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Developing Leaders with Dr. Richard Winters

George Grombacher December 3, 2022

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Developing Leaders with Dr. Richard Winters

LifeBlood: We talked about developing leaders, the unique challenges facing medical doctors, the importance of being able to understand and speak a common vernacular, and how to get leaders what they need to serve and excel, with Dr. Richard Winters, Emergency Room Physician at the Mayo Clinic and Director of Leadership Development for the Mayo Clinic Care Network.

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Our Guests

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Dr. Richard Winters

Episode Transcript


Unknown Speaker 0:15
one left, this is George G. And the time is right. welcome today’s guest strong and powerful Dr. Richard Winters. Dr. Winters, are you ready to do this? I am ready. All right, let’s go. Dr. Winters is an emergency physician at the Mayo Clinic. He’s the director of leadership development for the mayo clinic care network. He’s an executive coach and the author of you’re the leader. Now what leadership lessons from the Mayo Clinic? Richard, tell us a little about your personal life’s more about your work and why you do what you do. Yeah, so personal life, gotta have a wife and two daughters, who are 17 and 19.

Unknown Speaker 0:51
I’m an emergency physician here in Rochester, Minnesota, and then also spent a good amount of my time helping to develop leaders, coaching leaders, and generally trying to make the world a better place. Oh, amen. on that. Yeah. So 17 and 19. So how do you feel? How do you feel like you did developing those leaders? Richard? Yeah, actually, I think, I think they’ve done pretty well. I think the the key thing for me is I got out of the way, their their confidence, and they’re finding their way. And that’s exactly what I want. Got it? Well, I’d certainly appreciate that.

Unknown Speaker 1:25
So interesting. I don’t know how many emergency room physicians or physician physicians in general are also executive coaches. Is that common? Are you an outlier? Yeah, no, I don’t. Hopefully, it becomes more common. And so for me, I thought about, I had never heard coaching, I went to business school. And during business school, there was a just as a class about coaching. And I had thought about coaching as being, I don’t know, like, dream catchers and talking about your feelings and stuff. And but what I found was, it was a way of actually thinking about how we think, and for me, it was very, very powerful for me to figure out how I’m thinking and processing the world. And then as I’m working with colleagues, just to be able to approach them as a coach, to help them make sense of this, this very complex world. Got it.

Unknown Speaker 2:17
So I think that makes all the sense in the world, let’s, if you don’t mind, let’s take another step back. And you went to medical school, you were a physician, and then you went to business school, what was the progression there? Yeah, so. So I went to medical school at Mayo, and then went out to California and did my emergency medicine residency, and then went into practice. And so seeing one patient at a time emergency problems, and start seeing things, you know, I think this could be better, I think we could change this. And either you’re shouting, you know, into the abyss, or you start going to meetings. And as I’m going to meetings, I’m starting to hear different language. And so the leaders of the hospital are speaking just a different sort of, you know, different words. And so I decided to get an MBA, and as a result of that, started learning the language of finance and marketing and all that sort of stuff that the individuals and business know, for me, that connected me more with a patient, you know, sort of taking care of one patient at a time, then you can start to take care of populations of patients at a time. And basically, that was it is growing to become a leader and just really wanting to learn more about the situation. No, I think that that’s, I think that is admirable in in, in every scenario. So, so I appreciate that.

Unknown Speaker 3:36
Working with the, the healthcare apparatus, talk about how these folks have their own language, and I’m interested in learning more because they see efficiencies and opportunities,

Unknown Speaker 3:50
and then wanting to have the ability to approach your colleagues or to be able to help coach your colleagues through difficult whatever it might be.

Unknown Speaker 4:03
How is how is that received from the administration than from from colleagues?

Unknown Speaker 4:10
I mean, I think you know, just just having in mind, just imagine you’re going to a different country and you don’t speak the language. It’s it’s hard to connect with individuals when you’re not speaking the language. And so the more you understand the language and the more you can translate the language of others, I think it helps you connect better. And you know, as a leader, you can either go in the room and say it so as an emergency patients, I walk into a room and I see a patient and I know what to do pretty quickly. And I write an order. You know, I have 1719 year old daughters, they come to me with with issues. I’ve been to high school, I’ve been to college, I can like tell them exactly what I think they should do. But I find in those sorts of situations, the you know, the writing and order telling people what to do doesn’t work out so well and it doesn’t work out so well in meetings also. And so the language of coaching and under

Unknown Speaker 5:00
Standing the language of others, I think really helps you connect with them and helps them. The real The idea here is helping them to understand the best ways to move forward and kind of pooling all the different perspectives together. And coaching really helps you from that perspective. Yeah, yeah. I think that that’s a, that’s a great, great analogy. So you’re the leader. Now, what? What was the motivator there?

Unknown Speaker 5:27

Unknown Speaker 5:28
you know, I think leaders all over the world, you know, as you’re in these, these situations, you’re really good at something. And people were like, Hey, why don’t you punish it, to have a spot on this committee? Why don’t you start becoming a leader in a formal sort of sense. And then people find as they get into these leadership roles, that, geez, everyone’s disagreeing my colleagues, my friends, they’re kind of they’re not happy with each other. And now they’re looking to me. And I found over and over again, as I’m coaching colleagues, and it’s really leaders at all levels, this question of now what, there’s this really difficult situation? Now what what do I do? And so that’s, I wrote a book to try to help individuals, just pick out a chapter for issues that they’re facing, and now watch, guide them through them.

Unknown Speaker 6:12

Unknown Speaker 6:14
you’re coming at this with, with these great perspectives of obviously, having gone through intense training and schooling to become a doctor and then going through an MBA program and looking at through the world that way. So it’s fascinating, who who did you write the book for?

Unknown Speaker 6:33
So yeah, as you say, that, you know, making a lot of mistakes along the way. And so it says much writing it for me, as I’m writing it for, for my colleagues, it’s the whole process of writing is putting something down and saying, Do I really think that and, and what more can I add here? And what are some different perspectives that I’m not, I’m not getting, and so that the process of writing was really as much for me as it was for colleagues not for, for colleagues, it’s, it’s painful to be put into a leadership role and really wanting to do well. And then finding this is the struggle about what we feel should happen, what we think should go on, versus stepping back, and having others kind of, you know, work together and facilitate. And so moving from commanding, and kind of pointing to how do we bring all these different perspectives together? It’s, it’s difficult, it’s, and it’s difficult, not just logistically, but emotionally, it’s difficult for individuals who are wanting to do well, and then finding themselves in these situations that are really quite prickly. And so my hope is that the book helps individuals through that. Yeah, I think that they get certainly will.

Unknown Speaker 7:43
Have has, has doctrine has has is that the right term medicine has doctrine or medicine arising

Unknown Speaker 7:53
as medicine. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 7:56
As, as the country has, has, has benefited from technology. And so consumers patients are more informed. And we’ve become more political with things like the vaccine, how is that changing the dynamic between patient and physician? If, if at all?

Unknown Speaker 8:17
It’s actually from a physician’s perspective, as an emergency physician, it’s hard because a patient will say I’m on x. And I’ll I’ll be in my mind, I’m like, X, geez, I’m not sure I’ve heard of x and then quickly go the computer and look it up and like, then oh, yeah, okay, I understand this is in this for the class. Things are just moving so rapidly, it’s it’s very difficult. I think, from a patient’s perspective, the same thing, there’s, there are things that come out or you know, that that pharmacy, pharmacy, pharmaceutical companies create these new drugs, and there’s, they create these markets. And so how does the patient know? How does the physician know it’s always a struggle of, of keeping up to date on what works? And what’s current? What are the side effects? I’m not too different, I think, again, from any other industry, we can we can look at really any industry in the United States. I think you’re finding situations where, where new products, new information, things are volatile, and uncertain and leaders and and also the consumers have to adapt. Yeah, that’s a good point. So somebody is thrust into or accepts assumes this new leadership position. They’re there. They’re like, okay, great. I thought I wanted this now. I’m not so sure or yeah, this is exactly what I wanted, but it’s totally different.

Unknown Speaker 9:36
How open are how open is is is a physician to learning new information and, and retooling. Recognizing that I have gaps and I need new trainings.

Unknown Speaker 9:51
It’s gonna depend on the individual. So there are some individuals who go into leadership positions because they seek power and they want control

Unknown Speaker 9:59
and they’re gonna go

Unknown Speaker 10:00
other direction, those leaders, in my experience, tend not to do so well. We hear about those leaders sometimes. But that turns out to be the case. And then there are those leaders who step into roles because they’re wanting to make a difference. And our best leaders, there are learners. I mean, they are, they’re looking at the way they are receiving the world in these situations, and they’re trying to find ways of better doing that. And they’re also looking at how they can best help colleagues. And then there are leaders, you kind of alluded to this, everyone else steps back, and then they’re like, Okay, it’s me. And I find those leaders to be also the learners, individuals trying to figure out how to navigate the world. Yeah, people that are, are viewed appropriately as the one for the job. And I accept this responsibility and to do a good job to serve the people that are relying on me, I need to recognize that I need to learn and re skill or retool, or whatever the case may be. Yeah, there’s, I think we need to like clearly, so there’s formal leadership roles, where you have a position, but there’s a lot of informal leadership roles where there individuals with no position that we work with, who are the individuals, everyone goes to, to seek information to try to figure out how to navigate this change to try to boost up our confidence and connect with our values. And so I don’t see, and I wouldn’t look at a formal leadership role as being the requirements that have a huge effect on our colleagues.

Unknown Speaker 11:34

Unknown Speaker 11:37
It strikes me that that every,

Unknown Speaker 11:41
anytime other human beings look to a human being, because they’re in a situation where they need their help, and certainly when we’re talking about our health, it’s the one it’s one of the only times that I only want one thing, I want to not feel badly, I want to be healthy again, that the more we could equip doctors, physicians with the tools to to be better leaders, that that it makes all the sense in the world?

Unknown Speaker 12:10
And I think, yes, I think and in general, from a human perspective, the more we can approach others in ways to help them from where they’re at, as opposed to where we’re at, the better, we’re going to be able to help. And so if that’s a physician talking to a patient,

Unknown Speaker 12:29
if it’s my agenda, it may not be as helpful for you. And maybe your point is that you’d like to hurt less. And that’s maybe one path or maybe you’re you would like to have be able to be more able to do specific activities and don’t care about the pain as much. That’s a different approach. And unless we’re actually listening to others, and helping them kind of make sense of their situation, we’re not going to be able to connect and help them in the way that’s best for them.

Unknown Speaker 12:55
If I only have five minutes with this person, and then I have 50 more people that I have to see, that makes that pretty tricky, is difficult. It is. And if I want to change that I need to be an advocate to be able to go into that boardroom with those other folks and speak their language to actually affect change. Yeah, we we navigate difficult situations, I think all of us.

Unknown Speaker 13:21
And is that a reasonable thing? Or is that a ridiculous thing that I just said is is do you see individual physician contributor as someone who has the ability to step up and to say, within this organization, I can make change, we need to change the way that we’re approaching patient care? Yeah, I think I think that voices speak up, they identify opportunities for improvement, and then they can make a change. I think there is a reality of the availability of resources and how those resources are allocated.

Unknown Speaker 13:57
I think there’s could be arguments there. But resources are not unlimited. And so that’s difficult. Wouldn’t it be great to spend eight hours with someone? It? I mean, it might?

Unknown Speaker 14:10
You know, it could it could definitely be it? Would it be better to spend four minutes than two minutes, certainly. And so I think that that is where the difficulty arises is, is matching the resources that are available with the ideas that we have for how we can improve things. And that tug of war is it’s essential because we need to take care of one patient but we also need to take care of populations of patients. We need to take care of one colleague in our organization and we also need to take care of the team and the organization. These are really difficult things.

Unknown Speaker 14:45
Truly, and talk about being mindful of resources and emergency room physician you.

Unknown Speaker 14:55
You recognize we have a finite amount of time to get this person

Unknown Speaker 15:00
exactly what they need. And we do not have time to make a lot of errors or to spend that that’s super interesting. I spend a lot of time thinking about prioritizing and then allocation of finite resources. Yeah, and as an emergency physician, I think we tend to think of Emergency Physicians as people who go into these really unknowable situations. But as an amortization for 25 years, there’s, I mean, we have processes and frameworks for, for most everything, the most bizarre, it’s the most common. It’s not like we’re making things up in the moment. And so there’s best practices that form on the one hand, but on the other hand, there’s also the novelty, the new stuff that comes in and, and our best practices and our frameworks can help us adapt. But we also need to be questioning best practice, which is by definition, past practice.

Unknown Speaker 15:52

Unknown Speaker 15:54
Yeah, it strikes me that that is really a big part of

Unknown Speaker 15:59
this shouldn’t probably be attempting to use these these terms. But it’s that’s part of the scientific method is to test things and to see how they’re holding up and look for opportunities to make them better. So I certainly appreciate that.

Unknown Speaker 16:12
How many, how many physicians are you responsible for?

Unknown Speaker 16:17
So I am so our organization, we have 65,000 employees throughout Mayo Clinic, they’re around 2000, physician and scientists, I am psyched to do leadership development for organization. And then for leaders outside of the organization. I think they’re responsible for themselves, you know, I’m helping. And then it within our department I I’m with Director of Finance or chair of finance, and do those sorts of things. And so lots of places where I can help out. I don’t necessarily, I’m not necessarily hiring and firing anyone in my position right now, which I’m happy to not have that, that responsibility.

Unknown Speaker 16:57
So when somebody picks up a copy of your leader, now, what leadership lessons from the Mayo Clinic, what are you hoping that they will get out of it? What, what, what, what should they expect to receive from from reading it?

Unknown Speaker 17:10
The goal, as I wrote it was was really that you as you’re facing these really difficult challenges, have a book that you can go to and open up a chapter that and it’ll relate to whether this is a one to one discussion with a colleague, whether you’re facing a group of colleagues, and trying to figure out how to

Unknown Speaker 17:27
kind of figure out this really complex situation, whether there’s someone who’s interrupting you over and over again, like any of these sorts of things, you can open up a chapter and learn how to how to move forward. And that requires reflection about yourself, and then also reflection about how you’re approaching others.

Unknown Speaker 17:45
How did you make decisions on what to put in and what to leave out? Because I’m sure there’s a different number of scenarios since right? It’s it really was, it’s mimics, in many ways, the arc of a coaching conversation I have with someone. And so this, we’re we approach things as an expert, and then all of a sudden, we find out that our expertise is getting in the way. And so now how do we meet with individuals, one to one and colleagues as groups and move forward. And so it, it really just reflects that natural process that we all go through as we’re leading teams and individuals. Nice. So it sounds like it’s a pretty functional living document book where we want to keep this available for reference as things come up. Yeah, that’s my hope. I didn’t want something that was full of fluff, you know, one or two key points, and then you write another 200 pages, I really, you know, you’re kind of working with the others and saying, No, that doesn’t need to be here, I want this to be tight. I want this to be usable. And at the end of each chapter there, there are key points and summaries that you can open up and just figure out, this is what I need to do.

Unknown Speaker 18:50
And are you were you a writer before? Have you always been a writer?

Unknown Speaker 18:55
No, I’ve never written a book before. Certainly, you know, written some blog posts and some tweets. So all this stuff comes together in different ways, give a lie, deliver a lot of programs and do a lot of public speaking. And that requires, you know, writing in a different way that was quite helpful. I imagine just sort of having an outline. Can you your thoughts together and attacking it? Did you have a process where you said I’m going to write for this long, consistently? Yeah, I mean, you have deadlines. And so the Generally I would work chapter by chapter, each of the chapters I had presented in some way. And so I did have the outline as a talk. And so you just go through and you’re right. And you throw some stuff out, you add some stuff in was generally around 1000 words a day. And it’s it is something that as an emergency physician during COVID was a bit of a challenge to be writing a book, but it’s it. There’s time, there’s time and if you like it, and I do it was an enjoyable time and a time of discovery. I love it. You want something done, give it to a busy person, Richard

Unknown Speaker 20:02
or something like that.

Unknown Speaker 20:05
Thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you and how can they where where’s the best place to pick up a copy of your the leader now what leadership lessons from the Mayo Clinic? Yeah, so your leader now what is available at any of the bookstores you go to when it’s available and hardbound and electronic and then also the audiobook and then to learn about me go you can go to very creatively named Richard And then there’ll be some links there. I’m on Twitter and LinkedIn also. Excellent. You enjoyed as much as I did show Richard your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas pick up a copy of your leader now what leadership lessons from the Mayo Clinic wherever you buy your books, pick up the audio copy as well. Really can’t pick that up. But you can download it, you know what I’m talking about, and then go to Richard and follow all things Dr. Winters you’ll find them on social media as well like all those in the notes of the show. Thanks again Dr. Winters, teachers, and until next time, remember, do your part by doing your best

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