Leadership in Medical Education: Setting Goals

By Michael Gisondi (@MikeGisondi)

To celebrate the New Year and its opportunities, I devoted a recent Education Faculty Meeting to the process of goal-setting for individual faculty members and the programs they direct.

We all need New Year’s Resolutions in academic medicine!

Maybe we won’t lose weight or organize our closets in 2019, but we can certainly set meaningful and realistic goals for our scholarship.

Keep in mind one of the key Secrets of Adulthood by the author, Gretchen Rubin: “The Days Are Long, But the Years Are Short.” You are likely in the midst of your most productive years as a clinician educator. How will you leave your mark? What work will you be most proud of at the end of 2019? Will that work endure? Will your efforts this year advance your career?

I challenged our faculty members to set three goals as they entered the New Year:

  1. The 5-Year Plan
  2. The Paper You Will Write
  3. The New Project You Will Lead


The 5-Year Plan

Many of us have administrative roles that we worked very hard to earn. We developed the requisite skills and knowledge to get the title, with additional learning on the job as we lead in role.

But what happens next?

Assuming most administrative roles become stale in 5 years, what is on the horizon for you? Another 5-year commitment to your current role… is that best for you and the program you lead? Or do you want something more?

Consider this goal an annual renewal of your 5-Year Plan. We all need to be thinking about what’s next for us. And it may take many years for you to adequately prepare to make that jump.

Reflection questions for The 5-Year Plan:

Q1: Do you advance in your current organizational chart or career pivot in a different direction?

Q2: Name the administrative role that you want next. Say it out loud.

Q3: Will you be ready in 5 years or 10 years?

Q4: What new skills do you need to develop to be ready? List them here.

table 1

Q5: Are any of your faculty colleagues pursuing similar goals? Might you invite them to collaborate and learn together this year?

The Paper You Will Write

Writing is a difficult task for many of us. Most experts believe that the daily habit of writing is the key to being truly productive – but that habit is among the most challenging to develop. Writing skills must be practiced if they are to become second nature and less of a burden to your scholarship.

Here’s the challenge for 2019: Be the ‘First Author’.

The First Author is used both literally and figuratively here. It is a mindset. First Authors captain the ship. They oversee the project and they write the manuscript. First Authors need organizational skills and writing skills.

Make 2019 an opportunity to practice being the First Author.

Your goal: Manage one paper this year. Just one! It can be a review article or commentary… it doesn’t need to be a data driven research project. The content isn’t the point. The challenge of directing one paper as the First Author is the growth opportunity. You have a full year! Think of all you can do in a year. Certainly, your year can include being a First Author.

Q1: What paper will your write this year?

Q2: Who are your collaborators or mentors for the project? Contact them now and make plans.

Q3: Can you invite a trainee to join this project?

Q4: What will be your monthly writing goals?

table 2

The New Project You Will Lead

As a final goal for 2019, consider new projects that you might lead. New projects are important for your career and offer additional opportunities to grow the education programs that you direct.

Don’t over-commit, though – now is not the time to set resolutions that you won’t keep. Instead choose just 1 project. Consider what tasks need to go off your plate to accommodate this project.

Q1: What is the new project you will lead in 2019?

Q2: What is your timeline?

Q3: How many hours per week do you need to devote to this project? Schedule those hours on your weekly calendar.

Q4: Who will be your collaborators? Contact them now.

Q5: Do you need approval or funding for this project?

Q6: What does success look like?

Q7: How does this meet your professional goals?

Q8: How does this advance the educational program you direct?

Final Thoughts:

Dr. Esther Choo at Oregon Health Sciences University shared a useful decision tree to consider when new opportunities arise. Do you say yes or no? I hope this helps with your 2019 Goal Setting. (I added the question about joy… hope that’s ok, Esther!)

Do you say YES or NO to that new opportunity?

Q1: Is this activity vital to you?

Q2: Are you uniquely suited to it?

Q3: Is it worth time away from the kids?

Q4: Will it bring you joy?

Yes x 4: Say yes, then consider how you might do the activity as efficiently and effectively as possible.

No to 1 or more: “I’m so sorry, but I can’t. Let me suggest someone else.”

What will you accomplish this year?


Featured image via Free-Photos on Pixabay