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Coaching for doctors

18-December-2014 0:00
in General
by Dr. Megan Joffe

are under unrelenting pressure to cut costs and get more out of their support staff.


Like many other professionals and executives, doctors could benefit from coaching but they resist it, preferring to tough it out on their own.


To help doctors benefit from coaching, it is important to clarify how they can benefit from it and what they can do to overcome any reluctance they feel to invest the necessary time and effort. First, it is important to examine possible reasons for resisting coaching.  Then we can outline how coaching works and state the main benefits.


Why coaching is resisted


Professionals can be unreceptive to coaching for a number of reasons:


  • Nothing can be done about my workload stress. I just have to get on with it.
  • I need to maintain an image of strength, not show any weakness.
  • I will lose self-esteem by asking for help; I must solve my own problems.
  • I don’t like bearing my soul to a stranger; it’s too embarrassing.
  • My colleagues aren’t being coached; I don’t like being different.
  • Coaching may be a good idea but I just don’t have time.
  • It’s not my fault. It’s the system, my manager, my team members, etc.


It is hard to buy-in to anything new if we see it only in negative terms. A good first step is to recognise that virtually all high level athletes and sports stars receive coaching. The positive slant here is that coaching can help them be more effective. No one would invest time and money to coach them if they weren’t seen as having valuable skills and potential. If we want to be better at what we like doing, it is pretty hard to disagree with a process that can make us better at it.


Coaching does take a little time, but if you look at it positively, it’s an investment that can potentially save you time  as well as improve your overall job satisfaction and morale.


Certainly, a coach can’t change your workload. It’s about developing better skills to manage yourself, other people and your workload as well as how to monitor yourself to ensure that you respond to challenges as positively as possible.


It is arguable that agreeing to work with a coach is not a weakness, that it takes more strength to ask for support than it does to bury our heads in the sand and hope it will all go away on its own. When we focus on embarrassment or worry about looking weak, our confidence is already low because we lack a balanced perspective on our strengths and development needs. Improved awareness of our strengths along with enhanced confidence can turn coaching into an opportunity rather than a threat.


Finally, it is a lose-lose strategy to blame others or our circumstances because it only reinforces our helplessness. No doubt there are a lot of things we can’t change. The key is to focus on the things we can change, even if it is only how we view the unchangeable factors that affect us.


How coaching works


Coaching aims to help you raise your confidence and improve your effectiveness. An important step is to review your strengths. We have a self-defeating tendency to over worry about making mistakes and to take our strengths for granted. This is a vicious circle that leads us to beat ourselves and forget to celebrate our successes.


Once we have a more balanced perspective on our overall skillset, it is easier to focus on how to develop ourselves. This means working collaboratively with a coach to identify a small set of practical steps that would work for you. It may be that you need to improve your time management, your communication skills, how well you delegate, cope with pressure or any number of other areas.


Once an action plan is agreed, subsequent coaching sessions focus on:

  • Celebrating success by reviewing changes you made that worked.
  • Brainstorming different practical tactics to try where required.
  • Reinforcing self-monitoring and other self-management techniques that empower you to coach yourself in future.


Benefits of coaching


Often a huge benefit of coaching is simply having someone who listens and makes a sincere effort to understand how we feel about things. Greater confidence is an essential outcome of coaching. This comes from better appreciating our strengths, regularly reviewing successes, no longer beating ourselves up for failures and generally gaining a feeling of greater control and skill to manage ourselves. Finally, new skills and tactics are learned that make us better at managing the challenges we face daily.

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