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Entries in Non-Clinical Skills (15)


Physicians Who Feel Relevant

I'm always surprised at the number of physicians I work with who worry about, discount, or do not see their relevance outside of clinical practice. I do, of course, recognize their relevance - the trick is to get the docs to.

For many physicians, venturing into positions of leadership, becoming a Department Chair, VP Medical Affairs or even Chief Medical Officer) is a logical step for those looking to expand their skills and take on new responsibilities that grow their career.  The physicians that pursue these roles have obvious relevance in this arena, particularly when they bring the years of relationships and their history with the hospital into the role.

But for docs actually leaving the familiarity of the hospital environment, the fear of being irrelevant seems to be a common (if not typically expressed) theme.  Many physicians worry that while they have developed very deep skills and expertise, their repertoire is relatively narrow, and this makes them fear that they lack the requisite skills to be successful in the non-clinical world.  For most, this is simply not true.

Physicians come to the table with a myriad of transferable skills, as well as a wealth of needed knowledge and expertise.  Many times organizations are hungry for what the doctors have to offer, and for the value that they provide.   

In my experience, one of the best parts of working with physicians interested in non-clinical pursuits has been accompanying these intelligent, creative and energetic professionals as they realize that they have a lot more to offer - and are more in demand - then they ever thought they would be.  

The truth of the matter is that you, as a physician, bring years worth of skills and experience that can position you to be a tremendous value to organizations that lack your unique combination of ability and expertise.  Value comes in the form of younger docs with years of disciplined schooling under their belts and a willingness to "jump in", or mid-career physicians who have enough experience to know what they didn't know in the beginning (and how to use that for the best outcome), or seasoned docs that bring decades of experience and perspective with them into their role.  

Many of the physicians I know that have transitioned completely outside of medicine into start-ups, biotechs, or pharma companies often remark that they cannot believe the organization functioned without a doc in their role.  It gives them a window into the need for physicians' skills and knowledge base outside of clinical work, and how they can impact many more lives than they would seeing patients one-by-one.

They feel validated.  And indeed, they feel relevant.


Physician Self-Leadership

The most challenging one to manage is you.

Self-leadership isn’t a concept most physicians think about very often.  Yet leadership capability relates as much to how we lead ourselves as how we lead others.  Some of the greatest barriers we face along the path to "making things happen" lie within us.

Most physician leaders can trace their greatest obstacles to something personal—a fear, insecurity, or self-imposed limitation.  As we consider past conflicts that really drained our energy—such as a partnership that didn’t work out or a team that fizzled under our watch—we must challenge ourselves to acknowledge our role in the failure.  Our flawed judgment is often the root cause.

As you lead others—in clinical practice or in a non-clinical role—you may very well be your greatest liability.  Self-leadership is about awareness, tolerance, and not letting your own natural tendencies limit your potential.

Find a Path to Self-Awareness

The forces of organization, community, and leadership capability often evade us because our tendencies—to generate more ideas, to isolate ourselves, and so on—get in the way.  Our best hope for staying on track is to notice when we drift off course and to figure out why—to be self-aware.  Self-awareness is a critical skill in leadership, but it is deeply personal.  It is not about our actions but about the emotions that trigger our actions.

With increased self-awareness, we become better students of ourselves.  When we make mistakes, we are able to identify what we could have done better more readily.  When we receive feedback from others, it becomes more actionable as we come to understand its correlation with our emotions.  The path to self-awareness never ends, but we must cross it nonetheless.

Learn From Your Mistakes and Failures

Most of us have a hard time with failure because we feel not only the professional loss but also the personal hurt when our ideas fail to gain traction.  But this tendency poses a problem for us as we commit ourselves to act without conviction.  Projects that encounter or end with failure have great value—but only if we can recognize it and reap the benefits.

When we experience failures, we must remain open to the lessons that can be learned.   Grasping the realizations that come with failure is a crucial part of the learning process.

When something goes wrong, there are three questions we should seek to answer: What external conditions may explain the failure, what internal factors may have compromised our judgment, and are there any “gems” in the unintended outcome?

Avoid the Trap of the Visionary’s Ego

During my time in the medical device and pharmaceutical industries, I had the opportunity to participate in a lot of meetings in the executive suite during both the expansion and bursting of the bubble that followed it.  I always found it interesting how every challenge was presented as an unusual one-off.  The business leaders would nod their heads in affirmation.  “This is an unusual time," someone else would say. 

Despite history, the tendency to think that a given opportunity or challenge is a one-off still persists.  Some call this tendency “visionary’s ego,” when a leader’s default thinking is that he or she is the exception to the rule.  As physicians, we may be susceptible to bouts of this form of narcissism.  While our tendency is to approach every situation with a fresh set of eyes, we should also accept a grounding realization: not much is entirely new—and yes, we can learn from the past.

Challenge yourself to have some perspective.  Don’t get caught up in the novelty of what you are doing that you lose touch with what’s been done before.  As you encounter negotiations in healthcare organizations, collaborations with partners, or unique decisions or investment opportunities in your business, ground yourself with the fact that the situation you face isn’t as isolated and unique as you might think.  Previous knowledge is yours for the taking, often risk-free and time-tested.  Today never feels like it will be history, but it will.  And more than likely than not, you will look back and realize that you should have known. 

Challenge Conventional Wisdom

As you harness the lessons from the past, you must also question them.  Of course, nobody should disregard good advice and fall victim to visionary’s narcissism.  But as physicians, we cannot become imprisoned by the status quo.  We need to reconcile our tendency to seek the advice of experts with out desire to do things differently—and perhaps better.  We should be wary that “best practices”—the tried and true ways of doing things—often become conventional wisdom—and conventional wisdom is often wrong.     

Consider Yourself an Entrepreneur

Whether you work for a large corporation or on your own, when it comes to leading ideas, ultimately you are an entrepreneur.  Entrepreneurs are not the ones with the best ideas, says Andrew Weinreich, a trailblazing entrepreneur, “They’re just the ones willing to jump off a cliff without the answers." 

Some feel the hardest part of pursuing a new venture is pulling the trigger—being mentally into it or not.  So, when you come across ideas worthy of your time and energy, it is important to know which assurances you need—and which you don’t—before you decide to take the plunge.  You will never have all the answers, but you need to feel that the risk of giving it a go is less than the risk of not trying.  You don’t need to see the finish line, but you do need enough momentum to stay afloat.  What matters most is your ability to keep moving your idea or venture forward, day by day.   

Be Willing to Change Your Mindset

Physician leaders who have done extraordinary things often talk about times when they made decisions that were unpopular—but necessary for their success.  Perhaps it was leaving clinical practice to pursue their passion—or quitting a well-paying job to start a company.  Maybe it was saying no to an opportunity that seemed golden to others.  Because of their decisions, their paths were unconventional.  But in the midst of discouragement from their families and friends, they persisted and gained confidence from being challenged. 

Just remember that the uncharted path is the only road to something new.  As pressures mount, you need to stay the course and consider the doubts of others as an indication of your progress.  

Keep an Eye on the Clock

In hindsight, it’s easy to talk about assuming a different mindset and defying the status quo.  But it is very difficult to take the leap.  Many of us postpone our dream pursuits for a whole host of reasons.  We’re waiting for the right time—but are not sure when that time will come.  We may have good reasons for not doing something, but we pay a price for postponing action.

Consider keeping an eye on what you’ve done with your time.  Think about the last time you sat through a dull meeting.  Recall how you tuned out the conversation but became aware of the time you had lost.  During that time, were you taking any risks to develop other opportunities or move a new venture forward? Were you marketing yourself for an opportunity to get closer to your true passion—or develop a new area of expertise?  Were you expanding your network and connecting with the opportunities around you? Depending on your point of view, this could be either a painful reminder of wasted time and lost opportunity—or a motivational reminder to use every minute to pursue your dreams in the next chapter of your life.  


Are You Stuck? Here Are FIve Ways To Help You Get Unstuck!

Instead of writing a blog post about getting stuck, I thought I would do something in the spirit of Freelance MD and create a video slideshow.

In this video I go over some common reasons you may be getting stuck and ways for you to think about getting unstuck! My intention here is to show you that you can always think outside of the box--even with the very blogs you write!

We all get stuck in our lives and it can be difficult to get unstuck at times. I hope you enjoy and leave lots of comments--my contact info at the end of the video was merely me having fun and playing with video effects.

When was the last time you felt stuck? What did you do?


McKinsey Consulting Gigs For Physicians

McKinsey & Company, a management consulting firm with nearly 9,000 consultants in 90 offices across 50 countries, is hosting two exciting summer programs for students working towards advanced professional degrees: Insight Healthcare and Insight Engineering & Science.  

These programs will give non-MBA advanced degree students an insider's look into management consulting.  Each of the comprehensive seminars will cover a range of topics important to those who are exploring alternative career possibilities.  Program agendas include an overview of management consulting, an introduction to the type of work we do, a management consulting case study, and an opportunity to network with colleagues and participate in social activities. 

Insight Healthcare
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
June 23 – 26, 2011 Application deadline: April 20, 2011 >

Qualified Applicants for Insight Healthcare should be:

  • Completing an MD, a medical internship, residency or fellowship in 2012 or 2013
  • Completing a PhD or post-doc in healthcare related disciplines including biology, biomedical engineering, chemistry or immunology in 2012
  • Currently residing in the United States or Canada
  • Available to attend the entire event starting at 5:30 p.m. on the evening of Thursday, June 23rd and ending at 1:30 p.m. on the afternoon of Sunday, June 26th

No business experience required. All expenses will be paid by McKinsey & Company.

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Doctors in a Tail Spin - You Are What Your Record Says You Are

I’m a big football fan. However, my team, the San Francisco 49ers, aren’t doing so well this year.  They have a losing record, and it looks like that they will miss the NFL playoffs once again.  Growing up in Northern California as a kid, cheering the likes of Joe Montana and Jerry Rice during their championship seasons, It is frustrating to hear the players and coaches dole out their excuses after another disappointing loss. “We’re a lot better than our record shows”, they’re quick to point out.

I often reflect back to what famous football coach Bill Parcells used to say – No matter how rigorous the schedule, the oh-so close losses, and the bad breaks, he was unwilling to give any excuses for a loss.  He would say “You are what your record says you are”. You are exactly where you should be. Better run teams have winning records. Team in disarray with poor planning end up with losing records.

That same principle can apply  in life.

For unsatisfied doctors, a significant number point to external factors to their unhappiness – declining reimbursement, government intrusions, an overall lack of respect for physicians, from CEOS to patients. But when it comes down to it, if you are not happy in the position you are, you are ultimately responsible to where you should be. Coach Parcells would say again “You are what your record says you are.”   

I  have a relative who was involved in the burgeoning tech industry in the late 1970s. He was trained to learn a very specific computer programming technology in his corporation.  He spend years educating himself on the programming, as well as training others, and then only to find out just a short time later the technology would soon become obsolete, as was his employment, as dictated by corporate headquarters. Soon there after, he found he was out of a job, a casualty of mass layoffs. He had no choice but to reinvent himself, going back to school, with new training, and a hope not to be made “obsolete”.

As doctors many feel we lost our position as being the decision maker in healthcare. It  pains me to see an industry where over 50% want to get out of the industry, yet feel powerless, to do something about it. Yet many of us as physicians have assets and fund of knowledge that we can use and apply in different ventures besides clinical medicine, as evidenced by the numerous examples we have in Freelance MD.

Last weekend, I conducted a workshop to a group of physicians who were all at different stages of their career. I commended them for attending, and remarked that unlike many of their colleagues, because they were willing to start something new and out of their comfort zone. Many doctors aren’t willing to reinvent themselves, because what economists refer to as an “opportunity cost”. For example, many physicians feel because they have spent so much time and money in medicine anyway, that if they do something different there is an additional lost opportunity cost. That is by starting something new, it would make  the years missed and the money spent all for not, and  instead they feel forced to continue to work in their current vocation,  even to the detriment of their own happiness. There is also the feeling that they are “giving up” if they choose an avenue that the rest of their colleagues would not follow. Albert Einstein, said the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". Does this quote apply to you?

If you are not happy where you are, it may be time to start taking control and reinvent yourself. If you wake up and dread going to work, it may be time to take a mini-vacation or consider a new endeavor. If you feel like you’re going through the motions in your career, and not making a difference in the world, it may be time for a new challenge. Just as a team with a losing record, it may be time for a new coach, a new offense, a new strategy.

As Coach Parcells would say, “You are what your record says you are.”


Leadership in Non-Clinical Careers: Things You Can Do

Physicians seeking non-clinical careers can apply leadership models used in industry.

Leadership is everyone’s business—whether the constituents are in industry, government, education, or communities.  Physicians who transition to non-clinical careers may need to sharpen their leadership skills—and they can draw on the lessons learned by others. 

Here is a checklist of questions I have used in industry as part of a periodic self-assessment.  Physicians may find this useful—and can adapt it to fit their needs in other applications.  Also included is an outline of time-tested actions physicians can take in their new leadership roles. 


Click to read more ...


Non-Clinical Careers: Working For A Large Corporation

Physicians looking for non-clinical careers in industry can learn from the mistakes of others.

In general, physicians are an independent breed—and have traditionally been captains of their own ship. Some may have gone to medical school partly to become their own boss. Private practice allows for such independent-spirited behavior.  

All this seems to be changing, doesn’t it? Rapidly, one way or another, physicians are becoming part of large organizations. Very few graduates of residency programs are starting their own practices—and the number joining a private practice is shrinking. Many are becoming salaried employees of large medical groups or healthcare organizations.  This may say something about the lack of independent business sprit among physicians, or it may say something about their lack of options in this regard.

Some may be coping with the situation reasonably well.  But what about those who are looking for non-clinical roles in industry? If you choose to pursue a career in a leading medical device or pharmaceutical company, you could be adjusting to a new reality—working for a very large corporation, with tens of thousands of employees. One of the pharmaceutical giants now has over 120,000 employees! 

I have worked in both the medical device and pharmaceutical industries for 30 years. My career has involved senior management roles in companies ranging from $100 million in sales and 300 employees to over $15 billion in sales and 20,000 employees. While the overall experience has been very positive, the process was not always smooth for a physician learning about business in real time.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to give the impression that the view from the top is not worth the climb in industry. You may very well find the right company with an incredibly rewarding role for the next chapter of your life. But you should go in with your eyes open.  

I want to share some observations and insights I have gained in the process of adjusting to working for a large corporation. Yes, there are many books on how organizations should work. But then, corporations don’t always read these books. So, I will draw from my own experience—and the mistakes I’ve made in my career transitions.  Why should I be the only one to learn from my mistakes?

First mistake: I thought it would be easy. Since medical device and pharmaceutical companies are in the healthcare arena, I thought the organizations would make it quick and easy for a physician to work in industry.  But my experience in medicine did not prepare me for the way a staff member of a large organization has to move at the speed of the whole organization—and in paths the organization had laid out. Large organizations are complex, and their decision-making processes may be convoluted.  Organizations have their own cultures and hierarchies, and each has different channels for information.  And it isn’t just that the decision-making is a slow and complicated process.  Just learning how it works (and how to make it work) requires considerable time and effort.  Get ready to learn a whole new language and set of acronyms for each business. 

Second mistake: I assumed the organization would adjust for me. The culture of an organization is a complex set of behavior patterns, values, and beliefs. Joining a large corporation requires that you become a part of this culture. Thinking that you can change the culture is hopelessly naïve.  Of course, the culture of any organization must evolve, and you may be an important part of this evolution.  But ultimately, you will be expected to adjust to the organization rather than vice versa.    

Large organizations are a great pool or resources, but these resources are not always there to help you. Change or development in one area usually means de-emphasis in another. As a result, some of the organization will always be skeptical or threatened by change—and may act in ways intended to protect their area at the expense of others. Moreover, even with conceptual support for what you do, everyone is very busy keeping his or her own house in order—and may not have much time to assist you. At times, it feels as though you succeed in spite of the organization rather than because of it. 

Third mistake: I assumed I’d have better work-life balance. A clinical practice can be very rewarding.  Unfortunately, this comes at a price—for the demands are high, and the hours are long. When I decided to work in industry, I expected there would be some trade-offs. I thought I would have to give up something financially—but I would have more time for family and other interests.    

What I have learned is that the demands can be just as high, and the hours can be even longer in a senior management role in a large corporation. Performance expectations revolve around delivering results (measured frequently) and creating value for shareholders and staff as well as patients. Senior executives are expected be available virtually 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  And some roles may require a significant amount of travel—and time away from family. While some companies talk about work-life balance, this could prove to be an unrealistic expectation.        

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