From Physician to Organizational Leader


According to recent data, close to *90% of healthcare organizations currently use coaches as a preferred developmental approach for senior and high potential leaders.

While coaching topics like internal communication, building relationships, succession planning, managing conflict and emotional resilience are common, increasingly organizations are also leveraging one-on-on coaching to help transition physicians into new leadership roles, e.g. preparing physicians to take on administrative roles as department chairs.

With the changing face of healthcare, these critical transitions require new skills, priorities, and an eagerness to learn a common language necessary to collaborate with other administrators.

During a recent Columbia Coaching Conference panel discussion on healthcare, panelist from several prominent healthcare systems identified their key business needs and approaches to providing external and internal coaches to drive change. Those needs include:

  1. Countering looming productivity and labor shortages
  2. Increasing influence, i.e. each person’s ability to lead more people and processes
  3. Spurring innovation through leadership
  4. Addressing millennials’ need for regular feedback

One panelist, from a prominent east coast healthcare system, documented dramatic growth in emotional intelligence (EQ) in all four quadrants, among physicians who completed its coaching program. As a result, over 54% have transitioned into senior leadership roles, over the past 24 months. And, they’ve begun to provide coaching services designed to transition nurses to NPs and Nurse leaders.

Panelists pointed to their decision to bring in external coaches to help “keep them (physicians) focused,” and to provide feedback “in a continuous conversation.”

The organizational mind-shift that has gradually occurred in recent years has been to regard coaching NOT as remedial, but rather as developmental and even aspirational…as a way of inspiring leaders to uncover what’s possible.

It has lead to an increased emphasis on team coaching, both cross-functionally, and among groups of physicians.

With any serious organizational initiative, success metrics are critical. For external coaches, *74% use informal and formal conversations with key stakeholders, to assess the success of a coaching engagement. Panelist interviewed pointed to formal assessments, e.g. pre-and-post EQ Assessments, 360 Reviews (pre-and-post), and employee engagement scores as preferred metrics. And one also included a less formal metric…the number of other physicians and senior leaders requesting coaches.

Whichever approach you and your organization use to implement, track and evaluate your coaching program, it’s safe to say that the subject of coaching, and its inherent value in healthcare, will remain top-of-mind for the foreseeable future.


*Source: The Conference Board, a non-profit business membership and research group organization. It counts approximately 1,200 public and private corporations and other organizations as members, encompassing 60 countries. The Conference Board convenes conferences and peer-learning groups, conducts economic and business management research, and publishes several widely tracked economic indicators.