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  • Writer's pictureDave Veale

Embracing leadership coaching as a perk

Updated: Jan 29

Meaghan Sibbett, manager of NBMS Wellness

I recently had, as most people do, an unexpected trip to the emergency room at our local hospital, I found myself apologizing to the medical staff – I knew they were already burdened. The ER is rarely a quiet place.

My issue was serious enough that I needed to be there, but I knew they were juggling a lot that night. Despite the volume, I received incredibly good care from an amazing team of health-care workers.

My mind also turned to the New Brunswick Medical Society, the professional association for the province’s more than 2,000 physicians.

Earlier this year, it decided to pilot leadership coaching as part of its wellness program for physicians. That has quickly evolved into a popular program for physicians eager to improve their skills as leaders during these challenging times.

Meaghan Sibbett, manager of NBMS Wellness, told me it proved so popular and the feedback was so positive that the medical society decided to fully launch the program before finishing the pilot.

Key partner

“For physicians here, it is really a new idea for them,” she said, noting several other provinces have similar programs, including Prince Edward Island.

“We weren’t sure if we would have to promote it really hard or not, but as it turns out we hardly had to promote it at all. We sent out one email and had over 60 responses in 48 hours,” Meaghan told me.

'We weren’t sure if we would have to promote it really hard or not, but as it turns out we hardly had to promote it at all. We sent out one email and had over 60 responses in 48 hours.' - Meaghan Sibbett.

As a key partner with the medical society in providing leadership coaching, my colleagues and I at Vision Coaching are encouraged with the surge in interest.

We applaud the society for the leadership it has shown in implementing a leadership program for their members.

Highly progressive

This is the mark of a highly progressive organization. In my earlier years of offering leadership coaching, organizations or individuals tended to want a coach when there were signs of trouble. The investment in coaching was often reactive and remedial.

Thankfully, that attitude has been evolving toward a recognition that leadership coaching is a powerful tool for any leader, and can be particularly effective when embraced proactively to turn good leaders into great ones, to empower teams, and even and increase the effectiveness of entire organizations.

Long before this partnership with the medical society came to life, I had the opportunity to join Dr. Sarah Gander, a pediatrician in Saint John, N.B., on a Dalhousie Medical School faculty podcast to discuss leadership coaching for physicians.

Sarah, who has benefitted from leadership coaching before the NBMS Wellness program was conceived, said physicians often view leadership positions, such as a department head, as “just another hat they have to wear.

Phenomenally popular

“But coaching turned it from being a kind of ‘voluntold’ situation where you think ‘OK, it’s my turn to take the hit’ to ‘Wow, I can really influence change.’ It helps you realize that you do have good ideas and that you can hone your skills. It has served our department really well.”

Today, the New Brunswick Medical Society is very much at the forefront with this partnership – offering leadership coaching as a benefit to its member physicians.

It turns out it has been a phenomenally popular benefit.

“Doctors are telling their colleagues,’You should take this,’” Meaghan says.

She believes physicians are eager to get leadership coaching because of the intensifying demands upon their time not only in patient care but also in administration and consulting. These are especially challenging times in the medical world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and staff and resource shortages.

Not surprisingly, like the rest of us, many physicians are dealing with leadership challenges.

Engaged, motivated leaders

“For the vast majority, they are doing this administrative work sort of off the side of their desks or in addition to an already busy practice,” Meaghan says. “It’s not something that is taught in medical school. They spend a lot of time training to be very specialized in what they do but they do not learn the business side of it. I think they are expected to adopt the skills by osmosis.”

She says physicians are looking to leadership coaching to help them become the kind of engaged, motivated leaders who can improve their communities and the health care system.

“I have had so many physicians say to me ‘I have been thinking about this for a few years, but I just haven’t had time to figure out who to go to or what it needs to be and I was just about to start looking things up and I got your email. I am so excited.’ So it is something that clearly was on people’s minds.”

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