Professional growth requires experiencing challenges, and these past two-and-a-half years have been fraught with them. Within the new landscape, it may be prudent for healthcare leaders to take a step back and reflect on our careers.
True growth and success can be obtained only through introspection. It requires humility to truly reflect, extract learnings from adversity and grow as a result. Things that worked in the past might not serve you well now. Following is advice for considering one’s career trajectory in this new environment.
Make a List
Take an inventory of your competencies, including those gained during the pandemic. The list will most likely include resilience, tenacity and patience, among others. It’s important to ask yourself: What has been gained during this tough period? What new competency have I learned that I can use to propel my healthcare career forward?
Give Yourself Grace
When we are in hard times, it’s easy to think we can operate at full capacity as we are so often used to doing. What we need, however, is to give ourselves permission to forgive any mistakes we might have made during this challenging time—during which we have all tried to do our best—to take the time to recover from recent events, and to rest. A lesson learned for many athletes is that when you suffer an injury, it’s so tempting to push through and try to maintain a normal training regimen. This is often ineffective, however, and dangerous. It can further exacerbate an existing injury and potentially cause additional, even irreparable, harm.
For leaders it’s acceptable, and necessary, to slow down. Give healing and recovery its due time, and process recent challenging events. As naturally competitive people, athletes often return to baseline as soon as possible. This is true of leaders, as well. Instead, identify that we need to mend things and then have the discipline to do so at the appropriate speed. In addition, take the time for vital “self-care,” which can come in many forms, from meditation to daily walks.
Seek Outside Counsel
When we are under pressure or stress, we tend to lack objectivity or make emotional or irrational decisions. It’s important, however, to be vulnerable at times. This is often foreign territory for leaders. Try reaching out to trusted colleagues or mentors and garner their more objective opinions about you regarding challenging situations or circumstances.
In addition, consider engaging a professional coach, counselor or therapist to help process what has happened and determine if there are areas in your work life that need to change. Identify the root causes that created the need for change, and determine what behaviors came about as a result that may or may not need modifying. After doing this work, chart a path forward for change or recovery.
Watch Out for Your Ego
In any new venture, no one knows everything and only fools think they do. You might be tempted to succumb to shame and hide or mask the unvarnished reality that you are experiencing during a
challenging time. However, not being honest about a difficulty you are going through can prolong your ability to address what is under the surface, potentially leading to more challenges down the road. Being emotionally intelligent means recognizing that we all have blind spots. As leaders, dealing with our blind spots head-on and getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is a solid approach. Be willing to defer to others on your team and collaborate with those whose strengths are your blind spots. This goes a long way in empowering collaboration and partnership within the team, as well.
Lead by Example
Leaders’ behaviors set the tone and expectation for how others will respond and react. Key questions to consider include: Am I regularly practicing empathy? Am I authentic? Am I thoughtfully and humbly honoring the human needs of myself and those around me, or am I simply plowing through as if nothing is amiss? Do I talk about asking for help, seek counsel and forgive myself for my mistakes? Doing these things as a leader while others are watching can help normalize these types of responses among team members. In a way, it also gives staff license to look after themselves in challenging times.
Leverage Adversity for Good
Take advantage of the opportunity to reconsider, rethink and reengineer your own habits or processes, or those of your department, organization or system. What have you learned? What can you shed and replace with a new, better system? Again, write this down and make the next steps of your career intentional.
Develop strategies based on what you’ve learned about yourself and your organization during the pandemic. Make sure these strategies fit your leadership style and abilities. Take the time to slow down and make a plan that reflects your learnings and growth, and resist the urge to plow forward haphazardly with doing things the old way.
We’ve all heard the adage by Greek philosopher Heraclitus, “Change is the only constant in life.” Looking for change and embracing it can alter how you feel and respond to it. Determine what you’ve personally gained through this once-in-a-lifetime experience, including its obstacles and struggles.
Apply these to your leadership and personal career goals, and you will not only stop fearing change, you might just learn to appreciate it.
Natalie Lamberton, FACHE, is CEO, Denver Springs, Denver (firstname.lastname@example.org).
After experiencing the challenges of these past two-and-a-half years, it’s a good time for leaders to pause and reflect on their careers. Steps include:
Make a list. Take an inventory of your competencies, including those gained during the pandemic.
Give yourself grace. Forgive yourself for mistakes you might have made during this challenging time, and take time to recover from recent events and rest.
Seek outside counsel. Reach out to trusted colleagues or mentors and ask for their objective opinions about you, or consider engaging a professional coach, counselor or therapist.
Watch out for your ego. Be willing to acknowledge your blind spots and defer to others on the team who have strengths in those areas.
Lead by example. Practice empathy, be authentic and ask for help, normalizing these behaviors among staff members.