Assumptions are similar to beliefs; both are like eyeglasses through which you view the world. Every healthcare leader knows that two eyewitnesses will report differently on the same event. The difference in what they perceived as true is based in personal expectations. Challenging assumptions can unlock the creativity you need for optimizing opportunities and finding innovative solutions.
The Blinders of Assumptions
The lens of assumptions does not improve your vision. Assumptions may be blinders to the potential and opportunity right in front of you. The wrong assumptions can prevent the most talented people from getting the results they want, regardless of their effort.
As a leadership development coach, I work with women who have the skills and passion to make a difference in their organization. We always work together on unproductive assumptions that are holding them back from having more influence.
To bring your best to any situation, you have to ignore the “phantom rules” that underlie assumptions.
- Notice your assumptions. An assumption is anything for which you don’t have actual proof. “If I ask for a raise I will be seen as greedy.” How do you know that is true?
- Question your objectives. Ask yourself why you are pursing this goal. What is the ultimate benefit? A useful tool is to insert the word, “because,” after every answer. For example, “Expanding the hospital program is the best way to meet the needs of the under-served, because…
- Challenge what it takes to meet your objective. Make a list of the resources you believe are needed. Next, make a list of your assumptions. Then, challenge every point to test its validity. Ask for help from a friend, colleague or your coach to get another perspective.
- Adjust your mindset. Remember that what worked in the past may not be your best way forward. Take small steps and start with lower risk situations while you get comfortable with testing your assumptions.
By being conscious of your assumptions, you can reach your goals with new creativity and resourcefulness. The right assumptions can lead to additional influence, impact, and fulfillment.
Physician leader Dr. Teresa Amato, Chairperson at Northwell Health, was speaking to an audience of over 200 female Emergency Medicine physicians. Her motive was to encourage more women to become physician leaders. Too frequently she had been told, “ I don’t have time to get involved in leadership”. Definitely women are busy and there may be another less obvious concern.
Ask any woman and she will tell you that she has to work twice as hard as a man to be seen as half as good. Social biases are real; women have to prove they are capable. Men, at least white men, are assumed to be competent until proven otherwise. This helps to explain why men ask to be considered for new opportunities, even if they only meet about 60% of the requirements.
“Women need to shift from thinking I’m not ready to do that” to thinking “I want to do that, and I’ll learn by doing it”. Sheryl Sandberg’s quote points to what keeps women from leaning into new opportunities. That is what Dr. Amato saw in the women around her- a mistaken belief that they were not ready- yet.
Fact is, most physician leaders are figuring things out as they go along. The higher up in leadership you climb, the more often you encounter something new, for which there is no procedure or best practice. You are better off to replace expecting you should know the answer to trusting you will find a solution that fits this situation.
Count on the following when you don’t know the answer:
- Belief in a compelling vision. What future possibility do you support?
- Shift your relationship to failure. Have you discovered the next place to apply extra effort?
- Be a curious learner. Release your grip on what you know and explore what is possible. Who can you ask more questions of?
- The willing support of friends and colleagues. Where can you go to speak your fears out loud and feel valued, even when you feel imperfect?
There will never be a time when you know enough or have seen it. Right now you are enough and your perspective is just what is needed. Jump in-you are already good at learning by doing!
Our healthcare system in the US is at a crossroads. As a physician, you know firsthand about the opportunities, and the serious challenges related to care access, quality, cost containment and infrastructure. My mission is that you know how important you are to the success of medicine. Strong woman physician leaders are key to health care reform.
The good news is that today there are more women leaders than ever before. Diverse executive teams see better outcomes when innovative ideas are brought to the table.
Women are still underrepresented in leadership roles. Women represent just 26% of hospital CEO positions, and 21% of executive and board members roles. Women are better represented in lower levels of management, but that is not usually the level at which system-wide impact occurs. This slows down needed change in organizations, and continues obstacles like bias in hiring practices, lack of role models champions and leadership development.
Next week I have the privilege of speaking to Emergency Department women physicians from around the nation at the FixIt 2017 conference. We will explore the question:
“Women’s leadership needs to be valued and encouraged, but how do we move that forward?”
First: Identify What is Not Working.
- How well does the culture of healthcare support the development of women leaders?
- Do our organizational structures help or hinder the development of women leaders?
Second: We Need to Find Better Ways.
- What needs to shift for a health care reform?
- What is one thing my organization could do that would make a big difference or women leaders?
Third: Be Personally Accountable and Ask Ourselves.
- What am I doing to help or hinder women leaders?
- What can I stop tolerating in my own leadership or from other leaders?
Women leaders are and will continue to step forward. It may feel like an uphill battle at times, but when has that ever stopped you!
To read more content about leading change, click here.
Warning: You May Be Causing People to Resist Your Ideas
As a physician, you need to have influence to solve the challenges your patients and organizations face. Unfortunately, right now you may be unknowingly causing people to resist you and your message. There are five common obstacles for women of influence that can limit their ability to speak confidently, be heard and gain agreement from others.
Fear of Appearing Overly-Ambitious
We falsely believe that if we go after what we want, we will appear to others as pushy, self-serving or overly aggressive. Then people will avoid us and we will never get what we want.
Antidote: Women of influence need to build rapport through respect with active listening, welcoming others viewpoints and having a cooperative attitude. Come across as sincere and keep your focus on the issue you are advocating for.
Many Women of Influence May Have a Fear of Rejection
If our fear of being laughed at, criticized or rejected is greater then our belief or cause, it will be difficult to effectively influence others.
Antidote: Take the time to get to know others by establishing friendly relationships. Share something of yourself, and ask questions about them to establish a stronger bond and improve their desire to listen.
Thinking Too Much About Past Missteps
We all have had time in the past when we were unable to get our way or things did not turn out as planned. So we fear we will meet with the same outcome if we try again.
Antidote: Stay in the present moment by exhibiting good listening, eye contact, and open body posture. Just do it!
Thinking Your Perspective Is Not Important
The thinking goes like this: Who are you to think you can get someone to do this? This negative self-talk is sure to stop you in your tracks.
Antidote: See yourself as credible. Your perspective is unique to you and it matters. Never forget this truth.
Which of these obstacles are you most susceptible to? Start with the one that seems the most challenging. No need to do this alone- your friend has obstacles, too.
Read more content about power and influence by clicking here.
Women physicians routinely ask me, “What will happen if I show up as myself?” They don’t want to be seen as too outspoken, too quiet, too (fill in the blank), out of fear of being passed over for interesting assignments or roles in leadership. As women leaders, we hold ourselves back when we buy into any of these three common myths.
Myth #1 of Women Leaders: I must lead like a man to be taken seriously.
Women face social stereotypes that undermine their credibility as leaders. Women leaders are expected to be competent, not warm. Yet, women are expected to be warm and caring, so how can they be good leaders?
Truth: To be trusted, women leaders need to be seen as competent and warm. You are competent and will be seen as warm when you ask questions, make eye contact, and, if you’re feeling it, smile!
Myth #2 of Women Leaders: “Women can’t be themselves and make the difference they want to make.”
Each of us has ideas about what it takes to be a leader. We base our assumptions on the role models around us, many of whom are males. And if we don’t have these attributes, we assume we cannot be an effective leader.
Truth: Extensive research has shown there are no key strengths that make good leaders. Good leaders are aware of their strengths and leverage them. For example, if you are an introvert, you will listen more, and bring out the best ideas on your team. What you believe is a weakness may represent a strength, when used correctly.
Myth #3 of Women Leaders: Tooting your own horn is unprofessional.
Many women were taught it was impolite to talk about their talents and successes. But believing that promoting yourself is egotistical makes it hard to be seen as, or advance as, a leader if people don’t notice what you’re capable of.
Truth: Tell people what to expect from you: your capabilities, what you value, and how you work with others. Then live up to it. You will be seen as confident, not boastful.
Whether you get noticed, and for what, is critical to accomplishing your most important goals. Changing the culture requires that first you see past the myths and not be afraid to be yourself. You have a lot to contribute!
Click here for more blogs related to the leadership mindset.
Why Don’t We Work Smarter?
By looking at my work schedule, you might not believe my goal is to work smarter, not harder. The combination of my desire to be of service and my tendency towards perfectionism results in my working long hours. Even more insidious is the work ethic my parents instilled in me, that success comes to those who are tough and work the hardest. I know better, and you as a woman physician know better. Although our effectiveness and job satisfaction are at stake, new habits come slowly.
Adverse Effects When We Don’t Work Smarter
Many women physicians face long hours, overwork, and exhaustion, resulting in inefficiency, errors, and, ultimately, burnout. When you are overworked, you deplete your mental and physical reserves, so that mustering up enough energy to try hard again is even harder.
How To Work Smarter by Developing Resiliency
Fortunately, research has demonstrated that building your resiliency is the smart path to success. The following 5 key principles will help you develop resiliency:
- The key to building resiliency is: working, stopping, recovering, and then working again.
- The more required of you at work, the higher the value of your recovery time. If your physical and emotional reserves feel depleted, any activities to recover make a difference.
- Recovery is not the same as stopping work. Have you ever been in bed for 7 hours and still felt exhausted in the morning? Chances are you were still thinking about work. Our brains, just like our bodies, need a rest.
- Build short periods of recovery into your workday. Try not to work through lunch. Instead, go for a quick walk, or shift your attention to a less demanding task.
- Schedule time away from work to recover. Put what is important to you on your calendar. Recovery activities away from the workplace can be exercise, time with friends, having fun, and taking well-deserved vacations!
Women physicians are smart, dedicated, and caring. Also learning how to work smarter by becoming resilient is required for you to keep contributing at your best and to feel more fulfilled.
More on resilience.