking and behaving
Making changes at work and in our careers means we have to step out of our comfort zone, and can mean experiencing short term pain for longer term gain. Cultivating a ‘beginner’s mind’ and a willingness to experiment with new ways of thinking and behaving are necessary skills and an Executive Coach will help you to draw out your own learning and insights throughout the Coaching relationship.
5. Challenge your thinking where necessary in a supportive and helpful way
Human beings are not skilled at giving feedback generally, we avoid conflict and international research has found that giving feedback is an area which most managers say they dread, which is reflected in most people’s experience of receiving such feedback! Executive Coaches are trained to challenge their client’s thinking in a supportive and helpful way and the Coach can often be the only person a client feels they can truly depend upon to give them balanced and unbiased feedback. Coaching is a relationship of equals, we are all ‘climbing our own mountains’, and the Coach can often see what is ahead of you on your own mountain in a way which you may not be able to see it for yourself, and can give you honest feedback on how you present yourself which can lead to invaluable insights for the client.
Thinking of working with an Executive Coach?
Find out what to look for in an Executive Coach in Fiona's next article for DSN.