Careers in Medicine
Good Goal Setting
There are all sorts of mnemonics out there to help you achieve your goals. SURE for specific, understand what’s involved, realistic, and enthusiastic. Or, SMART for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and tangible. Somehow these don’t cut it if you’re after bigger fish than a better exercise schedule. So, I, less sure and smart, offer the following formed from my own school of hard knocks.
1. Never set out alone. Share – it lightens the load and adds incentive to not quitting easily.
2. Being vulnerable and humble are winning qualities off of Wall Street. Our educational programs, requiring one big goal every few years, are not necessarily great training for the real world.
3. Pick reasonable timelines. I like goals in the 3-9 month range.
4. Stick to a few goals.
5. Try to be both practical and inspirational.
6. Make your goals considerate of others at home and at work.
7. Have at least one goal that incorporates unhinging yourself from your past.
8. Take a chance.
9. Expect and embrace the unexpected. Great things can come along, if you’re open to the possibilities.
10. Revisit your goals regularly to avoid the perils of aimless drifting.
Question: What do a Department Chair in a medical center and a two-year-old have in common?
Answer: They both wake up screaming at 2 a.m.
Last time I checked, the average tenure in office of individuals in Department Chair or Deans’ positions at US medical schools was about 3 years. The real surprise is that it is that long, given how physicians like to chew up their peers who head for administrative posts. It’s a jungle out there. But if you have a yen for it, here’s my shopping list of essential ingredients.
1. When people speak of your work habits, words like organized, disciplined and methodical are in the air.
2. When people speak of your character, words like integrity, sincerity, and reliability emerge.
3. You advance your career through the success of others, not by riding their backs.
4. You are polite and courteous even in the face of impolite discourteous behavior.
5. You can tolerate incredibly long dull meetings and appear engaged even if your mind is in Maui.
6. You elect to fight battles, not daily skirmishes.
7. You accept responsibility for the actions of one of your direct reports.
8. No elephant has skin as thick as yours.
9. You sleep like a baby, and not the 2-year old above, after making a tough decision.
10. Your major goals are 3-5 years ahead, not making it to the weekend.
11. You’ve done time in similar trenches to the ones your reports now occupy.
12. You can keep your mouth shut, and your eyes and ears wide open.
13. You avoid appearing condescending or patronizing.
14. You are skillful in leading others to make good decisions while leaving them feeling that it was their brilliance in the first place that thought of it, and you are just useless administrative overhead.
15. You build a close working relationship with your assistant and administrator.
You need all the ingredients at your own disposal – they may lie within you, be on your regular payroll such as your personal assistant or administrator, come ad-hoc such as outside consultants or coaches, or come gratis such as the support provided by your spouse/partner, who, willingly or not become part of an intimate team that keeps the ship afloat. All ingredients are needed in bulk. Think Sam’s Club or Costco, not your local delicatessen.