Am I Coachable? Four Self Reflections

Q: I’ve been an orthopedic surgeon for over 20 years. Our group has recently began a physician coaching program. I’m getting some peer pressure to participate and I am not sure if this “old dog” wants to learn new tricks. In fact, the very idea of having another physician coach me makes the hairs on my neck stand up. Tell me why I’m wrong?

A: Totally get it. Initially, the idea of being coached can seem awkward, but the purpose of coaching is simple -- coaching is about helping us get better.

Much of my personal conviction around coaching emerged around all the things I didn’t know how to do -- making decisions with patients, running a team huddle, explaining medications, delivering bad news, managing a patient demanding a medically unnecessary test -- you name it. There are so many skills we didn’t get from our medical training that I wasn’t even aware I didn’t know how to do these things!

The question is…if we didn’t receive formal training in these skills, and doing these things are admittedly important, then shouldn’t coaching be a part of how we continuously get better as physicians? So where do we begin? I’ll put myself on the “hotseat” and share what I discovered through my experiences being coached. I’ve found that these core beliefs reflect “coachability” and how great coaches, and learners, think and act:

I believe getting better is worth it – sounds obvious, but an important opportunity to self-reflect.

I am self-aware – insight may be the best leading indicator for who gets better. When we blame data, or other members of the team, we are less likely to get better ourselves.

I seek feedback – feedback is essential for becoming better and is the foundation of good coaching. If we attack feedback, we are unlikely to respond to it and get better.

I quickly go from learning, to doing. Learning in the absence of doing doesn’t do much of anything. Practicing new skills with patients or your team and then asking for feedback is the best learning of all.

One of the most rewarding professional experiences I have ever had is watching physicians discover what it’s like to connect with patients, tap the talent of their team, manage a tough patient gracefully, and for them to reflect, “that...was different…” They become ambassadors for a newly discovered skill, talking with colleagues about what they learned and tried, and the impact they experienced. Others are invited to try it too as you move together as a team in pursuit of better. You learn something, try something, harvest “what happened when...,” and tell your story. You, my friend, are not only have become a coach.