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How the power of pause can transform healthcare leadership in challenging times
How the power of pause can transform healthcare leadership in challenging times

The reality of today is that we’re living and working in a world where it feels like we’re under more pressure, more stress and in more demand than ever. In times of high and ongoing stress, after our biological reaction of ‘fight or flight’ has long since passed, our bodies want to transition into exhaustion or shut-down mode. We need and crave that break, and it’s natural for our nervous systems to want to press pause so we can catch a breath and regroup. 

But how can those of us working in a critical industry such as healthcare, take a breath, push pause and revitalize when the external pressure on us never slows down? When we can’t simply suspend things like the needs of our patients or the well-being of our teams. 

This is where real, transformative leadership comes into play.

Lead by example

As a leader, one of the most critical things that you can realize is that the only thing you can truly control is how YOU respond to external demands. Yes, the demand may be high, you may be exhausted, and your team may feel like they’re losing control, but you have a pivotal role in leading not only your own thinking but also the thinking of your team. If you want to revitalize yourself and take your team to a place where they’re more effective, focused and engaged, despite the external factors that you can’t control, you need to start with leading yourself. 

And this doesn’t mean denying the realities and pretending everything is wonderful.  We all have moments of doubt and feel discouraged, but it’s what you learn and how you grow from those difficult negative moments that matter most. 

Take one of my stories, for example. Even though I teach and practice positive and effective leadership, it doesn’t mean I’m immune to the tough days. Earlier this year, after a long day of coaching discouraged leaders, who felt like their efforts to engage their teams and produce results were futile, I found myself falling down into the pit of despair right along with them. I questioned my impact. How could so many leaders feel so disempowered, and how could I help turn that around? 

After working so hard for so many years to develop an evidence-based program that results in real transformation for participants, this one difficult day had me questioning whether my approach would really make a difference. 

As I watched my thinking take the low road, searching for more and more evidence that my efforts were futile, my mood predictably worsened. In an attempt to feel better, I did what so many of us do when we need distraction and started scrolling on Facebook. Of course, this wasn’t the positive experience I was hoping for as I quickly came across some sobering news that cancer had returned to a friend of mine, and he was starting his second round of chemo. 

Given the dark state my mind was in that day, this news could have easily added to my narrative of futility and further despair, but I chose not to let it. Instead, I chose to take a pause and remember everything that I teach and all the positives that have come out of it over the years. I remembered the healthcare leaders that I’ve worked with and the patients, like my friend, who they’ve gone on to help as a result. Instead of wallowing, I used my friend’s news to reconnect to my purpose of transforming leaders and teams to ensure that high-quality healthcare is accessible and available to all, regardless of financial circumstances. 

I also reminded myself that, yes, it can be really hard sometimes, especially when days don’t go as we planned and we fall victim to unexpected external circumstances. But, even my hardest days are not as hard as what my friend is going through, and I can only imagine how much harder it would be for him if he didn’t have our healthcare system, and all of its incredible leaders by his side. 

In the end, I flipped the narrative, and went back to the leaders that I was coaching and tried again. I led by example, sharing my story with them, and showing them that there’s a light in even the darkest tunnel, but you have to be willing to pull yourself out of it before you can revitalize your teams. Much like the safety demonstration on an airplane, you need to put your own mask on first - you need to lead by example and help yourself before you can turn towards helping your team. 

So how do you do it? Here are two of my favourite tools for helping healthcare leaders (and myself), revitalize their minds and lead themselves effectively:

Connect to Purpose

When I was contemplating what my friend’s future might be like, I kept coming back to how proud I am of the commitment and growth of the healthcare leaders I’ve worked with over the years. Reflecting on past accomplishments that made you feel proud can help you rediscover your sense of purpose - a critical piece of helping you maintain focus and determination even during difficult times.

Think about an example in the last six months where you felt really proud of the work you did. 

  • What made you feel proud?
  • What does this example say about your sense of purpose?
  • How can you remind yourself daily of your purpose?

Performance. Focus. Commitment 

Once you’ve identified your sense of purpose, use the PFC (Performance. Focus. Commitment) tool to ensure your daily efforts are aligned with your purpose.

PFC is especially helpful when you’re being pulled in a million different directions. The tool helps you decide what to say yes and no to by allowing you to hold up your to-do list against your purpose and values. When your efforts are aligned to a purpose that you care about, you gain clarity about where to put your time and energy and will feel much more motivated to get things done. 

The newfound energy and determination that comes from alignment to purpose and taking action against your purpose, won’t go unnoticed by your team either. By leading yourself with a sense of purpose, you will start to awaken an interest in your team, paving the road for you to bring your techniques for a revitalized state of mind to your team. 

The demands and challenges of our world today underscore the immense need for resilient leadership. Navigating through these challenges calls for leaders to be effective, focused, and engaged, even during periods of self-doubt and overwhelm. Harnessing the power of tools like taking a quick pause to reconnect with purpose can inspire you to manage your reactions to external pressures and guide your teams with more certainty

Remember, every challenge offers a lesson, and every struggle illuminates a path to growth. As leaders, our responsibility is to walk that path, paving the way for those who follow. Stay effective in your actions, focused on your purpose, and engaged in your mission, and with time, your team will fall behind you. 


As a leader, you have a significant influence on your team and culture. Ensuring that you’re fulfilling your role as a strong and effective leader has never been more crucial than it is now.

This is why Instincts at Work has teamed up with Med-IP and Dr. Ted James, MD, MHCM, FACS to bring you Strong Teams, Strong Culture, an interactive workshop to give healthcare leaders the critical skills they need to transform their team culture.

With a shared commitment to revolutionizing healthcare through effective leadership, we’ve designed this collaborative program to empower healthcare leaders, like you, through evidence-based methods, practical tools and strategies that are proven effective.

Strong Teams, Strong Culture is a highly interactive and transformative workshop designed to give you the skills to:

> Revitalize your team 

> Foster psychological safety 

> Develop key habits for a thriving team culture

Click here to learn more about Strong Teams, Strong Culture, or send us an email.


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