Physician “personal development coaching” vs “performance coaching” – what is the difference?

in Physician Coaching Insights

Last newsletter I addressed the topic of “Life Coaching vs Executive Coaching for Physicians.” Today I want to highlight some distinctions between physician “personal development coaching” and “performance coaching.”

You might be in a health system that offers (or requires!) “communication coaching” for physicians, with the objective of helping the physician improve patient experience or patient satisfaction scores. This is an example of performance coaching. The specific goal is to improve measured performance.

Performance coaching might also be what some leaders do when they “coach” their teams around goals. For example, the leader might guide the team member through a 4-step process of establishing Goals, assessing Current State, identifying Obstacles, and then Planning a way forward. While the leader might use coaching communication during these  interactions, this is another example of performance coaching.

In both these examples, the “coach” (i.e. leader or trainer) has established the goal and direction for the coaching. The desired outcome is established as well. While the coachee may participate voluntarily and willingly, the objective of the coaching is narrowly focused on improving the measured performance of the coachee (e.g. improved Press-Ganey scores, or % increase in revenue).

By comparison, personal development coaching is driven by the coachee. The coachee articulates goals or topic areas that are current and relevant to them. The coach is in partnership with the coachee to support the goals and outcomes the coachee has identified. For example, a physician may identify that “reducing stress” is a relevant topic for them right now. Another relevant topic might be “improve the morale in my department.” The client might choose to include metrics to describe the outcomes they are aiming for, but this is not required.   Commonly they will describe the outcomes they want in non-quantitative terms, e.g. “I want to feel like I’m skipping to work each day.” In the coaching process, then, the personal development coach has a variety of coaching tools and structures to support their physician client self-awareness, personal growth, as well as forward movement to their stated goals.

I so appreciate all of our community members who are passionate about supporting physicians and clinicians. My mission is to create a culture of coaching.  This starts with a better understanding of professional coaching and the proven benefits for doctors.

The Physician Coaching Institute is accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF); therefore  we are aligned with the ICF definition of coaching, which describes a partnership in support of the client’s growth. As stewards for coaching, we encourage everyone in our community—whether a grad or a newsletter subscriber—to also be stewards for coaching. Let’s be more deliberate in our use of the word “coaching” when it comes to clinicians and healthcare teams. Indeed, this may require that we educate healthcare leaders about what professional coaching IS and what it is NOT.