Women in healthcare face unique leadership challenges. While these barriers can seem formidable, they offer invaluable opportunities for innovation and growth.

Recently, I worked with a group of women physicians to help them reframe barriers that were limiting their leadership potential. One participant shared her struggle with deciding on her next career step. She aspired to move into curriculum management in her academic medical system. However, she was concerned the career move would mean giving up the small group teaching she enjoyed. She asked, “Do I need to sacrifice one desired job component for the other? Do I need to change jobs or get more education?” Her challenge was an internal one—conflicting priorities.

We explored various possibilities, and she became excited about the option of advancing within her current organization while continuing to teach. She decided to discuss her interests with her boss and explore the possibility of sponsorship.

The impact of this experience was significant. The participant reflected, “I had to ask myself the hard questions instead of going in circles saying, ‘I don’t know what to do.’ Defining the dilemma helped me see new opportunities and gain enough clarity to take an initial step forward.”

You too can transform your obstacles by following this process:

Step 1: Identify and Understand the Barrier

Pinpoint the specific nature of the barrier, whether it’s mindsets, conflicting priorities, navigating the status quo, or accessing power circles. Honest assessment through introspection and feedback from peers or mentors is crucial.

Step 2: Reframe the Barrier as a Growth Opportunity

Shift your perspective to see the barrier as a chance for growth. Ask yourself questions like “What can I learn here?” and “How will overcoming this challenge make me a stronger leader?”

Step 3: Uncover the Hidden Potential

Every barrier hides opportunities. Brainstorm with colleagues to generate creative solutions and possibilities, starting with “What if…”

Step 4: Make an Action Plan

Outline achievable steps to leverage the opportunities identified through reframing. For instance, if the barrier is limited access to power circles, your action plan might include reaching out to a mentor you hadn’t previously considered.

Step 5: Implement and Reflect

Act on your plan while observing its effectiveness and challenges. Adjust strategies as needed and celebrate small wins that reveal the barrier’s hidden potential.

You have a valuable contribution to make, and there’s no need to remain stuck. Transform barriers by recognizing the obstacle, shifting your mindset to uncover opportunities, and finding solutions you may not have seen before. You don’t need to do this alone—other women leaders offer camaraderie and wisdom. Visit deborahmunhoz.com and take my 3-minute Leadership Barrier survey to identify your leadership obstacles.

Deborah Munhoz is a certified physician development coach. For more than 20 years she has coached top-level female healthcare professionals to help them overcome barriers and excel as leaders.

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