With the increased complexity (read: unpredictable, tumultuous change) pummeling the healthcare industry, more and more leaders are engaging high performance coaches to help them build a skill set for leading amidst uncertainty. In an attempt to combine my love of coaching and my love of food, here are five reasons why you and your leadership team might consider working with a coach.

Reason #1: The recipe is always changing—My grandma made the best kugel, which is a traditional Jewish dish that marries sweet, savory and carby—my three favorite flavors. Since she passed away 25 years ago, I’ve dreamt of that kugel, scoured the internet for that kugel and performed in-depth research in delis across America to find that kugel. Guess what? That kugel is gone forever.

And like the kugel, the old days of certainty in healthcare are also gone. It’s not just the whiplash of policy changes we may be facing, it’s the pace of technology, patient expectations and shifting payment models that inject a constant state of chronic change into the health system.

Coaches help healthcare leaders build practical skills for leading in a dynamic and unpredictable environment.

Reason #2: Your dining room is filled with critics—I have to admit that on my short list of dream jobs (between movie reviewer and soft towel sampler) is food critic. I mean, how cool would it be to get paid to eat at some of the best restaurants in the world? I guess you don’t start with those assignments, but I’d survive if I got paid to visit average restaurants, eat average food and write an average review.

Like today’s restaurant industry, healthcare has been cracked wide open with arm-chair reviewers who stumble into dining establishments, potentially act like jerks and then take to Trip Advisor with a rant about their experience. Seems unfair, but it’s the new reality of engaged consumerism.

Coaches help healthcare leaders build resilience within an increasingly transparent and consumer-driven environment.

Reason #3: There are too many cooks in the kitchen—One of the greatest differences between a regular ol’ restaurant and one featured in the Michelin Guide is that the average restaurant has no discernable leader. The kitchen is run by the cook-of-the-day or many cooks doing their own thing. A top restaurant has a strong leader in the front of the house, a strong leader in the back of the house and a well-choreographed team of experts headed in the same direction.

A common phenomenon within many healthcare teams is a lack of clear leadership, resulting in separate rules and standards for each provider or factions of staff. While medicine should not be reduced to one big best practice bundle, the whack-a-mole approach to managing the day or leading the team is not sustainable in an already turbulent industry.

Coaches help healthcare leaders lead confidently, place their attention where it matters most and tap into the strengths of each team member.

Reason #4: A cuisine reflects the culture and community from which it comes.

Food is more than well, food. It tells a story about the people who made it, the people who taught them how to make it and the ingredients that were available when that cuisine was born. Food is also a mechanism for perpetuating cultural identify and educating others about a community.

A healthcare organization’s culture is, put simply, its personality and it reflects the history, the rules (unspoken and overt) and the values that are cultivated over time. Effective leaders are respectful of an organization’s history, while also intentionally creating a culture that supports the most pressing organizational priorities and goals.

Coaches help healthcare leaders balance personal leadership style with an organization's culture and priorities. 

Reason #5: There’s a difference between a hobbiest and a seasoned chef.

For centuries, cooking has been a mechanism for building community, perpetuating culture and nurturing health. Julia Child, my friends at the Joy of Cooking and countless food bloggers have been simplifying culinary complexities so that the rest of us can impress our nearest and dearest on a Friday night.

But like WebMD, reading a diagnosis or a recipe on the internet does not make one a physician or a seasoned chef. Rather, one must spend countless hours studying the field to be a true expert. And like cooking or medicine, leadership is both an art and a science, marrying a deep body of knowledge in the fields of management, innovation, psychology and complexity.

Coaches help healthcare leaders master the art and science of leadership. 

By now you should have a good sense for the tangible ways in which coaching can help elevate leadership, team and organizational performance. Of course, choosing the right coach who aligns with your personality, goals and organizational culture is as simple as choosing something from the menu at your favorite restaurant…!

2 thoughts on “The Joy of Coaching: Food & Five Strategies for High Performing Healthcare Leadership

  1. It’s really true that healthcare leaders need coaches. The question is will they admit this fact? Most healthcare leaders see themselves as being too smart to be taught or to learn from others especially of the person is not within their circle of professionals. With the ever changing patients needs and expectations I hope our healthcare leaders will begin to allow themselves to be coached.

    • Nana, these are great points! I agree, it’s difficult for anybody, particularly very smart, accomplished people to ask for help. As high performance coaching becomes more pervasive throughout the healthcare industry, my hope is it will make it a more accessible and accepted practice.

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