Historically we have assumed that Doctors were natural leaders and these non clinical skills were taken for granted. There is still very little leadership development embedded in medical education, although things are improving. So if you want to think strategically about your leadership skills what do you do? The following blog offers a way to reflect on your leadership growth.
My personal opinion based on working with many doctors over the years is that how you grow as a leader depends on who you are, what you have experienced and what your context for leadership is currently. That is why leadership programmes almost always use one to one coaching in their learning programme so that individuals can personalise and put the learning into practice.
Also, I believe leadership is about influence rather than control. You may be able to weld control over people if you are more senior, but its doesn’t mean you are leading them. People decide based on your behaviour as to whether they are willing to be led by you and consequently give you that extra effort.
So leadership is personal. It’s about you and your behaviour and you can lead from any position or situation. This is why leadership is relevant to you at any stage of your career, regardless of seniority and will continue to be a learning curve.
However, there are so many leadership programmes and books out there, it is hard not to be phased by the size of the subject. But whilst theories about leadership abound, leadership is a practical endeavour.
A good place to start is to assess and reflect on what your current leadership challenge is and how you are doing.
Consider these questions.
What do you want to achieve in leadership?
Where are you now with this goal?
What are your options?
How committed are you to this plan and what are you going to do?
This may help you identify what kind of leadership development you need and how this relates directly to your circumstances. This development may come in the form of a book, course, buddying up with a colleague, mentorship or coaching, or taking on a new project/role.
But also ask yourself:
What qualities and attributes do I possess that are important in leadership?
What experiences have I had that are relevant?
What is my current context and what opportunities do I have to have a positive influence?
This should help you consider your next move.
If you would like to talk over your leadership development, call me on 0754 0593476 or email me at email@example.com
Note: I would recommend you taking a look at the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management (FMLM) website for some excellent resources and courses.
I am working with a number of doctors at the moment who are considering alternative careers or managing careers that don’t follow a traditional path.
Although the education and training pathway for medicine is narrow and long, people don’t necessarily want their whole career to be prescribed or predictable. And what I often find is that people who are considering doing things differently are very anxious about how this may be viewed or valued. The investment both financially and personally in becoming a doctor is significant, so to potentially challenge this position is hard. And of course there is a whole section of the workforce who are now considering leaving medicine altogether due to the unrelenting pressures and personal challenges they are being made to face.
In this blog I’ll address alternative careers (actually stepping away from medicine) and different career paths (doing things differently, but within medicine).
So what could you do? There are lists on the internet that give options and ideas for doctors; what their medical degree and experience might lead to. I’m not sure these are that helpful though. If you are lucky enough to spot the ideal career for you in a list, then great. But if you are uninspired by the choices, you can still feel rudderless and frustrated.
As well as the practical and financial considerations, I think that one of the most important reflections you must consider is what kind of life do you want to lead. Family, health and wellbeing, time to think and create, opportunities for volunteering – and many others. In addition, what kinds of skills do you enjoy using. Not necessarily healthcare delivery, but perhaps people development or writing? What do you really get engrossed in and energised by?
See the link below for the national conference in April on ‘Alternative Career Paths for Doctors’.
Different Career Paths
Just because someone hasn’t done it before, doesn’t mean it is not possible. Everyone’s medical career is different and comparing yourself to others can be very unhelpful. What is also frustrating is that it can appear unclear how people have developed their careers; its often invisible how people have created their working arrangements and interests. But medicine affords people the opportunity to be a part of a clear and defined role, but also the opportunity to specialise and diversify in many different directions. It can take time and exploration to work this out, so be patient. If there is one trait that I see most often with doctors, it is the desire to learn and keep developing so taking risks, keeping your options open and trying out new things is key to capitalising on opportunities.
The most important part of this process is to approach it from the right direction. That is, don’t consider stepping away from medicine, focus on what you want to step towards, and perhaps medicine might play a role in that. As some educationalists are now approaching young people differently with ‘don’t ask a student what they want to be when they grow up – ask them what problem they want to solve’, then perhaps we should apply the same to ourselves.
Useful Links and resources
There are more, but here is a selection for you to access:
Spotting when you might be getting stale and how to freshen up.
Renewal is an important part of personal development and it seems to be a theme for many of the people I work with. There is the very real potential to get slightly bored with doing the same things, or run out of ideas at any stage of your medical career, despite how busy you are. Obviously there are huge challenges at a day to day level for doctors currently, but it is important to recognise when you need a refresh in order to avoid starting to burn out.
Some of the signs that people describe having are; low energy, lack of interest and a feeling that they are not fulfilled. Left un-checked this can descend into low esteem, poor morale and unhappy working relationships.
This is difficult because Doctors are expected to manage their own careers and develop the non-clinical interests and ideas away from their clinical base; whether it be education, management, research or organisational development. But there is no clear pathway or training and development to access. On the flip side, as doctors you do have relative autonomy to explore options, as long as you priortise yourself.
In order to access the right opportunities or spot the potential in new areas, you need to know what matters to you and what is of interest.
Take time out to establish:
Your personal values
How you like to learn
What you have learnt about yourself and your work
What skills you have gained
What you would like to get better at or improve
What you would like to be a part of
Clarifying for yourself the above will help you identify what you are and are not interested in, and how you would like to make a change.
So, here are some of the things that people I know have undertaken in order to refresh:
Start a new activity (teaching/research)
Get involved in policy or strategy development
Take on role in professional society or college
Investigate roles in medical education (post and undergraduate)
Get involved in mentoring or appraisal
Join a ethics committee or NICE
Become the lead for a local service
Get involved with your Local Medical Committee or CCG
Join your Clinical Senate
Take on a quality improvement task/role or pathway redesign
Write articles / newsletters or a blog
Use social media to connect with people who have similar interests as you
Every single cell in the human body replaces itself over a period of seven years. That means there’s not even the smallest part of you now that was part of you seven years ago.” Steven Hall
If you would like to talk over your development call me on 0754 0593476 or email me at
How can Doctors improve their interview performance?
I’ve been pretty busy recently, some of which has been supporting doctors through interview processes for jobs. This has included people applying for training grade and consultant posts.
I thought it would be useful to note down some useful steps in managing the process, and anxiety.
My four stage process:
Be clear about your purpose for applying for this post. That might appear to be obvious for those of you in training grades, but it’s always useful to reflect and consider the speed of your journey and the variety of experiences it offers you. The drive to get to the next stage is strong, but the end goal is not your only consideration. If you are beyond training, then make sure your purpose for looking elsewhere is clear. You might too easily focus on ‘moving away’ from an undesirable situation, but it is equally important to ‘move towards’ something that is right for you and your circumstances.
Tip – do not underestimate the emotions this can generate.
Plot what you need to do and by when in order to be ready. Again, this may appear obvious but focusing too heavily on ‘the big day’ is a common mistake. Get the planning and organisation right and the actual interview itself is far less of a trial. Break down the known interview areas and plan out what your experience and knowledge is on this subject. Think about the meaningful examples you can talk about (animatedly) that are authentic and credible.
Tip – create a practical plan that you can work on steadily, within the timeframe.
Practicing your answers and talking through your ideas is crucial to making sure you produce a polished performance on the day. Doing this with friends or colleagues is good, but alone can also work. Hearing yourself articulate your responses is a great way to make sure that you are being succinct and specific. If you are required to do a presentation, practice it. Dress rehearsals help expose gremlins and it’s better to uncover these whilst practicing.
Tip – Don’t leave this till the last minute, have several goes at it.
Make sure you are in the right frame of mind on the day. This really matters but will be helped considerably by the previous stages. If you have got 1, 2 and 3 right then you should be feeling pretty good at this point. However, make sure that you are ready to display the very best version of you. Make a note of how you present yourself at your best. What does it look like and how does it feel?
Tip – Consider what impression you want to leave and how you will achieve that.
If you would like to talk over Coaching for interviews call me on 0754 0593476 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Doctors need and want coaching and mentoring now more than ever.
I’ve noticed a surge in interest recently. Not just for my own practice, but also through running group training sessions and working with other organisations.
For example, last week I was at the Royal College of Radiologist looking through the submissions for their pilot project to run a national mentoring scheme by and for members. We’ve designed the project to be relatively small at first so have a limited number of places. But we were genuinely surprised and delighted by the volume (and quality) of people who wanted to help and be a part of the pilot by donating their time freely. This significant oversubscription and generosity of spirit tells me that Doctors recognize the need and unique benefits of coaching and mentoring now more than ever.
And the RCR is not alone in 2014. I know that the Royal College of Physicians are also planning on setting up a mentoring scheme this year and the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management (FMLM) are in the process of establishing a network of experienced coaches and mentors for their members, which I’m proud to be a part of.
So why the surge now?
Mentoring for Doctors has been long touted as a crucial part of on-going professional development and the key to developing clinical leadership skills. But we also know that in the past many Doctors have assumed that coaching & mentoring are for those in ‘difficulty’ and have tended to suppose it’s not for them. We also know that the pervading culture of medicine requires Doctors to be resilient and ‘just get on with it’.
I think the current interest and need is because the pressure on Doctors is now so great, and the stakes are so high, that individuals are eager for help, now more than ever.
Where can you get the support you need?
Doctors in Training – Your Deanery might have a mentoring scheme.
Hospital Doctors – Your employing Trust might have it’s own internal mentoring service.
General Practitioners – Your Local Medical Committee or CCG might have access to networks.
Here’s my approach to New Year reflection and planning ahead.
1. Reflect on the past year
I tracked back and looked at my personal achievements (not business) in 2013. This was enlightening, as I’d forgotten most of it or dismissed some of it as irrelevant. It also allowed me to identify what I hadn’t done and think about why. Doing this made me feel powerful and put me in a good frame of mind for thinking about 2014. This was really important for me, as I’m very future focussed, which is OK as long as you learn from the past!
2. Think Strategically
Whatever your goals or resolutions are, it’s important to align them to who you are (your values) and where you want to be (your dreams). For example, if you want to have abetter work life balance, ask yourself why this is important to you and what you will get out of it. It might be because you want to be a better role model for your children and that you want to avoid getting ill again. The intention and driver will be different for everyone, even if the goal is the same. Make sure you pin point why you want this goal and what your outcome will be.
3. Be Operational
It’s no good having a great goal like have abetter work life balance if you don’t have a plan for how to get there and how you will measure it. Being operational means being incremental, so plan out what your steps are and what your success will be along the way. Think about how you will measure your improvement and what the milestones are. Consider sharing your goal with someone you trust so you can share your progress and get feedback. By involving others you boost your commitment to the goal.
4. Plan for Obstacles
Life, other people and your feelings will get in the way but if you anticipate what these might be, you stand a better chance of avoiding them. Be realistic and honest about what these could be and plan for them. Staying focused on your main purpose for doing this will help you navigate the difficult times.
I don’t find it helps just making a giant list for the year ahead. It can make you feel tired and inadequate. That is why it’s important to think strategically and pick perhaps 3 main items. There may well be many actions under each item, but at least they are grouped together under one area and it is clear why you are working on this.
Feeling powerful and under control are really important for your well being, so deciding what you want to achieve in 2014 is a healthy start to the new year. Call or email me if you want to talk over your goals for 2014.
If you are a doctor with a leadership or management responsibility, then the chances are, you have two jobs.
I’ve just come back from the annual Faculty of Medical Leadership & Management (FMLM) conference where I was exhibiting and speaking. The conference is aimed at clinicians who have an interest in developing leadership and management skills for themselves, or others. I really enjoyed my time there and met a lot of really interesting and thoughtful people. I really admire those of you who take up the challenge of a leadership role. You don’t have to do it and you don’t really get any thanks or reward for it.
And the reality is, that if you don’t give up your medical role, you have to the juggle the demands of your leadership challenges with your clinical priorities. Doctor and coach Richard Winters writes this month, this can come in four different challenges:
Overwhelmed by organisational noise – urgent priorities means a reactive and fire-fighting approach
Feeling stuck as an outsider – not belonging to either tribe
Feeling stuck in transition – not knowing how your leadership skills are developing
Feeling trapped in a time warp – organisational change and projects can take a long time
Department chairs, managing partners, medical directors, chiefs of staff—they’re all frustrated. As a practicing physician with experience in several leadership roles, I know how they feel: They don’t recall saying to their childhood friends, “I want to be Vice President of Medical Affairs when I grow up.”
Richard Winters MD. See Richard’s blog ‘Coaching doctors to become leaders’ HERE
I think those people who are prepared to stick their neck out and have a go at these roles deserve to have proper support and development. Coaching and mentoring are an effective way to develop the skills and approaches you will need. Because it is tailor made for you, your strengths and weaknesses and the environment you work in, it can accelerate your leadership development significantly. As one client said to me recently, “I probably would have got there eventually, but this coaching has sped up my learning by 1-2 years.” (Consultant).
Call 0754 0593476 or email me on email@example.com and talk to me about your leadership role.