A magic trick for physician leaders

Thoughts and ideas from The Physician Executive
A magic trick for physician leaders
July 3, 2017 at 12:00 AM
by The Physician Executive
9 3 15magic trick

I’ve had the privilege of working in recent years with both emerging and seasoned physician leaders … and thoroughly enjoying my coaching clients! I appreciate that physicians are smart, quick to catch on and often highly motivated when stepping into a leadership role. Our conversations are rich and wide-ranging.

Despite the diversity of personalities and leadership styles I encounter (I typically have my clients complete a DiSC profile assessment), I notice several recurring themes emerging in our work.

In a typical week, I have at least 4 or 5 conversations that could be best summed up as exploring aspects of Emotional Intelligence.

Just what do I mean by this?

Emotional Intelligence is a key differentiator between average and excellent leaders, and refers to our capacity for knowing what’s going on inside ourselves, modulating and managing our emotional responses, attempting to consider and even understand the worldview and experiences of others, and therefore interacting in productive and effective ways with others.

I’ve noticed one “reactive place” where clients regularly get stuck (confession time — as do I!) That place has been constructed out of our habits of assumptions and judgment, ingrained since childhood.

As soon as we find ourselves in an intense discussion, we tend to default to internal conversation soundbites that go something like this:

“This person is an idiot. Can’t he see that…?” 
“I get so frustrated when she does that. Why doesn’t she…?”
“What a dumb idea!”
“No, no… It can’t be done that way!Why can’t you see that this way’s much better?”
“This is crazy … there’s no way this will work”.

Sound familiar?

When conflict rears its seemingly ugly head, we repeatedly assume that one of us must be right and the other must be wrong. We judge. This is bad. He is wrong. She doesn’t get it.

And the opportunity to respond emotionally intelligently is lost.

The magic of curiosity for physician leaders

The good news is that, over the years of coaching physician leaders, I’ve discovered a magic trick that works almost 100% of the time. It consists of the following 2 steps:

1. Suspend judgment.

Actively stop yourself from labeling any person or any situation negatively.

Note how you are being triggered.

Catch yourself in the moment and stop judging — doing this displays a combination of the self-awareness and self-management piece of emotional intelligence.

2. Get curious.

Say something like this to yourself, “Gee, that’s interesting/fascinating! I wonder why … he thinks that way/she’s reacting that way/this seems so difficult/we don’t seem to be on the same page …”

And then go ahead and say it out aloud.

Use your genuine curiosity to explore what’s going on.

I can confirm the magic of this approach – it really works! Test it for a week and note what happens.

Let me know how it goes!