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Chief Resident Leadership Curriculum: November - April: Beyond the Basics

November - April: Beyond the Basics

You have likely settled into your roles quite comfortably by this time of the year and have now added experience to your leadership repertoire. You will have had some opportunity to apply the skills discussed earlier in the year and will now be ready to expand upon these skills. This segment of the curriculum is dedicated to adding another layer onto what was learned during the last segment. As in our previous segments, we also address common challenges that may occur during this time of year such as fatigue, burnout and managing work and life.


1.     Discuss strategies for managing one’s boss.

2.     Discuss strategies for preventing and combating burnout and practice mindfulness techniques.

3.     Evaluate one’s underlying assumptions that prevent meaningful change.

4.     Identify different communication styles. Use this knowledge to practice adapting one’s communication style.

5.     Discuss how “immunity to change” could be applied in a managerial sense.

6.     Identify one’s teaching perspective and discuss how this might apply to teaching and mentoring activities.

7.     Discuss strategies for effective conflict resolution. Apply these strategies to real cases.

8.     Discuss managerial strategies to challenge the “great” resident.

9.     Identify different types of power and discuss how these “bases of power” may be used to motivate residents.

10.   Identify complementary strengths that can be used to leverage your strengths even further.

Managing Up

At this point in the year, you will hopefully feel more comfortable with your program directors and program leadership. Learning how to manage one’s supervisor or boss is a skill that will be useful in this year and also in one’s future career. This particular type of management skill can help you to be more effective by cultivating a stronger working relationship with program leadership. 

Burnout, Mindset and Morale

During the middle part of the academic year, you may begin to feel fatigue and burnout associated with your work. The daily requests, challenges of the job and multiple responsibilities can be overwhelming and exhausting. Additionally, the middle of the year is often the time in which many residents begin to feel burned out as well. Often times we notices that everyone's Morale is down.  There are several ways to address this and create a culture of deliberate practice to help yourself and others around you. We felt that this topic would be best addressed during the early part of this segment in order to help prevent burnout and also to equip you with a few techniques to use in counseling session with burnt out residents. The references provided below describe basic meditation and mindfulness techniques, how to combat morale and how to sustain your job.

Work Life Balance

As a corollary to burnout, this session focuses on improving work-life balance. Improving work-life balance can be difficult; we often know what we would want to change but we don’t often know how to make those changes. During this session, we use Robert Kegan’s and Lisa Lahey’s “Immunity to Change” theory to uncover some of the underlying reasons which prevent us from making meaningful changes in our lives. We may decide to use a follow-up session to discuss how some of the changes that we’ve set into motion during this first session have progressed. The first reference is a brief description of “Immunity to Change” in addition to a worksheet that describes how to utilize it. The second reference is a book that covers the topic in more detail. 

Communication Styles

By this time in the year, you will undoubtedly have had a few difficult conversations with housestaff, colleagues and patients. Conversations and working relationships can often be challenging because of differing communication styles. This topic is meant to help you identify your own communication style and those of others. As a corollary to Principled Negotiation (see previous segment), whereby understanding the content of the disagreement helps to solve conflict, understanding and adapting one’s communication style can also help to facilitate negotiation. Understanding how others communicate and using the communication style of others can be powerful tools in conversation. Once you have an understanding of differing communication styles and are able to identify others’ styles, we will then discuss how to adapt communication styles to an individual or situation. I-Speak, which is referenced below, is a communication tool based on Jungian psychology that can be used to understand communication styles. 

Facilitating Individual Change

Most chief residents will have a few residents who may be challenged with academics, professionalism, time-management or other skills during their tenure. Broadening the “immunity to change” theory (see Work-Life Balance above) to a managerial perspective may be one strategy for helping these residents improve. 

Teaching Perspectives

Although not technically a leadership skill, we may include this topic in a session as it speaks to teaching / leadership styles. As you will be spending a significant amount of time teaching, coaching and mentoring during your year; understanding the specific perspective in which you carry out these responsbilities can help to gain insight into yourself and your effectiveness as a teacher / leader. The first reference is a free inventory that identifies one’s teaching perspective, the second reference is a brief explanation of the different perspectives and the third is a comprehensive explanation of the perspectives. 

Conflict Resolution: Beyond Getting to Yes

Conflict resolution is one of the most important skills to learn during the chief year but will require years to perfect. There are an inexhaustible number of resources on this topic but the following are some of the most popular. The first two references are corrollaries to Getting to Yes (see Principled Negotation above) and the third is a slightly different perspective on Getting to Yes. This discussion will focus on applying theory in conflict resolution to complex real-world experiences.

Helping the Great Resident Become Even Better!

You might find yourself spending a significant amount of time helping struggling residents. It can be rejuvenating to have a discussion on how to help the great resident become even better! Many of the same skills used to help struggling residents can be applied to more competent residents as well. This discussion focuses on how great managers can help others reach their potential.

Bases of Power

We have used this topic to continue our discussion on helping the great resident to become even better. Alternatively, it can also be a way to further expand upon the concept of psychological size. There are a number of different ways that leaders can exert power, or influence, over others. During this discussion we consider the different types of ways that leaders exert their power and how we can tap into these “bases of powers” to motivate residents and challenge them to become even better.

Leadership Cross Training

As a follow-up to Strength Based Leadership, this discussion focuses on how to leverage our strengths to become even better leaders. We will focus on complementary strengths and discuss how to improve upon them by setting realistic goals.

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