by Margaret Cary

What narrative are you creating, experience by experience?  What is your life’s blueprint? Whom are you asking for help?

Imagine someone who is your curbside “consultant” for management and leadership challenges and learning.  Someone who gives you his or her full attention when you speak, who asks you questions designed to help you figure out your own solutions.  Someone who gives you honest appraisals, questions your motives and pushes back when constructive.  Someone who is always in your corner, who shares articles, books, exercises and asks, “In what other ways could you approach that?”

That’s what coaches do.

In medical school I was trained to give orders.  That’s what leaders do, right?  My first big leadership position was with President Clinton’s administration.  I arrived at work, talked with my office staff and gave an order.

Nothing happened.

Clearly, they hadn’t heard me.

I gave the order again.

My journey from clinician to leader began.

I made every management mistake possible – most of them more than once.  I focused on what I wanted others to do, rather than what I could learn about why others did what they did.  We tend to do what we’re used to doing.  As a leader, my job was to move from tactics to strategy, from telling to asking, from managing to, well, leading.

Serendipity has provided me with the right tools at the right time.  One of these was executive coaching.  Another was journaling.  I have had several coaches and have learned from each one.  My decision to enter a leadership coaching program was one of the most powerful actions I have taken in my life.  Learning about coaching has fundamentally changed how I approach life.

Physicians in leadership roles comprise most of my coaching practice.  These are physicians in clinical care, academia, startups, biotech and pharma.  I also coach a few C-suite executives in health-related organizations who are not physicians.

Coaching physicians circles back to my decision, in the fourth grade, to go into medicine.  I love science and want to help people. To give you an idea of what coaching’s about, here’s afive-minute video clip from my coaching presentation at the 2012 American College of Physician Executives annual conference.

I am one of the 24 women profiled in Lessons Learned: Stories from Women in Medical Management.  How does our book differ from other story collections?

First, you’ll find an Overview chapter that reviews the latest statistics on women in leadership roles, focusing on women physicians.  We haven’t moved very far from the 1990’s.

Second, a chapter written by me titled “Coaching – What’s in It for You?”  outlines the benefits of coaching and what you should look for in your coach.

What’s the relation to stories? I encourage my coaching clients to design their own narratives, their autobiographies, by synthesizing past experiences, current interests, feelings and ideas for future development into a roadmap for the future.  Share YOUR Story at TEDMED

- Margaret Cary, MD, MBA, MPH – Executive Coaching & Leadership Development for Physicians; Keynote Speaking, Retreat Facilitation & Group Coaching