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What You Need to Know to Improve Your Leadership Skills

A Chief Medical Officer focusing on leadership development for physicians and other colleagues.

Improve Your Leadership Game

Everyone is looking to get to the next level with their leadership game. Whether you work for yourself or for a FORTUNE 500 company, being able to get to the next step on the ladder or position yourself for a promotion or raise is frequently job number one. For most, the standard approach is to read the latest self-help or business guru's book.


Just take it from Jack Welch, John Kotter, or Fred Lee…


While there is nothing inherently wrong with this approach, it is unlikely to get the results you are looking for. Your situation is vastly different from that of Jack, John, Fred, or any of the other oft-quoted experts.


You aren't looking to manage 500 computer engineers - or maybe you are?


More likely, you need to better understand and lead 10 or 1000 (insert job title(s) here).


What you need is a coach.


Shortly after I made my decision to transition from full-time physician to part-time and then full-time administrator, I made the conscious decision to hire a coach.


Just like elite athletes, every business person needs a coach.


While many looking in from the outside may perceive that you are at the top of your game, there is always more that can be done. To get to where you are, you have already discovered that learning never stops. You have had several teachers, mentors, coaches, and tutors throughout your career. Some have been obvious to you while others may be less so. Knowledge has come to you through many sources whether self-taught or trial and error, but for most, the direct experience with a knowledgeable coach will get the results you want in a more timely and effective manner.

Now that I have convinced you a coach is necessary, you need to go find the right person.


Just like elite football or basketball coaches, career coaches can come from a wide variety of positions and with more or less experience. However, they have all "played the game". They have all been where you are, where you are about to be or where you will ultimately end up. This experience and experience with others in these roles will be invaluable to you as you take the first steps toward your dream career.


The better choices for you are likely to be coaches in a similar field of similar size and scope. While a tee-ball coach may be able to scale his or her game up to the Majors, and vice versa, it is more likely that one or the other will work best for you, especially in the beginning. However, if you are interested in going from that tee-ball coach to a Major League competitor, you may want that Major League coach to assist you in mapping out the steps to get from where you are to where you want to be.


Finding a coach


Depending upon your field and how narrow or broad your initial career plans are, there may be thousands or just a handful of potential candidates for your coaching position. In my situation, I knew I wanted to go from a relatively rural doctor in smaller health care organizations to a Chief Medical Officer (CMO), and ultimately, CEO in much larger facilities throughout the country.

While I knew my ultimate goal, I needed more information about how to get from here to there. I needed someone with experience either in going through that transition or working with others who have done so. Ultimately, I chose a physician who had been very successful in roles as Medical Director, Chief of Staff, and had moved on to a national consulting firm. He then opened his own, very successful firm. While he did not have direct experience being a CMO or CEO in a hospital system, he had worked with and counseled many in those roles. He was also familiar with and had experienced similar practice situations and had insight into how he and others had made the move away from day to day clinical practice.


After an initial period of getting to know me and my experiences and determining what it was that I was looking for, he and I came up with a strategy to move from where I was to where I wanted to be. This involved a nationwide search for positions and a careful review of each of those to ensure that I was applying for positions in which I would be successful and grow in my knowledge and experience. This extremely careful first step is vital as you don't want to fail right out of the gate. The first step on the ladder can set you up for long term success or failure.


My first role, with my coach's help, was very successful. The four years I spent there prepared me for almost any role that might come my way. With the ultimate goal of moving into a CEO role, I needed a position that would allow for operational oversight. This is often not possible for CMOs in larger systems. Such CMOs are likely to be confined to Quality, Medical Staff, and more traditional roles. In a smaller organization, however, there is more of a chance to spread your operational wings and take on projects that would not be available to a more traditional CMO role. These are thoughts that only the right coach can assist you with.


I have subsequently moved on to another role and continue to grow in ways I could never have imagined when I started this journey. This was through the assistance of my coach and I know I could never have been as successful as I have been without him. There is, of course, an expense that goes along with the hours you will have to spend talking and strategizing with your coach. If done right, however, the return you experience will be far beyond the cost.
If you have any interest in finding a coach or in working with me, please reach out in the comments below. I would also enjoy reading about your coaching experiences - good or bad. Please feel free to post those in the comments as well.

The Coach

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Jason H Smith

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