From Softball to Winning Ball

Growing up as one of five children in a small town in northern New Jersey, I met my first coach. Mr. Mott coached me and fifteen other ten-year-olds on our first softball team, The Bobby Sockers.  The coach had a lot to offer. He was kind and encouraging and supportive and, in the words of Tom Landry, the famous football coach was the coach who,

“… tells you what you don’t want to hear, who has you see what you don’t want to see, so you can be who you always knew you could be.”

I realize now that he was telling me way back then–55 years ago–I was not going to be a star softball player.

Introduction of Coaching in Hospital Life

Fast forward to 1996. In my newly appointed leadership role as “Administrator” for the surgical ortho neuro care center, I met Sally, my first Executive Coach.  I had been a nurse for over 15 years and had recently completed a Master’s program, but in no way was I prepared to understand the value nor the role of an executive coach.

The local scuttle-butt hinted that my coach had been assigned to do a psychological evaluation on me and my performance. Anxiety permeated my very core the first time I met Sally. I was overly cautious in my response to all questions; I was playing it safe. Finally, Sally asked, “So, why do you think you have been assigned an executive coach?” I struggled to find an answer that didn’t sound defensive and finally spit out…”My boss thinks I need help?” She smiled and shared, “Your boss and other senior leaders see great potential in you as a leader, so they want you to be successful. I am here to help you be the best you can be.” Sally made it safe for me to learn and grow.

Executive Coaching A Fad, A Frivolous Experience, or A Key To Unlock Performance?

Since 2011, I have been privileged to serve as an executive coach and to work side-by-side with hundreds of healthcare leaders, all interested in becoming the best they can possibly be. Whether a Nurse Manager, Environmental Services Director, VP of Human Resource, CMO, CNO,  or CEO, these are people eager to grow professionally. My goal is to make it safe for them.

Finding willing, open, and interested leaders to partner within the early years of coaching was quite a challenge. My credibility as a former CNO helped get me in the door, or cubicle, or hallway. Once trust had been established and our purpose was clarified, I was amazed and even energized by the desire and hunger for coaching and feedback from all I worked with. 

Coaching: Not for Those Who Need Help, Rather for Those Who Want to Grow Personally and Professionally

High performers and most leaders are high performers, want and even need feedback and direction. Coaching is the way. Coaching is the safe way. Coaching is also the responsibility and the privilege of each and every leader who can be the catalyst for both the personal and professional growth of their staff.

The world of healthcare today includes challenges, complexity, and a tremendous rate of change. With diversity in staff and increasingly specialized customer needs, we in healthcare have the perfect environment for coaching, especially executive coaching. As John Kotter, professor of leadership at the Harvard Business School, has stated, “What’s really driving the boom in coaching is this: As we move from 30 miles an hour to 70 to 120 to 180……as we go from driving straight down the road to making right turns and left turns to abandoning cars and getting motorcycles…the whole game changes and people are trying to keep up and learning not to fall.”

Stability in management is a critical factor for the long-term success of an organization. Today all roles, but especially leadership roles, are changing. The same role over the years has typically experienced an increase in responsibilities, ranging from the number of employees they are responsible for to larger and more comprehensive budgets, and quality, safety, productivity outcomes that are not for the faint of heart. Adequate orientation and transition to new roles, including mentoring and coaching which have been often considered the softer side of leadership, must now be recognized as the basic (minimum) elements needed to build strong foundations and facilitate rapid growth not only for new leaders but for all leaders who are open for professional growth.

What about you?

As a leader of employees, when was the last time you coached someone? Did you play it safe or make it safe for them to learn and grow? And for yourself, if you haven’t had a coach, you might benefit from one. If you’ve had the good fortune to have coaches through your career, consider another one as you face the new challenges of today’s healthcare world.

Will you play it safe or allow a great coach to make it safe for you? How can I help you achieve your growth potential?

Posted in:
Culture, Trust