Coaching healthcare leaders


Excerpted from my regular column as published in, and reproduced with permission from, choice, the magazine  of professional coaching. The column is called “Sticky Situations” and in each issue three master coaches respond to a scenario presented by another colleague seeking guidance.

Sticky Situation: How do I coach clients trying to lead in a broken system?” I work with leaders in the healthcare industry and often bump into an obstacle that frustrates my clients and, quite frankly, me too. It seems the business model and the industry paradigm are in turmoil, failing and facing insurmountable challenges. How can I help these leaders stay true to their values while creating solutions in an irreparable system? What would you do?

Answer: Healthcare is not the only broken industry in our global market today. The United States military refers to our current state as VUCA: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous environments that challenge leaders of every industry. As coaches helping leaders navigate and build resiliency in VUCA times, we must bring to bear all the tools in our coaching toolkits. There is often no single right way of coaching those leaders; you may have been certified in one coaching modality, but to help these leaders we must expand our mastery of various coaching processes, tools, technologies and approaches.
For the scenario described above, perhaps some values work and deep inquiry about defining integrity would be a good place to start. What does “integrity for healthcare” mean to the leaders you’re coaching? What does the organization value? What do the patients they serve value? What does the leadership team value? What does your individual client value? Are the various definitions of integrity aligned for all those parties? Is there a gap between the stated values and the defined “integrity for healthcare”? From there you can dive into understanding the specific “long-standing challenges” and why they seem insurmountable. Are you buying into your client’s belief that the challenges are long-standing, therefore insurmountable? Is that a limiting belief? Can you help them view the situation through a new lens? What if it isn’t actually true that their industry challenges are insurmountable? What’s possible then?
In 2012 there was a symposium in Boston called “Coaching during VUCA Times” that my dear, departed colleague Lee Salmon wrote about. He described these key strategies that emerged as guideposts to coaching leaders towards resiliency:

  • grow leaders who can inspire others by the way they live their values,
  • manage stress brought on by change,
  • stay centered under pressure,
  • remain compassionate and empathetic,
  • create a palpable level of trust throughout their organizations,
  • continually build relationships with customers and employees,
  • create a personal level of engagement with employees,
  • coach people around how they manage their energy and retain balance,
  • address business challenges strategically,
  • help people find realistic solutions through creativity and innovation,
  • help executives and managers gain the skills necessary to function as coaches,
  • increase collaboration and networking to bring more minds and perspectives to bear on emergent challenges,
  • enroll and utilize thinking partners to deal with increasingly complex issues that no one person has the full range of expertise to address.

Hopefully this will give you a few directions to go with your healthcare client and any leader you’re coaching during these VUCA times.

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