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    The Medical Group Management Association’s most recent MGMA Stat poll asked healthcare leaders, “Does your organization provide leadership coaching/mentoring to clinicians?”

    • 45% said “yes.”
    • 55% said “no.”

    For those healthcare leaders who answered “yes,” responses included:

    • “We have a full-time physician coach on staff.”
    • “We have a formal clinician leadership 12-month program with nationally recognized thought leaders for our formal medical director and clinician governance roles. We also use outside executive coaching services for 1-1 support for issues that rise to level of HR concern.”
    • “We have a coach who provides monthly structure, a solid training program through our local hospital and willing participants.”

    The poll was conducted March 30, 2021, with 867 applicable responses.

    Leadership learning at #MPE21

    Building a culture for coaching and mentoring

    In this era of crisis and disruption, medical groups must adapt on the fly at every level of the organization. As the authors of the 2021 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report assert, “organizational preparedness hinges on the ability to bring human strengths such as decision-making and adaptability to the fore …”1
    This starts with developing and nurturing a culture of learning throughout the organization, not just at the top, which, as LeAnne Erickson, MEd, ACC, workforce learning advisor and executive coach, Human Resources, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., and her co-authors state in “Coaching and mentoring: Methods leaders can use to develop talent,” requires a leadership style that embraces engagement, collaboration and empowerment for everyone.2    

    Organizational benefits of mentoring and coaching

    Every practice wants their providers and staff to be fully engaged. A good place to start is by investing in them through mentoring and coaching. These processes can improve performance and serve as tools to pinpoint and develop future leaders. They can also be used to recognize those who possess individual and organizational strengths. Although mentoring and coaching overlap in some key areas, they are distinct in their methodologies. However, as Erickson, et al., point out, “A skillful leader may fluctuate between the two approaches, recognizing when to apply coaching and when to apply mentoring.”


    As the authors note, mentors are subject-matter experts (SMEs) or experienced individuals in the organization who help facilitate a “reciprocal, collaborative relationship” with a mentee. Both parties are mutually responsible and accountable to promote the mentee’s learning and career development.3 “The mentor may connect the mentee with resources, teach new knowledge or skills, model positive work culture, and serve as an advocate, advisor or sponsor. In turn, the mentor may benefit from the mentees’ perspectives,”4 the authors write.  

    For healthcare organizations, mentoring can serve as a proven method to help newer or promising individuals to lead in the future. This is borne out by an Oct. 22, 2019, MGMA Stat poll, in which 60% of healthcare leaders said that their organizations have formal onboarding/mentoring programs for their new providers.
    The authors emphasize that mentees should develop their goals and arrange mentoring meeting agendas, because they are primarily responsible for their personal growth and development. Furthermore, mentees shouldn’t limit themselves to a single mentor, as leaders from different areas of the organization can provide expertise and knowledge to the mentee.  


    Unlike the long-term developmental focus of mentoring, coaching emphasizes performance through the acquisition, enhancement or improvement of a coachee’s skills. Coaching is defined by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) as a “thought-provoking and creative process that inspires an individual (coachee) to maximize their personal and professional potential.”5 Coaching is increasingly being used throughout organizations, not just with senior leaders and individuals who have been identified as future leaders.

    The difference is further explained by Erickson, et al.: “A coach asks powerful questions, rather than giving advice as a mentor might, to stimulate critical thinking, prompt self-reflection, and generate action steps toward a defined outcome.” In addition, it’s not a requirement for a coach to be a SME; most importantly, the individual should have the ability to provide insight and prompt coachees to take action toward improvement.

    Critical elements of mentoring and coaching

    According to Erickson, et al., there are four key components of mentoring and coaching, all of which revolve around the need to encourage growth and development in potential leaders:

    1. Trusting relationships — When choosing to become a coach/mentor, leaders should be open-minded, curious, flexible and committed to the coachee/mentee to show that they believe in them. Once leaders engender trust, real learning is possible.
    2. Powerful questions — These open-ended questions posed by coaches/mentors should “prompt reflection, challenge assumptions, shift perspectives and create accountability.” Leaders should not look for a particular answer; instead, they should be curious, nonjudgmental and accepting of the individual’s response. They should refrain from leading the individual and support reflection. Above all, powerful questions should benefit the individual they are asking.
    3. Deep listening — By observing while listening, leaders can become aware of more than simply what they are hearing; they can become attuned to assumptions, fears and unstated themes. Further, their observations can bring about new insights and spark new ways to address an issue.
    4. Providing feedback — Feedback is a valuable tool that can prompt conversation and inspires better performance. Coaching feedback can be a valuable tool to promote learning and start dialogue between coaches and coachees. 

    For more on how leaders can develop talent through mentoring and coaching, access “Coaching and mentoring: Methods leaders can use to develop talent,” or the flipbook version of the April issue of MGMA Connection magazine.

    Do you have any best practices or success stories to share on this topic? Please let us know by emailing us at

    Join MGMA Stat

    Our ability at MGMA to provide great resources, education and advocacy depends on a strong feedback loop with healthcare leaders. To be part of this effort, sign up for MGMA Stat and make your voice heard in our weekly polls. Sign up by texting “STAT” to 33550 or visit Polls will be sent to your phone via text message.

    Additional resources


    1. Violini E, Schwartz J, Eaton K, Mallon D, Van Durme Y, Hauptmann M, et al. “The social enterprise in a world disrupted: Leading the shift from survive to thrive.” 2021 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends. Available from:
    2. Ibarra H, Scoular A. “The leader as coach: How to unleash innovation, energy, and commitment.” Harvard Business Review. November-December 2019. Available from:
    3. Zachary LJ. Creating a Mentoring Culture: The Organization’s Guide. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass; 2005.
    4. Choi AMK, Moon JE, Steinecke A, Prescott JE. “Developing a Culture of Mentorship to Strengthen Academic Medical Centers.” Acad Med. 2019;94(5):630-3. Epub 2019/04/27. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002498.
    5. International Coaching Federation. Available from:
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