The importance of vision – and of communicating it over and over again

As I watched the women’s gymnastics team perform last night in the Olympics, I noticed the focus and concentration on the faces of our young, determined athletes. They stood silently, about to begin, and I imagined that they were envisioning themselves and feeling their bodies flying through the air, twisting this way and that as they completed their routine. There is ample data and anecdotal evidence showing that the practice of imagining ourselves doing something allows us to actually do it more skillfully.

We can apply this same skill to almost anything we do. When we are building or adapting a medical practice, we can imagine just what we want to create. How do we want our patients to feel when they enter our suite? What type of communication style do we hope our employees will adopt when speaking with patients, other employees, or us? What message do we want our patients to get as they are cared for by us and our staff? Cutting edge excellence? Kindness? Diligence?

Once we have our vision, we need to communicate it in every way and at every opportunity. There is no such thing as “over messaging.” Whatever is important to us should be a part of our hiring interviews, written patient information pieces, advertising, and every interaction within our office. If we see other practices appearing, we can create an opportunity to restate our real intention – and then repeat it over and over again. As Gretchen Rosswurm writes, leaders need to “build a sense of shared purpose by painting a compelling vision of the future. They answer these questions: Where are we going, what does it look like, what are the benefits, what role do I play in the success? The differentiator is consistency. The best leaders know they need to paint this vision over and over. At every opportunity, they share the vision of what’s ahead. Eloquence isn’t a requirement. Have a clear picture of the end goal, be consistent in how you describe it and create opportunities to engage with the influencers who can make or break success.” (

We can take this concept and also apply it to our families. Verbalizing a vision of what our family stands for provides a roadmap for children as they navigate difficult situations and creates a sense of cohesiveness and belonging. When children hear these guiding principles repeated, they frequently internalize them and take them on. Named after my grandfather, I was told many times that as my grandfather was dying, he commented, “I don’t leave you much, but what I leave you is a good name.” The importance of living honorably became a foundation of my own life and formed the basis for most of my interactions and life decisions since I was a child.

So, take some time – with your spouse, your colleagues, your employees – and formulate your own vision for your life and your practice. When you are living or practicing this way, what exactly will you be doing? What will the people around you be doing? What will it look like? What will it feel like? Once you have a clear picture in your mind, begin to communicate it – clearly and specifically. If you need help in doing any of these things, hire a consultant or coach who can help you bridge the gap between your desire and your ability to achieve it. Just like those skilled athletes have coaches, we each can benefit from the experience and advice of someone who has gone this way or helped others along this path before.

Creating our own vision is one of the most important things we can do. As the oddly-wise Yogi Berra once said, “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going because you might not get there.”

About Helane Fronek

Over the past 28 years I have had a fascinating and fulfilling career in medicine, initially practicing as a general internist and then as a procedural specialist, caring for patients with vein disorders. As Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at UC- San Diego School of Medicine, I’m thrilled to be teaching medical students crucial communication skills along with many other aspects involved in the practice of medicine.
This entry was posted in building relationship with patients, effective communication in healthcare, first impressions, physician coaching, physician communication, physician fulfillment, physician work life balance and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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