The following was originally posted on February 6 by Kelly Cawcutt, MD, to her personal blog at paragonfire.com.
Oh how COVID-19 has changed everything, right? Even if we feel things are back to normal, the truth is life has forever been changed. Medicine and healthcare are forever changed, and aligned with that, so I am I.
Over the last year I have had the distinct privilege of participating in the American Women’s Medical Association (AMWA) inaugural ELEVATE leadership certification course for women. This group of women was incredibly diverse and amazing to connect, learn, and grow with. The program, in a nutshell was a 12 month program, with monthly learning modules and small group sessions lead by coaches, to provide educational concepts, and the support to define actionable steps on how to enact this. In a field that remains fraught with bias, longitudinal leadership training specific to women really helps address so many of the issues we all face in various ways, and at various times, in our careers and personal lives.
For me, this program could not have come at a better time. On the heels of a pandemic wave that simply left many of us feeling lost, a bit empty, and burnt out, the refocusing on leadership, careers and our personal struggles was critical. I know I felt like the world had turned upside down, and I was still trying to right myself, let alone guide my own ship. Additionally, I had just accepted a new leadership position, I was heading out on medical leave for a major surgery, and I knew that it was a critical point of transition ( a messy middle, if you will), that I needed to readdress how I showed up in work, and in life.
I learned many important things about myself. I learned that my primary priorities no longer are drive strictly by success in my career .
Medical training takes so much from us, it is an all consuming beast, and I think we all find the point where we realize we can no longer be consumed, but must crawl back out of the mouth and find the sun again.
But, there was more. My vision for who I am as a person and professional are no longer different. I want to show up in the same way, as the same person, every darn day. For me, this very personal vision sounds a bit egotistical, but if we truly focus on who we are, what we love, and what are strengths are, it is an reflection of that. So who am I? What is my vision?
To consistently show-up as a visionary catalyst for positive change through strategic thinking, problem-solving, and maximizing the potential of those around me, in order to improve the lives of others.
It’s a big vision. It’s intimidating. But it is 100% who I am and the impact I dream of having. I have no illusion that I am perfect at this, but it is the vision of who I strive to be. And with that, it is easier to align my career with this North Star statement.
Yes, I know, that seems like I shared month 1 of this program, and that is it. But, there was so much more.
A few other key concepts:
1) Knowing your values and vision provide a guide for what to say yes, or no, to.
2) It is easier to refine your personal brand and increase your visibility when you know what you are about, and you can share it.
3) Boundaries are a form of both professionalism and work life integration, but setting them is hard. It is like a habit, it takes time to determine the correct versions and to engrain them into your day-to-day.
4) Leadership and career evolution are just that. A constant stage of growth, and never a destination.
5) One-on-one coaching can be a critical part of the growth process and should not be underestimated.
6) Investing in your network and social capital is critical, as is ensuring that we have (and are), mentors and sponsors.
Finally, I learned that I am in a transition phase. I am in that messy middle stage between the early career years of desperately trying to do all the work, publish the papers, give the talks, and prove that I belong in academic medicine and in leadership. Those thought patterns and habits are deeply engrained, but I am actively working to transition out of them, because the most valuable lesson of the last 12 months for me was that I have nothing left to prove.