Healthcare Perspectives


Executive Coaching for Health Care Professionals

Sep 04, 2017
By: Tina Nazier

Many physicians and health care executives went into the medical profession to help others improve their health; however, with the demands and pressures placed on them, they are often in need of someone to help them maintain their health. In many cases, health care professionals are overworked, overwhelmed, and overextended, which lead to feelings of ineffectiveness and ultimately burnout. In February of this year, CEOs of top health systems wrote an article in Health Affairs calling physician burnout a public health crisis. For those health care professionals experiencing the effects of burnout, it’s clear they need a prescription for help.

A solution to get the help they need to address burnout can be found through an executive coach. An executive coach provides health care professionals with a safe space to discuss internal issues and obstacles, deal with things such as an internal negative dialogue and feelings of inadequacy, and lead them back to a healthier approach to work and life. Having a confidant and someone to help process the daily demands of a hospital and health care environment can help executives and physicians to be more innovative in achieving success, feel effective and more in control of their work, and be motivated to reach their fullest potential.

What Is Executive Coaching?

Coaching is a guided process that takes clients through self-discovery so they can find their own solutions to issues they are facing. The coach asks a series of questions leading clients to establish their own goals and define their desired outcomes. Coaching helps clients discover their own path forward by helping them think about what they have experienced, what they appreciate, what they have seen others do well, and how to successfully apply new learning to their own behavior. Because they create their own solutions, rather than the coach assigning a series of tasks, they are inspired to move forward with next steps, make the best choices on their path to growth, and become empowered to find solutions to longstanding issues and questions. Coaching is not consulting (providing a solution), mentoring (paving the way), or psychotherapy (resolving mental health concerns). Coaching is a creative process that draws out the best of what’s already inside the individual and helps bring it forward.

Executive Coaching Approach

Wipfli approaches executive coaching using a two-phase customized process that maximizes performance, unlocks the client’s potential, and builds lasting results.

Phase I: Assessment and Discovery

Together, the coach and the client discuss and tailor an approach to meet the specific needs of the client by detailing the coaching process, the duration of the coaching relationship, and process options available. The Assessment and Discovery Phase includes:

  • Engaging in extensive discussions with the client to clarify expectations.
  • Identifying desired coaching outcomes.
  • Conducting a motivating needs assessment to identify the client’s motivating drives and behaviors.
  • Identifying desired competencies.
  • Conducting a 360 degree feedback survey to assess the client’s competencies.
  • Interviewing peers (selected by the client) to gain further understanding of the context of the business environment as it relates to the client’s performance and contributions and to confirm the client’s desire to participate in the coaching process.

Questions that are examined in this phase include: What should the coach’s role be? Should the coach or someone else hold the client accountable for their actions and behavior? How long will the coaching engagement last? During this phase, the coach also conducts interviews with several of the client’s professional peers to gather personal and performance-related information. This information is used to develop a targeted plan for growth.

A client who does not fully commit to the coaching process will likely not achieve desired outcomes. Therefore, this phase is used to determine the level of commitment of the client and the synergy between them and their coach.

Phase II: Plan Development and Implementation

The coach reviews and synthesizes the information collected and shares the results with the client to further refine the focus of the coaching process. Working collaboratively, the coach and the client develop an Executive Development Plan (EDP), which prioritizes key goals and objectives, identifies desired behavioral changes, selects metrics to measure progress toward goals, and establishes a timeline to create accountability.

To help facilitate success in implementing the EDP, there are several one-on-one coaching sessions that occur in person or via telephone. These sessions assist the client in reviewing successes, building skills, modeling behavioral change, tracking progress toward goals, circumventing obstacles, and addressing unanticipated changes in focus. In order for coaching to be effective, the client must have the drive, desire, and commitment to embrace becoming more self-aware. The client can then modify behaviors and adopt a leadership approach to achieve personal and professional success.

In addition to this two-phase approach, another coaching option is a customized coaching plan to address a one-time or situational issue. The most effective coaching approach can be determined through careful dialogue between the coach and client.

Choosing an Executive Coach

When health care professionals search for an executive coach, it’s helpful to find one that has an understanding and knowledge of the industry. Because coaching draws out the best of the individual, it’s important that the coach can relate to the daily experiences and inner workings of hospitals and health care organizations. It’s best if the coach understands typical issues faced by the client, such as accountability, work overload, time constraints, and other stressors.

Professionals seeking an executive coach should ask themselves questions such as: How comfortable do I feel with the coach? Can I talk freely and feel relaxed and safe? Does the coach have the experience and skill set to understand what I experience on a daily basis in my industry? What type of certification does the coach have? Do your research and ask for references.

Will Executive Coaching Be Successful?

In order for coaching to be effective, clients must have the desire and the will to create a change in behavior and attitude. While outside factors such as government regulations, patients’ often high expectations, and issues with technology may be out of one’s control, a skilled executive coach can provide them with a new sense of internal strength and career satisfaction—powerful tools that are worth the investment and key to improved performance, wellbeing, and organizational success.

Executive Coaching Creates a Path Out From Burnout

The executive coaching process can be a way out of feeling stuck, unhappy, and unfulfilled. Coaches who listen intently and ask the right questions can help create clear steps for health care professionals to uncover their own paths and develop their own solutions. As they move through self-discovery, they begin to experience an improvement in work effectiveness, motivation, and feelings of success and happiness in their personal and professional lives. Helping physicians and health care professionals achieve top work and life performance is not only helpful to lessening burnout, but also key to achieving patient satisfaction.

For information about Wipfli’s executive coaching services, contact Tina Nazier, director and certified professional coach, at or 715.858.6640.


Tina Nazier, MBA, CPC
Director, Strategic Alignment
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