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Practice Management and Coaching

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Kathleen O’Donnell as a Masterful Coach to Professionals

William Bergquist

While I  have not had the good fortune of observing Kimberly Brozovich in her coaching  engagements,  I have had the privilege of observing Kathleen O’Donnell coach dentists and other professionals for many years. As her husband, I am of course biased; however, it is not often that someone writing about coaching expertise is doing so from having witnessed many coaching conversations over more than two decades. While I usually can observe only one half of the conversation (Kathleen’s contribution), I can get a pretty good idea about what is happening on the other end of the line (phone, Skype,  Web-EX or Go-to-Meeting).

Here are several of the key strategies that I observed Kathleen using:

Motivating clients with appreciative perspective. Kathleen is “catching them when they are doing it right.” She helps the professionals identify their own strengths and determine the best way to use these strengths when confronting difficult situations.

Using a specific framework (personality theory) to show clients the value of differences among people they work with and serve. Kathleen makes specific use of DISC, but I firmly believe there are many frameworks, with regard to interpersonal styles, personality profiles, etc. that would work effectively in helping professionals fully appreciate the distinctive ways in which other people see and operate in the world. Kathleen will often point out to her clients how the perspective held by another person diverges in quite significant ways from the client’s own perspective, often leading to misinterpretations, unanticipated reactions, and even open conflict.

An intermixing of heart and head – calculations and compassion. Kathleen will work closely with clients on their “numbers” (e.g. monthly income and expenditures, monthly variations in number of patients seen, productivity of team members). She calculates percentages, financial and productivity trends, and comparisons with national and regional norms regarding productivity and compensation. I see her spend many an evening with her calculator in hand. Yet, on her coaching calls, Kathleen is often dealing with the “soft” data (morale issues, fears and hopes, life transitions on the part of her client and members of the client’s team, anger management and other “personal” matters). It is critical for the professional that a coach offers credible evidence, given that the professional is trained to operate in a rational manner. It is also critical,  however, that the coach serve as a caring and understanding source of support for the professional, who often feelings very much alone in a complex and changing world.

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