Though the challenges healthcare leaders face aren’t entirely new, there’s no denying our industry is undergoing a season of heightened and accelerated transformation. 

As conditions change, how do you inspire your team, reduce resistance, and compel others to follow your lead? And how do you empower employees to create new solutions toward shared goals?

As a leader, you own the responsibility to build trust and help your teams thrive in times of transition. To that end, three thoughts come to mind as I reflect on my own experience as a healthcare leader, and now as an executive coach.

Authenticity as a key leadership competency

When I began working as a healthcare executive, I sought coaching because my job requirements were very different from the skills that had helped me excel in past roles. I’ve learned that’s a common predicament in healthcare, particularly when clinicians take on a business or leadership role. 

“Whether you’re a nurse, patient care coordinator, an administrator or middle manager, when you get promoted, almost instantly you will be expected to have new skills you didn’t have before,” argues Louise Weed, an instructor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and co-director of the school’s executive leadership program. 

Often, newly promoted or newly hired leaders think they must adopt a different persona and act in a new way to lead effectively, rather than in a way that is authentic to them. People can see through those affectations very quickly. In reality, most employees believe authentic leadership results in better relationships with colleagues, higher levels of trust, and greater productivity, say researchers

As an executive coach, I first work with leaders to identify and understand their natural leadership style and then develop that style to fit in their new role, avoiding the temptation to try to be like someone else. Once leaders are equipped with strategies to communicate with their teams authentically, they can motivate, guide and bring out the best in others.

Harnessing conflict to strengthen your team

Few people like change, particularly ones they cannot control. When faced with conflict, leaders sometimes go into fight-or-flight mode by digging their heels in or avoiding issues altogether. Other times, I’ve seen leaders create project plans with a list of all the tasks that need to be accomplished, neglecting the human side of conflict and change. As you might guess, neither is a path to success. 

Instead, I find it most effective to address specific conflict points within the team, acknowledge blind spots, and then help solve problem areas with personalized strategies. By addressing challenges together and giving your team a voice in shaping solutions, problems become opportunities to strengthen team relationships and engagement.

How coaching and training differ

In my past as a healthcare executive, I used both professional training and executive coaching to help me excel as a leader. I noticed a few key differences between the two.

Professional training is generally short-term, self-led, and low-accountability. While training programs can be excellent ways to learn new information, they do not tend to drive behavioral change or help people master new leadership skills.

In executive coaching, a coach first learns who you are and what you need to accomplish to get to the next level. A coach then walks alongside you to help your performance and that of your team with personalized, specialized approaches to get you where you want to go.

Put simply, it comes down to your goals: Do you want to grow your knowledge or grow your influence and relationships?

Here’s a handy comparison snapshot:

   Training    Coaching
   Short-term, self-led, low-accountability.    Long-term, guided, high-accountability.
   Standardized.    Highly personalized.
   Ideal for learning new information.    Ideal for driving behavioral change and gaining new leadership skills.

For professionals interested in growing as a leader and driving behavioral change, executive coaching is the most effective solution to inspire trust, build rapport, overcome conflict, move people to action, and bring their influence and relationships to the next level.

What aspects of leadership hold you or your team back today? What changes would you like to see in the coming weeks and months? How do you plan on getting there?

Kristy Kainrath
About the author

Kristy Kainrath, MBA is a strategic thinker known for her passion in helping others be their best selves through awareness and purpose.
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