A few weeks ago I was flying home from a conference for women physicians where I had been a speaker. I had more than met my goals, but I was still doubting myself. Why? I was feeling self-doubt as a physician, and comparing my workshop to the polished delivery of the keynote speaker.
According to Mark Manson, author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*, I was falling victim to the “tyranny of exceptionalism”. We are flooded with stories about the truly extraordinary all day long. The extremes get all the publicity, so we believe being extraordinary is normal. Being “average” has become the new standard of failure. No wonder we experience self-doubt!
Physicians Feel the Constant Pressure to be Something Amazing
For women physicians, there is the added social expectation to be an extraordinary mother, spouse, and friend. Who really has the bandwidth to become exceptional at everything?
You may be exceptional at one thing, but the chances are you’re average or below average at something else. If we’re not okay with being average in some areas of life, we risk experiencing self-doubt and even shame.
Comparing yourself to others is normal. We may not stop measuring ourselves against others anytime soon. The ticket to emotional health and resilience is to decide which yardstick to use. Mark Manson makes the distinction between good values and bad values to measure success.
Good values are socially constructive, achieved internally and controllable. I had set two goals as a speaker: to be present and to use my experience to help others apply the principles to their situation. I had control over these goals. There was no external comparison and they were in service to my workshop participants.
Bad values are socially destructive, not controllable, and rely on external events. If your yardstick is material success, not only will you find someone with more stuff, but one day you’ll be lonely. Comparing myself to the keynote speaker, an external event I could control, was also a superficial comparison. Our objectives were different.
Not expecting ourselves to be extraordinary at everything frees us up to be amazing where it matters. The next time you are feeling self-doubt about your results, check for a comparison. How will you measure your life?
Read more content about career resilience and fulfillment by clicking here.
A growing number of women physicians are pursuing their next career move to a leadership role. Although traditional career strategies can work well for men seeking new opportunities, those strategies often do not fit the situations and needs facing professional women today. For example, women may be looking at how to get back on track with their career if it had been interrupted with family leave.
If you can’t use traditional approaches, it’s harder to know whether your career path is on track. How do you make good career decisions when there is no roadmap for success?
Create Your Own Career Roadmap
Your career success and satisfaction depend on unlocking your own decision-making ability. Traditional supports to obtain leadership roles, champions, mentors, and support networks, are not widely available to women. Even if available, the well-intentioned advice often is influenced by a male perspective, so the advice may not quite fit your circumstances or goals.
Therefore, you need to create your own roadmap to choosing your next career move, based on what is most important to you.
The 3 Keys to Guide Your Next Career Move
The following are key questions to use when deciding whether a career option is the “right” choice for you. Notice that each of the three key questions has two parts, with potentially contradictory qualities. The reason I organized the keys this way was to demonstrate the tension, the dynamic quality, between each element.
- What are your natural strengths, and what is your next growth edge?
- To what are you committed, and what enriches your life?
- To what are you willing to say “yes,“ and to what are you willing to say “no”?
Key One: Your Natural Strengths Versus Your Next Career Growth Edge
Women are particularly susceptible to the myth that you can’t be yourself and be an effective leader. In fact, you will be more productive and get better results when, each day, you have frequent opportunities to use your natural strengths.
However, as an example of potentially contradictory issues you face in Key One, you may want to make a career decision that allows you to use your strengths. But if you only use your strengths, which make the work easier, you will not grow. By over relying on what comes naturally, you will be bored, and you won’t be preparing for the next interesting opportunity or stretch role.
Perhaps you have the strength of communicating well and influencing those who report to you. Your growth edge might be to find an opportunity to influence upwards, such with your boss or administration.
Key 2: What You Are Committed to in Your Career Versus What Enriches Your Quality of Life.
The definition of committed is being dedicated or loyal to something: people, causes, projects, even ways of being. Each of us is uniquely qualified or interested in some population group, challenge, or opportunity. Be active in what you are committed to, and you will find yourself propelled forward by your passion.
Taken too far, however, commitment can lead to self-sacrifice. Don’t step into the trap of thinking that it is selfish to focus on yourself. Resilience and quality of life are the results of choices and behaviors that align with your values. You may value spending time with family, travel, healthy eating, or donating time to a cause you care about.
An example of a Key Two dilemma would be reconciling wanting more responsibility in a project you’re committed to and also wanting to have the time to coach sports for your children.
Key Three: What You Are Willing to Say “Yes” to Versus Saying “No” to.
When we say yes to something, we say no to something else. Saying yes to taking a promotion, for example, may mean saying no to staying in your hometown. It is essential that you make conscious choices about how to use your time to decide so that you do not cede those choices to other people.
When we say no to something, we are creating space to say yes to something else that is more important. You ultimately may be seeking an opportunity that aligns more fully with your longer term career goals and values.
Dr. Chang was making a Key Three decision considering an opportunity to move into a new role as Clinic Director. Saying yes to becoming the Director would give her more influence to solve some long-term challenges in her department. The downside was that she would miss having as much time working with Residents.
The Director role would use her strength of problem-solving. However, the higher role would involve new levels of organization and productivity that both scared and excited her. She said yes to being excited and no to being stopped by her fear to make this next career move.
One thing is certain – the next step on your career roadmap is just outside of your comfort zone. These three keys will help you explore beyond your comfort zone so that you can move forward on your path.
Questions about your career path? Feel free to ask Debora.
Satisfaction in your career is more than a matter of luck. The daily decisions you make about your career will either elevate you or cause your dreams to sink. How do you make good decisions when there is not a road map to career success? The secret to good career decision making relies on knowing what you are interested in.
When I ask physicians what they like to do, I often hear, “Well before medical school, I used to like to travel, teach, read, ..but now, I don’t know.” Not a surprising response considering the many years you have just done what was required next.
My conversation with Dr. Chang illustrates a common career decision making point you might encounter. Dr. Chang is a well-respected clinician and faculty at a medical school in California. In addition to seeing patients, she is a Program Director and actively involved with both medical students and residents. Due to budget pressures, she must give her Chairman a decision about on how to re-allocate her time. Less clinic time? More classroom time? Each option has consequences and she is not sure which way to go.
Research shows that people are much more satisfied with their jobs and perform better when they do something that fits their personal interests. If you know what interests you, be sure to build healthy doses of that into your career decisions. If you can’t clearly speak to what is interesting to you, ask yourself these questions:
- What do I really care about?
- How do I enjoy spending my time? (hint: think back to when you were a teenager.)
Thinking about what interests you is only a start. Trial and error is key to discovering your interests. Before the stakes are high, give yourself permission to try something new or re-visit an old interest. If someone asks what you are up to- tell him or her you are learning better career decision making strategies.
Questions about your career path? Ask Deborah…
Shift happens. Priorities change, funding is reallocated, and the project you’re leading is cancelled. Sometimes a change is so challenging, it feels like an obstacle to your career trajectory. People get confused and don’t know what to expect when priorities are shifting. They also don’t know where to focus. If you are uncertain about what’s next, what is important, and what adds value, your team feels uncertain, too. People need to know what leadership values they can expect from their organization and from you.
The key to being resilient and helping your team bounce back may surprise you. Focusing on your leadership values will help you find the ground under your feet and be recognized as the leader you are. You and your team will move forward again with clarity on what is valued and seen as important.
There is a 3-step process to create alignment. See below.
1) Check your leadership values. As a leader, people are watching you.
Below is a list of adjectives representing common workplace values. Circle the 5 values that you truly value most. Be sure these are what you really value and not what you say you value or what your boss wants you to value. Feel free to add other workplace values to the list.
- Collaborative Good listening
- Creative Innovative
- Decisive Inspirational
2) Circle the 5 leadership values you think your staff and/or colleagues believe are most important to you.
This is based on their experience with you. Are there any discrepancies? People feel when someone in a position of leadership is not real with them. These are important for you to notice and correct.
3) Circle the 5 leadership values you think that your company or organization values most.
What are the differences between your company’s or organization’s stated values and your experience of what the company or organization values?
By completing this simple exercise in values and alignment, you have accomplished two important steps to getting recognition for your leadership. Your staff and colleagues will trust you as a leader if you are real with them. Others will identify with and follow a leader they trust. You set you and your team up to meet goals that are viewed as valuable by knowing what your company or organization actually values.
Read more content about leadership skills by clicking here.
Who is the better doctor? A man or a woman? Reporting that women are more effective in any male-dominated industry is bound to create a stir. An important conversation sparked from The Atlantic’s headline, “Women Physicians May Be Better Than Male Physicians.” The widely publicized research, initially from a JAMA article, found that patients who receive care from female internists have lower 30-day mortality and readmission rates than do patients cared for by male internists. The authors of the JAMA article were the first to admit that more research is needed to understand the clinical implications for patient outcomes due to differences in how male and female physicians practice medicine.
I can tell you what women physicians have told me about their experiences with whom is the better doctor. A group table of ten women physicians in a round table discussion shared their frustrations in trying to assess a patient’s needs during a 15-minute visit. These doctors think that women with complex medical issues, such as fibromyalgia, select women physicians because of beliefs that the female doctors will listen. Then the women physicians described struggling with meeting their maximum time quotas. Although the doctors were taught that the medical history is the heart of medicine, getting a thorough medical history takes time.
Sifting through this discussion, I found the following elements to be essential in moving towards rewarding value of care over number of services provided:
- Equity and fairness in career advancement and pay for all physicians is key to professional fulfillment. Part of the sting for women about the gender research is the $20,000 pay gap between male and female doctors after controlling for other factors.
- Communication matters between patient and physician and between the physician and their team. We need to better select and train medical students and residents to exhibit quality communication.
- What matters the most is not which gender provides the best care, but which practices in medicine improve patient satisfaction and outcomes.
For optimizing the delivery of excellent medicine, we don’t have time to struggle over whom is the best doctor. My hope is that physicians, medical administrators, and the public see the value in continued research on what contributes to good clinical outcome.