Dreading the holidays? Not if you give the gift of acknowledgment​! Physician coaching makes the season festive

Here we are again!  Another year has passed and we’re searching the internet, stopping by the mall, wondering what to get the important people on our lists.  There’s always a new piece of technology or a good book, and most people appreciate something new for their wardrobe.  Giving a tangible item is gratifying if the person shows excitement. Unfortunately, if the response is more subdued, we’re left wondering if we missed the mark or even insulted the person with our choice.  Years ago, I was given a name necklace that read, “Helen.”  While Helen is a beautiful name, it’s not mine.  I recognized the people considered me important enough in their lives to give me a gift, but their choice didn’t do a good job of conveying their feelings toward me.

close up shot of black color gift box in handHow do we let people know they are important to us?  What gift can accomplish this goal every single time?   The gift of acknowledgment is the answer to our dilemma!

Acknowledgement is simply letting a person know what we value about them.  It may be a way they show up in the world – perhaps we count on them for their honesty.  It may be something that they do for us – perhaps they make us laugh.  It may be a way in which they inspire us – perhaps with their work ethic or the way they overcome adversity.  Or it could be a single instance in which they made a difference in our lives – perhaps they covered for us so we could attend a family event.

Unfortunately,  our profession (and society at large) encourages criticism more than compliments.  “No news is good news.”  We are told to assume that, unless someone points out what we did wrong, we are doing fine.  So when we do take the time to acknowledge something we value, people notice.  Often, they deflect the compliment.  “It wasn’t a big deal.”  “I wish I could be funny every time.”  “Oh, you didn’t see the time I failed at that!”  But if we hold our ground and repeat what we’ve said, they eventually understand they’ve been seen.  And appreciated. That they made a difference.

We can deliver this sentiment verbally, with a note, or with a tangible gift that reflects what we find so valuable about each person.  Goodness knows, there are refrigerator magnets that portray just about anything these days!

The results of our acknowledgments can be far-reaching.  We get more of what we reward, so we encourage people to continue to bring this behavior into the world when we reward it with acknowledgment.  We provide an important tool for people to begin to see their strengths more clearly, giving them greater confidence.  We enhance our connection with them as they recognize we see and appreciate them.  And we derive the pleasure of watching their delight.  Bullseye!  We have hit the perfect mark in gift-giving.

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I am here. I am seen. Authenticity is the key, encourages a physician coach.

In The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook, Peter Senge describes a tribe in South Africa whose members greet each other not with, “Hello,” but by saying, “I see you.” The response to this is, “I am here.”  There’s a lot of substance in this interaction.

What most people want is to be seen and to feel present and authentic in their life.

Searching for the right one Magnifying glass focusing on red manI can offer innumerable examples of people NOT being seen.  Our daughter’s basketball coach never appreciated which players were best at guarding, dribbling or sinking 3-point shots and so let the talents of the girls go unutilized. While this was unfortunate, the inability to be seen pervades most of our professional lives, where it has even greater impact.  Physicians aren’t valued for their excellent patient care because they are viewed as less productive than some of their peers.  Budding leaders are passed over because those in leadership positions don’t take the time to notice their skills and desire to contribute.  Our good ideas aren’t acknowledged because we’re not as forceful in asserting our opinions. It’s frustrating to not have people recognize what we have to offer – to not “see” us.  It makes us doubt who we are and the value we bring.  We wonder if we’re not seen because there’s nothing remarkable to see.

But being seen is just half of the equation.  What about the part when we say, “I am here?” When we show up authentically and contribute in meaningful ways.

Much has been written about what holds us back from bursting out as the full version of ourselves.  We fear we won’t be good enough or won’t be accepted.  We secretly believe we’ve managed to fool people by hiding who we are and that, if they discover what’s lurking behind the facade we present to the world, they won’t like or respect us.  The truth is, as Dr. Seuss so aptly advised,  “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

I’ve written before about my beloved cousin, who stayed hidden for decades.  Now living as the transgender woman she is, she is a dynamic and positive force in her community, bringing people together to support important causes.  While there have been difficulties in her transition, the aliveness with which she now lives is inspiring and she has found an acceptance and purpose that eluded her for most of her life.  Until she decided to allow herself to be known, no one could actually “see” her. The “catch-22” is that, while we desperately want people to see and accept us, when we pretend to be someone we’re not, we never allow that to happen.  We deflect any acceptance we receive because we secretly know that it is not our true self who is being accepted.

What aspect of yourself do you really want people to recognize?  How can you let people know what you have to offer?  In what way can you “be here” so that others can “see” the real you?   Only by showing up as our authentic self can we bring our gifts to the world, connect with others and be accepted.  Imagine how exciting it would be to live like that.  To be here.  And to be seen.

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How we create our realities: a physician coach suggests replacing​ our limiting beliefs

The Uber driver pulled up, saw our roller bags and exclaimed, “I’m so sorry!  My trunk is filled with my gear!”   I initially wondered why she would have agreed to take us to the airport, knowing her trunk was full.  But, after easily placing our bags in the front seat, she explained she was in the Army band and needed to keep her gear with her at all times.  She spoke more about her military career and shared that she had also chosen to attend “jump school,” where she learned to parachute out of planes.  It had been aParachutist in the war pivotal experience in her life.  In spite of being injured in a jump, she emphatically declared she would do it all over again.  This single choice had changed her perception of herself, increased her confidence, and allowed her to see she could expand beyond the limitations she had previously placed on herself.

It’s easy to see how our beliefs affect our choices.  If we believe people are innately good, we are more easily trusting and helpful toward others.  If we believe hard work will pay off, we apply ourselves and are willing to study or work extra hours in order to reach our goals.  But this cause and effect relationship can also work in reverse – we can just as easily affect our beliefs by the choices we make.

If we make a choice in our relationships – personal or business – that doesn’t turn out well, we might easily start to believe we can’t trust ourselves to make wise decisions, or that honest, trustworthy partners don’t exist.  That belief will then fuel other choices – not to open our hearts or engage in other collaborative efforts.  Instead, if we formed the belief that this particular person wasn’t the right choice or we weren’t a good fit, our future choices might be very different.  It makes it important to question any conclusion we draw from our experiences.

Many times we want to make a certain choice, but lurking in the wings and ready to derail our good intentions is a limiting belief we aren’t even aware of.  We might choose to take on a leadership role but inwardly believe we’re too introverted to succeed.  We might choose to begin an exercise program but secretly hold the belief that we don’t have the determination to stick to it.  Although some beliefs seem grounded in our values and therefore set in stone, most are simply subjective thoughts.  When our beliefs don’t support the choice we want to make, we are doomed to fail.

A very helpful step when we want to make a new choice in our lives is to explore the beliefs we have about it.  What is the evidence for these beliefs?  When we find a disempowering belief, we can ask ourselves what else we can believe that will make it more likely for us to be successful.  Instead of believing we are too introverted to be a good leader, we can recognize that many successful leaders are introverts who bring significant strengths to leadership, such as greater inclusiveness and engagement of their team. How will that change our attitude toward becoming a leader?  What new thoughts and feelings might that generate?  As we experience the internal shifts by changing our belief, we can sense our commitment to our new choice growing stronger.

What new choices would you like to make?  How much more exciting, fulfilling, or interesting would your life become, once you let go of limiting beliefs and find more empowering beliefs to support your new choices and success?

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Physician Burnout: Don’t forget to look under the rug

This weekend, I’m attending the SEAK conference, a large gathering of physicians seeking non-clinical career options. You might wonder why, after the time, energy Work Life Balanceand money physicians invest in their careers, so many want to walk away from it all. As we know, burnout affects more than half of all physicians. Many circumstances account for this epidemic – loss of autonomy, not feeling valued, frustration with increasing regulations and insurance company demands, erosion of the doctor-patient relationship, the disproportionate amount of time spent on clerical tasks…the list is long. As a physician, you’re probably cringing as you recognize the impact of each of these realities on your own satisfaction.

Many of these issues will require a change in the system in which we work or the culture of medicine in order to restore the sense of satisfaction that used to be the norm for physicians. If you are feeling burned out, waiting for a sea change doesn’t offer much hope. Is there nothing we can do to feel better now?

While it’s understandable to feel that our work IS our life, it’s crucial to realize that it’s only one aspect of it. Often, I’ve found that physicians focus their dissatisfaction on work, when their biggest source of unhappiness comes from somewhere else. This makes it worthwhile to take a look under the rug – at the other areas of our lives – to see where we have room and leverage to improve.

I’ve worked with clients who believed the source of their despair was work, when the greater concern was that their primary relationship was lacking in some way. Dealing effectively with their relationship led them to discover a more positive feeling about work. Others found that health issues were plaguing them, causing daily pain and anxiety. Once they addressed and found better ways of managing these medical concerns, they experienced greater comfort and confidence that permeated other areas of their lives. Still others, inundated by the demands of work and reluctant to share their concerns or feelings of despair, isolated themselves from friends and family. By reconnecting with these important people, their newfound relationships introduced a broader array of interests and balanced their lives, giving work a more reasonable and healthier degree of influence over how they felt.

One simple way to help us take stock of our lives is by using a “Wheel of Life.” This graphic allows us to easily see where we are most and least happy. By considering what would improve our assessment of each area, we can take steps to bring our lives closer to our ideal. We may still encounter the same frustrations at work, but as we lessen the dissatisfaction with other parts of our lives, we may find we’re better able to tolerate those frustrations. We might even discover we’re more creative and resourceful in dealing effectively with them. And we will open more avenues for joy to come into our lives. Work, although a passion and calling for many of us, is still only one aspect of our life. Let’s give it the proper amount of attention and not let it overshadow or limit the power we have to improve the overall quality of our lives.

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Making our own well-being​ a priority – today and every day. A physician coach offers steps to improve patient care, extend our careers, and bring joy to our lives

9.5 million entries on Google for “physician wellness”  speak to what a big topic it’s become.  Hospitals, medical groups, and medical associations are including an increasing number of programs on physician wellness.

So why do 300-400 physicians continue to take their own lives each year?

Because, for many of us, our own wellness is at the bottom of our list.

Human Pyramid and Thumbs Up
We need to recognize that our well being is the foundation of good medical care.  When physicians are stressed or suffer from depression or anxiety, the quality of our care is negatively impacted.  Our productivity diminishes. We leave our profession, or we leave our lives.  Wellness is like the people on the bottom of a human pyramid.  Although we tend to focus on the person at the pinnacle of the pyramid – look at their grace, balance and poise! – without a firm foundation, they would topple.  The same is true of our own personal wellness.

In her excellent article, Danielle Ofri cites the ongoing culture of perfectionism.  Clearly, one needs to be fairly perfectionistic to obtain the grades and scores to get into medical school,  to acquire exponentially increasing amounts of scientific knowledge and understanding, and to conform to high standards of practice.  Knowing the stakes are high compels us to drive ourselves and keeps our anxiety levels high.  As perfectionists, we focus on our small mistakes, our less-than-perfect outcomes, when a more balanced appraisal of our performance would be more accurate – and healthier.  We can improve our well being on a personal level by keeping a journal of our successes and asking ourselves, “What did I do WELL today?” as each day comes to a close.  This will provide a broader view of how we’re doing and allow us to balance our inevitable shortcomings with the many excellent actions and outcomes we provide.

As a group, we can address systemic problems – the inefficiencies of the EHR, a focus on productivity over quality of care, insensitivity to individual physicians’ needs.  Arranging exam rooms so physicians can see both the computer screen and the patient should be imperative.  Physicians’ requests to adjust their schedules so more complicated patients are given longer appointments or to allow for family or personal needs should be easily accommodated.  Support staff such as scribes should be immediately incorporated into the routine and culture of healthcare, just as the EHR has been incorporated.  This will help to alleviate some of the stress and will allow physicians to feel as if they are being supported by their organizations.

There are excellent, evidence-based interventions that build resilience and restore physician wellness.  Shanafelt et al showed statistically significant improvement in all measures of burnout when groups of physicians met biweekly for an hour for mindfulness, reflection, shared experience and small group learning.  The groups continued for 9 months and improvements were sustained at 12 months.  The benefits of mindfulness practices and exercise are well known.  We all know that nurturing outside relationships and passions improves our state of mind and lowers our stress.  What’s missing is our own prioritization of these things in our lives.

When we give ourselves even a small amount of time to focus on us – personal reflection, activities that nurture our soul or reconnect with ourselves such as meditation or walks in nature, time with those we love, eating healthy foods  – we tell ourselves that we are important.  Good decisions like this lead to other good decisions during the day.

What will it take to make your own well being a priority?  What small step can you take today to support yourself?  Give yourself 30 minutes a day for your own wellness, and watch your life immediately improve.

(Hint: For some ideas, click here)



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An Invitation to Become an Emotionally Intelligent Leader – free webinar 8/30/17


Our tweet chat last night was filled with great ideas and the sharing of many issues that confront physicians who wish to lead from their passions but are worried they will get tripped up if their emotions come out at inopportune times.  While both genders struggle with gender-based stereotypes regarding emotions, we would like to offer a program especially geared toward the challenges that women physicians face.

Deborah Munhoz, MS, PCC, and I invite you to join our webinar, hosted by the American Association for Physician Leadership (AAPL) (physicianleaders.org) on Wednesday, August 30th from noon-1PM Eastern.  We will bust some myths about emotions, discuss the importance of Emotional Intelligence in patient care as well as leadership, and you will leave with a simple, 3-step process for using your emotions powerfully to gain greater influence in your life.  AAPL has graciously allowed us to invite non-members to the webinar.  We hope you’ll join us! To register, click here.

Warm regards,



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The Secret to Becoming an Emotionally Intelligent Leader – please join me for a tweet chat Tuesday, August 22nd!

The value and power of Emotional Intelligence are well accepted. In fact, how we manage our own and others’ emotions can determine our own effectiveness as a physician and a leader.   It’s my pleasure to invite you to join the international discussion of how to best use our emotions in the healthcare setting on Tuesday, August 22nd at 8:30 PM Eastern.  Hosted by the American Association for Physician Leadership and HCLDR, we will explore this important and timely topic and focus on 4 questions:

  • How have emotions helped or hindered you in your career?
  • When does expressing emotions seem like an act of strength, rather than a weakness?
  • How can expressing your emotions help to form your reputation as an effective leader?
  • What are some tactics for expressing emotions in a constructive way, that have worked successfully for you?

Here’s a blog post to pique your interest and provide additional resources on the topic.

To join the chat, log on to your Twitter account and search #hcldr – I hope to see you there!



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