Staff Management

Executive Coaching for the Practice CEO

By Mike Rothschild, OD

During the course of my years in practice, I have drawn upon the services of an executive coach. I believe that coaching can help many optometrists to become true CEOs of their practices. Executive coaching programs are increasingly common in the corporate world, and they can help the independent optometric practice, as well.

To figure out some particularly difficult issues for both my practice and my consulting / speaking career,I worked with an executive coach and communication consultant, Janet Parker with Maris, West and Baker.Janet helped me, in particular, with my presentation skills, and my long term professional and personal goal setting. She also helped to build a variety of skills in members of my staff.

I also have completed an online program, Meta-MORE-Phosis with Doug Hanson.Once I finished this program, I put my entire staff through it and currently deliver the program through for practiceswhose goals fit in with that program. Doug and I developed a mutual coaching relationship to help each other.So I have been a coach as well as one who is coached.

An executive coach is distinguished from a practice consultant in a number of ways. A practice consultant begins by asking about personal goals (“What do you personally want from your practice and your life?”) and then applies the answers to that question toward reconfiguring your practice. An executive coach concentrates directly on that question and provides strategies and techniques that have application in all aspects of your life, professional and personal. The key is realizing that a growth process of either sort is successful only if you end up where you want to be. And that end point you need to try and identify from the start.

Executive Coaching: How It Works

  • Time: 6-12 months

  • Sessions: Weekly, one hour on phone or in person

  • The process: Set goals, evaluate how you have or not
    reached them, devise a plan and a time frame

  • Cost:Varies by coaches, programs; hourly fee or
    percentage of compensation

Commit the Time

Executive coaching typically involves a long-term relationship, usually six months to a year. Typically the agreement includes a set number of meetings in person or over the phone. The coach may conduct interviews with colleagues or immediate reports. Working together, you produce a personal development plan. You agree on setting and tracking goals, and you have constant access to your coach for pressing issues that arise. Small adjustments along the way can make it the perfect plan.

Set the Scope of the Work

Agree in the beginning as to what is the scope of work between the coach and the coached.Determine how many meetings / calls / teleconferences you will have. I like treating the process like steroid dosing, do a lot in the beginning then taper off. We can always adjust as we go, depending on the results.In our coaching program, we send a video camera with a list of “assignments” which gives me (as the coach) an idea of what we are working with. I want to see the environment and the people involved and get a feel of the situation.First conversations are usually two hours, then we go to one.

Pushing Yourself Pays Off

In every profession, high performers are always pushing themselves to the edge. Like a race car driver, if you are going to win you have to be on the verge of going too fast, which results in a crash. Those who constantly push themselves to be better will have times where they just can’t get ahead, then times where they will push too far and will crash and burn. These are the people who benefit from coaching.Those who are interested in maintaining the status quo or taking things as they come have no need for coaching.

The Stress of Success

In my case, my practice became “successful” after about three years of hard work.I was able to take good care of each patient and keep an eye on every aspect of the practice. ThenI had to hire more people, buy new equipment and renovate so I could see more patients.As this occurred, problems developed. Patients waited too long, we failed to order glasses, and employee morale was terrible. I yelled at people and worked harder and harder.I was stressed, and I was mad at my employees. Worse, my family missed me because I was always tired and tense.I hated my job.


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By accident, my eyes were opened to a new way of thinking about management, service and care delivery.Working with an executive coach showed me that I needed help in learning how to do this if I am going to start growing again.

Be Persistent

Coaches help to push you when things make you just want to give up. They can look at things from a different perspective and offer alternatives you may not have thought of. And after a major (or minor) setback, a coach can also help pick you up, dust you off and get you back to performing at your best.

Effective coaching involves basic tasks like setting a budget, implementing a bonus program or selling more second pairs of glasses–but it is more than that. It also involves balancing your career, contributing to the profession and maintaining a meaningful life outside of the practice.

As practice owners, many of us believe we exist to serve our business.We allow that mindset to hurt our relationships with the people we love, and that turns us into the people we do not want to be.Executive coaching can help us find the balance and remind us that the business exists to serve us, not the other way around.

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