Career Development and
Leadership Coaching for Doctors
What is coaching?
Many different definitions exist, there are many different types of coaching, and people use the term coaching differently in a variety of contexts. It is therefore surprisingly difficult to sum up coaching on one sentence, because there are so many varieties and approaches. It's like trying to summarise what doctors do in one sentence. In practical terms, a good starting point is to look at the kind of areas that coaching can help with - have a look at the about you page to see the kinds of issues that coaching can help with.
Coaching is a learning, thought-provoking and creative relationship between equals, focused on change and action. The agenda is set by the coachee, who seeks to maximise their potential. The coach sees the coachee as resourceful, and coaching deals with the whole person. The coach uses skilful questioning, feedback, challenge and support, in order to facilitate performance, development or transformation.
At it's simplest, coaching is a supportive and developmental process that helps you:
- set and achieve personal and professional goals
- make important decisions
- identify and use your strengths
- identify the values that drive you
- live your life in accordance with your values
- develop resilience
- develop emotional intelligence
- develop soft skills and leadership skills such as empathy and communication
- become the best that you can be in all aspects of your life
The key thing to remember is that coaching is a process, not a one-off intervention that you attend and then forget. Coaching is a process where we work together for some aspects, and then you use what we develop together to make changes and achieve your goals in the real world. Coaching is very much about you acquiring the skills, strengths, courage and power to make changes in all aspects of your life, personal and professional alike.
In coaching, I will treat you and see you as
- an equal
- able to make the best choices for yourself
- capable of more than you think
I believe that the solutions that you develop yourself, with my support, are the ones that are most relevant to you, most useful and most likely to be carried out. The focus of coaching is on career / life balance / life direction, often a specific goal that we address during a fixed-term engagement. Remember that I am not an expert in your professional field, and the focus will be on your own resources and self development, which I will help you access. I will support you and work with you, but you are the ones that knows best what is right for you and what works for you.
Coaching differs from counselling or therapy in that coaching is about the future, action, change, and achievement of full potential, whereas therapy relationships are reparative in nature focused on overcoming traumatic events, understanding the past, and dealing with mental illness. Coaching is about self-awareness, self-management and self-efficacy; although the past can be useful in coaching to help us understand ourselves, the focus is firmly on the future, action, and development.
The coach is an expert on the coaching process, rather than an expert in professional or technical aspects of the coachee's job. In contrast, in mentoring the mentor is a more experienced professional sharing their wisdom with a less experienced person. In training relationships, knowledge and skills are imparted from an expert to the person learning. I principally offer coaching, with elements of mentoring if that is needed to help; on occasion, I may act as a trainer for example in relationship to interview skills. When we discuss coaching, we will agree on what is needed, and if I switch roles because that is needed to help you, I will make that clear.
Career Development Coaching
Career Development coaching is a process that enables people to recognise and utilise their resources, including strengths and values, to make career-related decisions, manage career-related issues, and develop you as a leader. Coaching is for those who are looking for their ideal career / job, and for those who have their ideal job but are looking to maximise their impact, satisfaction, and success.
Broadly, my coaching can help you:
-choose you next steps
-transition into new roles including leadership
-succeed, thrive and deliver
A key theme for me is the idea of continuous career development and career management. This recognises that careers change all the time, and for us to succeed and thrive we need to pay attention and frequently evaluate where our careers are going, what we need to learn, or what we need to rebalance. So career decisions are not a one off event, it is a life-long process.
Career coaching aims to:
-connect you with your values, passion, strengths, and other things that are important in your career
-facilitate development and implementation of specific actions needed to achieve the desired career
-equip you with career management skills that you need now and in future career decisions / transitions
-foster a mindset where you actively manage the different stages and aspects of your career in the long term
Career coaching is different to other types of career help. For example, career guidance / advice uses psychometric tools to suggest appropriate career choices, and may guide further actions; career coaching doesn't tell you what to do, instead the it taps into your existing wants and expertise and helps you develop career management skills. Interview skills coaching helps people prepare / practice for the job interview. CV writers specifically create CVs, and recruitment consultants match clients with vacancies.
In my career coaching I see you as the expert in what is right for you. I won't tell you what to do, and I don't undertake psychometric testing that tells you what you should do. I don't have a list of jobs that I recommend. I don't assess nor make recommendations. My approach explores your experiences, wishes, and what matters to you, and through this exploration you are the one that chooses the way forwards that is right for you. I take this approach because I believe that career decisions are highly individual, and the only person who can possibly know what is right for you is you. Further, making career decisions is often a big choice, with significant implications and up- as well as down-sides; you are the only person able to make that decision and understand/accept its implications.
I specialise in helping doctors and other health professionals have thriving careers within healthcare, rather that helping people find jobs outside. I often find that what doctors seek is a rebalance of their career within healthcare, rather than an escape from medicine. My approach is one that sees healthcare as a fantastically rewarding career, but also full of challenges, and my career coaching then focuses on supporting you to create a thriving healthcare career for yourself. So if you need to review your life balance, or re-orientate your career to things that matter the most to you, or make future career choices to take you towards what you most value in your medical career, then the type of career coaching that I offer could be for you.
Leadership coaching is related to career development coaching, as leadership is one of the many aspects of a medical career. All of us have leadership roles and others see us as leaders, whether we want to or not and irrespective of whether we have a formal leader title. My coaching focuses on helping you develop emotional intelligence, relational mastery, and systemic thinking. Leadership coaching can help you
-identify what matters to you, what your values are in relation to leadership
-choose what kind of a leader you want to be
-develop your ability to create strong relationships with your colleagues
-develop flexibility to use different leadership skills and styles suited to different circumstances
-develop your identity as a doctor in a leadership role
-develop your emotional intelligence so that you can recognise and manage your own emotions, and recognise and manage the emotions of others
-develop your ability to understand and manage complexity
-develop systemic thinking so that you appreciate how most problems exist in relation to a wider system, and that transformative solutions require systems-level not individual-level change
Skills, performance, developmental, transformational...
Coaching can be used to achieve different outcome types. Whilst terminology is by no means universally applied, broadly speaking, there is a continuum of "depth" between skills training, through performance coaching, to developmental coaching.
-Skills training focuses on shorter term goals and specific pre-defined objectives related to acquisition of the skill. This often relies on teaching a skill, so it sits in the world of training rather than coaching (although usually still called coaching). Coaching is about helping individuals become their best as their own experts - if an individual lacks a skill, that requires telling them about the skill, rather than expecting them to get there by themselves. So skills training is very important when someone lacks a skill, but for me sits in the training / education world more than coaching. A typical application for me would be interview skills training/coaching.
-Performance coaching focuses on use of judgement to apply the appropriate skills in complex contexts. It is not about acquisition of skills, it is about their application. Leadership coaching, confidence, life balance, prioritisation would be examples.
-Developmental coaching is about learning and building new capacity, rather than simple acquisition and application of of performance skills. It is thus learning about learning. It is a more long term process, and helps a person change in order to engage in different ways with present and future experiences. A subtype of developmental is transformative coaching, which involves a change in assumptions and beliefs that currently form a person's view of the world and drive their habitual thoughts, feelings and actions. It is about how they see themselves, what their "life story" is, or what personal illusions they hold. Self-identity, searching for meaning, and significant life events / transitions would be in this category.
I offer all types in different contexts depending on what you need. For the most part, my focus is on developmental / transformational aspects. Even if we discuss skills and performance, I still hope that you will go away not only with that, but also an understanding of how you learnt and what thoughts and feelings may have arisen, so that you have the skill plus greater self-understanding. If your world-view is holding you back, then the solution may not be in the realm of skills and performance, but a re-appraisal of how you see yourself and your "life story" may be required. A good example to illustrate this may be a new leader seeking coaching to improve their feedback-giving skills, and also walking away with a new understanding of how they see themselves in relation to others, what impact they have on others, and constructing a new view of themselves based on change in circumstances and deeper understanding.
Science behind coaching
The coaching knowledge-base arises from a number of different disciplines including education, leadership, social science, philosophy and psychology (Backhirova et al 2018). Each brings to coaching a variety of established traditions, approaches and assumptions. This can make it confusing when trying to understand what coaching is about. When wishing to provide the best coaching experience most well trained and experienced coaches will be able to flex and utilise a variety of different approached depending on what the coachee needs. My own approach is described on this website.
Benefits of coaching
Coaching is a powerful tool to help you become the best that you can be. The testimonials show how other coachees have benefited from my coaching. The benefits of 1:1 individualised coaching are often easy to see, but might be more difficult to measure because people come to coaching with different challenges and desire different outcomes.
Recent published research has demonstrated some of the benefits of coaching healthcare and other public sector professionals.
Coaching healthcare leaders increased goal attainment, solution-focused thinking, leadership self-efficacy, perspective-taking capacity, self-insight, and resilience, whilst reducing stress and anxiety.
Coaching physicians decreased emotional exhaustion and burnout, and increased resilience and quality of life.
Coaching student nurses in emotional intelligence led to a greater experiences of resilience, more empathy and compassion, and improved non-technical skills.
Coaching undergraduate students reduced academic burnout.
Executive/life coaching of first year medical students increased self-efficacy regarding stress management and control, with 41% of students reporting decreased stress, and 86% recommending the programme.
Coaching police officers improved work-related stress management.
Coaching nurses and physicians in from the same team leads to improved nurse-physician teamwork dynamics
In the organisational setting, research has also demonstrated benefits of coaching.
One meta-analysis has identified significant positive effects on all outcomes, concluding that coaching is an effective intervention in organisations.
Research into Executive coaching demonstrated that it was effective across all levels of evaluation. 73% of participants stated they achieved their goals “very effectively” or “extremely effectively,” as did 54% of the relevant stakeholders. When calculating the financial benefits of coaching (return on investment), the financial benefit to the organisation was 5.7 times the costs of the coaching programme.
A qualitative study identified that coaching in the workplace provides a unique space, creating a safe environment to address issues such as personal attributes, cognitions and emotions, with the result being enhanced well-being and improved performance at organisational and individual level.
The benefits that you personally might gain depend a lot on what you put into it and how engaged you are with the coaching journey. I can't promise that coaching will change your life, and cannot be held accountable for any decisions or outcomes arising from coaching. What I can promise is that I will do my utmost best to help you achieve those outcomes. Coaching successes are driven by you though, and the more that you put in the more you are likely to get out.
I myself have benefited enormously from coaching which has, and continues to, change my life. I hope that you can benefit in the same way too.
What happens in practice?
Initially, we will arrange a free coaching session to see how we might work together. Coaching will then take place as a series of discussion. The goals and strategies that you develop will be with you for the long term, but the coaching sessions with me will be over a fixed term period of a few months or so.
In coaching, a variety of activities may be undertaken, such as talking, drawing, using coaching cards, role play, brainstorming, review of questionnaires that you filled in, or working within set coaching or leadership frameworks. What we do will depend on what you need and what you enjoy.
We will meet via Zoom, and the discussions will last around 1 hours. The exact process isn't fixed, in our initial discussion we will discuss exactly what would work for you.
What about psychometric testing?
Psychometric testing is about measuring a person's psychology. Such testing assumes that human traits can be measured, but the complexity of being human may not be reducible to a number or type. Further, how one responds to the questionnaires will vary day to day and situation to situation, and assigning someone a type risks pigeon-holing people instead of allowing them to choose who they want to be or develop new traits an abilities.
Instead of psychometric testing, I use questioning, discussion, word lists, or pictures as a way of finding out what you are like. These are then individual to you, and don't in any way measure you or assess you or compare you to other people. I believe that this is a better approach as it is less judgemental and encourages reflection and growth.
I do, however, use the EQ-i 2.0 / EQ-i 360 emotional intelligence instruments. This is because emotional intelligence is a developable rather than a fixed entity, and the EQ-i instruments help in that development. Also, the instrument provides scores in a number of domains, and it is important to have a balance across the domains, so that a high score can be as problematic as a low score. More on emotional intelligence is here.
Is coaching for me?
Anyone can take advantage of the coaching process and can benefit as a result. Some reasons why people come to coaching include a promotion or job change, major life or career event, needing to make an important decision, needing help to progress personal and professional development, or to plan long term goals aligned with individual values. Coaching is about helping you achieve your best, whether that is a happy life balance, or great work performance, or values-based living, or something else.
Coaching can benefit people from all walks of life.
Coaching is NOT about giving you knowledge, facts, or insider experience. It is about connecting with the things that you already, at a deep level, know. If you are looking for data, industry connections, or people's experiences, then coaching may not be what you need; instead I'd suggest networking with the people that might posses the knowledge that you seek.
Am I ready for coaching?
Coaching requires a significant commitment in terms of your time, emotions, and thinking capacity. Coaching may challenge pre-conceptions, it may offer you new ways of thinking, or be upsetting at times. Therefore, you need to be in a position ready to embrace the process, it's challenges, and your future. To get the most out of coaching, you need to be ready to immerse yourself in the process, work hard for your goals, and be ready to face challenges in the way.
You don't have to be facing a crisis to look for coaching. Many people use coaching as part of their ongoing journey of self-discovery to help them work out where they want their life to go, and to build up resilience to face challenges that inevitably come in the future.
Usually, by the time people are looking for coaching, they are ready. Your search is an indication that you are facing a challenge, and are looking for help with your journey. If you are not sure whether you are ready, just contact me and we can discuss.
Are you ready? I'm ready to help.
Not sure how you manage it but you have got me to do so much! More than I ever imagined I could.
Trainee doctor discussing careers
If you have any questions regarding coaching, please get in touch.