Essential Tools for Career Transition

In today's episode, I describe how coaches mentors and masterminds can support your career transition.

My first mentor was an internist I met through my volunteer work in continuing medical education at my hospital and state medical society. He encouraged me to pursue a career in hospital management.

What Is a MENTOR?

Here are a few characteristics of a mentor:

  • Volunteer
  • Informal
  • Infrequent
  • Self-selected
  • Growth-oriented
  • Directional / Gives advice

Our Sponsor

We're proud to have the University of Tennessee Physician Executive MBA Program, offered by the Haslam College of Business, as the sponsor of this podcast.

The UT PEMBA is the longest-running, and most highly respected physician-only MBA in the country. It has over 700 graduates. And, the program only takes one year to complete. 

By joining the UT Physician Executive MBA, you will develop the business and management skills you need to find a career that you love. To find out more, contact Dr. Kate Atchley’s office at (865) 974-6526 or go to

What Is a COACH?

Coaching is generally a more formal situation. Characteristics of a business or career coach include:

  • Paid service
  • Formal relationship
  • Regular schedule
  • Less directive
  • Goal-oriented

What are the differences between a mentor and a coach?

  • Growth-oriented vs. goal-oriented
  • Unpaid vs. paid
  • Intermittent and infrequent vs. regularly scheduled
  • Ongoing vs. time-limited

What Is GROUP Coaching?

  • Similar to coaching, but with multiple clients
  • Less costly to purchase
  • Ability to reach more clients and have a bigger impact

Coaches Mentors and Masterminds

My first experience with a mastermind group grew out of my experience with executive coaching. Every month or two, all of the senior executives at the hospital where I was CMO would dedicate one of our scheduled meetings to a special session. During that session, one of the C-suite executives would take the metaphorical “hot seat.”

Once there, the facilitator/coach would start by asking the subject to describe the major challenge in their job that they wanted to discuss. Then the rest of us would spend the next 20 to 30 minutes asking questions to obtain clarity about the problem. Then we’d explore what had been tried already to resolve it.

We would ask probing questions. Ultimately, the subject on the hot seat would define the next steps based on insights and ideas inspired by the group.

It was amazing how often this erudite and accomplished person could find solutions through the mastermind that they had previously been unable to discover on their own. The mastermind never failed to generate new ideas and instill a level of accountability that was otherwise not attainable.

Characteristics of a mastermind group:

  • A concept described by Napoleon Hill and others since the 1940s
  • Used mostly by business leaders and entrepreneurs to create breakthroughs and accelerate their success
  • It requires a facilitator
  • It can be done in a variety of formats
    • Monthly meetings for months to years
    • Weekly or biweekly for a shorter duration
    • Larger groups over a weekend retreat
    • Face to face or online
    • Some are free – many are paid 
  • Benefits
    • Peer accountability
    • Brainstorming
    • Support
    • Networking
    • Real-time education
    • A catalyst for success


Coaches, mentors and masterminds can be used to accelerate career transition. Each has its strengths. And there is nothing wrong with using all three. In fact, they can be complementary to one another.

If you'd like to join my next Nonclinical Mastermind Group, you can learn about it and join the waiting list at

NOTE: Look below for a transcript of today's episode.

Links for Today's Episode:

Download This Episode:

Right Click Here and “Save As” to download this podcast episode to your computer.

If you enjoyed today’s episode, share it on Twitter and Facebook, and leave a review on iTunes.

Podcast Editing & Production Services are provided by Oscar Hamilton

PNC Podcast Episode 208

How Do I Choose the Best Coaches Mentors and Masterminds for Me?

All right, I want to get on to today's topic, which is near and dear to me. And it entails coaches, mentors, and masterminds. I think it's important that we distinguish each of these and use them properly during our career transition.

This topic has come up several times in recent email requests for listeners looking for a career coach. I'd like to spend this episode doing Q&A about this topic. So here we go.

Now, remember, there's a lot of overlap between these terms potentially. And on the paid side of things, we might even include a consultant and coach interchangeably. In other words, if I am coaching you about how to open a practice while you could easily say, that's also a consultation where I'm teaching you or facilitating your opening your office. But when we talk about coaches, we're generally talking here about one-to-one relationships, either focusing on health, wellness, business career, things like that.

So, let's go back to the title. And the first topic is mentors. Now my first mentor was an internist that I met as a result of a long string of events. Let me try and explain the short version. I came into the hospital that I was working at clinically as a new physician with two other partners. And I had some free time on my hands, obviously while I was building my practice. And so, I use that time to go to a lot of committee meetings and do things in the hospital medical staff, probably more than the average physician just because I had the time and I was still learning.

I was attracted to the CME activities and I started to volunteer on the committee to help support the CME activities. And then the long-time chair was nearing retirement and so, then I took over as chair. Shortly thereafter, we had a survey by the state medical society, which was the organization that certified intrastate sponsors of CME. And we did a pretty good job. And I guess they thought that I was pretty interested in up-to-date on the requirements.

And so, they later had me appointed to the state committee on CME accreditation, which meant that I was on the committee now that would look at the applications and then help decide if they should be approved and for how long.

Well, as a result of that, I began interacting with other members of the committee, and the former chair of the committee and I would meet occasionally at annual meetings. His name was Don and he was an internist and he was working at one of the largest standalone hospitals in the state of Illinois. And over time we worked on different projects having to do with CME.

And I came to find out at some point that he was not actually practicing. I thought, "Well, what does that mean? How can a physician not be practicing?" And I asked him about that and it turned out he was the first chief medical officer that I ever came across. I hadn't come across that in my residency training. CMOs were not that common at the time in hospitals.

He became an informal mentor. If you were to ask him, I'm not sure he would even know that he was my mentor, but every once in a while, every three or four months I'd run into him and I'd ask him about he was doing, did he like it and what should I do if I might want to do similar things. And he was pretty receptive because he saw that I would volunteer for a lot of these nonclinical things like chairing the committee and being a surveyor for CME and so forth.

So, I would ask him questions. He would point me in a direction. I think he was the first one that told me to join the American College of Physician Executives, which is now known as the American Association for Physician Leadership. And that I should do this and do that, go to this meeting and so forth.

That's what a mentor is to me. Let me just kind of summarize what Don was to me. A mentor is usually an informal relationship, that mentorship. It's usually a volunteer or a non-paid situation. It's usually informal. It usually occurs infrequently. Although you could meet with a mentor on a regular basis. But usually, with a mentor, you don't want to be a big burden on them. Again, not like a coaching relationship, which I will discuss in a moment. And it's usually a self-selected relationship. So, I sought him out or he became available to me as opposed to being appointed to me by let's say my boss, which we'll talk about in a minute when we get to coaches.

The mentor is usually dedicated to the mentee's growth and development over time and not necessarily focused on a particular type of outcome or goal. In other words, you could be a coach, let's say, coaching in the athletics arena. You could be a serving coach for tennis or a sprinting coach or just a track coach, I suppose. But usually, there's something specific you're trying to learn, and it's very focused if you're a coach in that setting.

Even in the business end, in the entrepreneurial setting, a coach is usually trying to get you to that next level. And a lot of times the coach will drop off after you've achieved it. So, we'll talk about that again in a minute.

A mentor is able to give you specific advice and point you in a direction and also help you to avoid big mistakes or what I would call landmines in whatever you're doing. And so, as I look back, I've had other mentors, actually the CEO of my hospital was a mentor and there have been others.

We can often have multiple mentors depending on what we're trying to achieve. And as far as me, now I've become a mentor. I do mentorship. In a way, this podcast is a form of mentorship, although it's pretty informal or impersonal. But I have been mentored to specific listeners and also people in my nonclinical career academy where I'll offer some free advice. People contact me all the time by email, asking me questions that I sometimes talk about here on the podcast. And I will send them resources. I would point them in a direction or maybe even point them to a coach. So, I'm definitely a mentor.

Now, coaching is another story. I first experienced formal coaching when I was a senior VP and chief medical officer at the 300-bed hospital, south of Chicago that I eventually grew into. That situation. It was the same hospital I'm talking about where I was doing the CME, but over time I became more and more involved. They took medical directorships and ultimately, I became the CMO.

And the chief executive officer, the CEO of our hospital, had been getting some direct I think it was biweekly or monthly coaching. And after he'd done that for a year or so, he thought it was so helpful that he brought the coaching into the hospital. He offered the coaching to the senior executive team, the C-suite basically, all the VPs and the chief this and that.

And we got some group coaching and we had different programs that we would do together. And then we also had the ability to have individual coaching. So, I would meet with this coach, which was also the CEO's coach, and we would have a conversation for an hour. And that was my first exposure to formal coaching.

Now the thing about coaching, this kind of coaching is it's usually costly. It's a paid service and the people doing the coaching are very well-trained and usually quite experienced. And so, you can imagine, it costs hundreds of dollars per hour generally. And so, it's not an informal sort of situation. It's very formal most of the time. It is almost like therapy in the sense that rather than giving advice or pointing you in a certain direction, a coach is usually facilitating your progress and helping you by asking questions.

And the idea is as a coach to find out what your challenges are, and kind of walk you through a series of questions that will put the onus on you to discover possible solutions. And that's why I say it's very therapy-like in a sense. So, when you're in psychotherapy, again, your therapist does not tell you what to do or how to think but walks you through a process where you have certain "a-ha" moments and insights that take you down a path to become healthier.

Now, coaching is not therapy because there's no illness involved but you're using similar techniques. Usually, the coaching is formal and so, you have a regular schedule. It could be weekly, biweekly, it could be monthly. It could be face-to-face. It can be online. It's definitely less directive, but it is goal-oriented most of the time. So you're being coached in order to improve your leadership skills, or you're being coached to advance your career. And it's become quite common for physicians to hire another physician coach as a career coach. I've done some limited coaching. And when people now ask me, I know many coaches, I've interviewed many. There are some directories available now.

I will say coincidentally today's episode sponsor is the Physician Coaching Alliance as you heard a few more minutes ago from Erin Weisman. So, that's a resource for coaching, if you are looking for coaching.

Now I have tended to stay away from coaching. I'll talk a little bit more about that in a minute, for certain reasons, but what are the differences? Let's just go through the differences between a mentor and a coach. I've sort of already mentioned them, but basically, a mentor is growth-oriented versus a coach who is goal-oriented. A mentor is usually unpaid versus a coach who is paid. A mentor can be quite infrequent, very informal, versus their regularly scheduled meetings with a coach.

Mentorship sometimes can go on for years. Now it is true that you can have new mentors. As you progress, you might sort of catch up with your mentor in terms of what they're doing and how they can help you. You might need a new mentor. It would be quite common for someone like myself early in my career, going to the director of the pharmacy to get some mentorship about getting better at medication safety.

But once I become quite good at it, then maybe the next mentor might be the CFO or the COO or the CEO of the hospital, as opposed to coaching which usually is going to be somewhat time-limited in part, because it's quite expensive.

Now there's a version of coaching called group coaching, which is just like what it sounds. It's very similar. The process is very similar. Many coaches take on group coaching because basically you can only get paid so much doing one-on-one coaching unless you continue to raise your rates. And it becomes onerous to the coachee to keep paying more and more.

So, doing group coaching allows a highly successful and in-demand coach to offer their services to a larger group without raising the rates exorbitantly. And at the same time, keeping it actually less costly to the coachees. So, you can imagine a situation where instead of paying $200, $300 an hour for a coach, if you get in a group situation, you might be paying $100 an hour, but there might be five, six, or seven coachees in the group. And so, the expert coach is making it enough to make it worth their while.

In group coaching you still have the regular meetings. You still have the fact that it's less directive and more therapy-like. And basically, it's more reach for the coach and less costly to the coaches.

Now, my first experience with a mastermind group grew out of my experience with the coaching that I mentioned a minute ago when I was the CMO. The other thing that we did was every month or two, all the senior executives at the hospital where I was working would dedicate one of our scheduled meetings to a special session. And during that session, one of the C suite executives would take the metaphorical hot seat. So, the hot seat is just a term used to apply to the person who is going to be the center of attention for this part of that meeting. And the way we were doing it, we would probably have at least two people take the hot seat, sometimes only one.

And once you're there on the hot seat, the facilitators/coach would start by asking the subject to describe the major challenge in their job that they wanted to discuss that day. Then the rest of us would spend the next 20 to 30 minutes asking questions to achieve some clarity about what the problem really was. It's funny, but if you've gone through this process, you'll often find that sometimes it's difficult for the person in the hot seat to articulate what the problem really is, or in a way that is clear.

So, the whole process of just being on the hot seat and being questioned helps to really clarify the problem. Sometimes when you clarify the problem, the solution becomes self-evident and that's the end of the process. But we would normally explore what this person had already tried to resolve or to solve the problem or the challenge.

And eventually we might ask some leading questions - Has she tried this or that? And we would ask the person in the hot seat whether he would define the next steps that he was going to take based on the conversation with the group.

It was really amazing how often this erudite, experienced, and accomplished person would be able to find solutions that they were unable to devise on their own with weeks or months of effort prior to being on the hot seat. It's very interesting to watch, and it's consistently a very successful process.

The mastermind never failed to generate new ideas and instill a level of accountability that was otherwise usually not attainable. Let me go into a little bit more about what a mastermind is. This is a concept that was written as early as the 1940s by Napoleon Hill. I think there were others at the time that latched onto this, so I'm not sure he was the absolute first. And it's usually used by business leaders and entrepreneurs to try to experience breakthroughs and accelerate the pace of their success in their business.

It always requires that at least one person be a facilitator that can rotate, or it can be the person who puts together the mastermind. It can be done in a variety of settings and formats. It could be monthly meetings for months or years on end. It could be weekly or biweekly for a shorter period of time with an end date. I've heard of masterminds getting together over a weekend or maybe one and a half to three days where these larger groups each go through the hot seat multiple times and try to come up with a lot of plans to take back home.

A mastermind can actually be done face-to-face or online summer free if you just get together with 4 or 5 people, 6, 7, 8, whatever number that have issues similar to you, maybe you are in a similar business at a similar level. You can just do a free mastermind together and you'll rotate the facilitation of it. But many are paid and some can be quite expensive. And even $10,000 to $20,000 per year can be on the low end. There are masterminds with very, very well-known gurus and people that are leaders in their fields. It can be quite expensive, but there are people out there that want to do that because they are so successful.

And part of the reason why they're successful is just not the obvious process of being on the hot seat, but they offer peer accountability. When you're done on the hot seat, you're going to declare what your next steps are. And then you can be held accountable to that during the next meeting. It's a lot of brainstorming. It's a lot of support between the members. You all get to know each other usually pretty well, particularly for those that are ongoing. There is a lot of networking that happens. So, some of the success that comes from this is networking and then sharing or referring outside interest, the networking cohort with the others in your network, in other words. And that's the way that you can become successful and others can become successful by having you refer to them. So, there's real-time education that goes on. There are usually people in any group that are sort of semi experts in certain things that they share during the process. And the bottom line is it's a catalyst for previously unattainable success.

These are three methods or techniques that you can use to accelerate your career transition. Definitely you want to use mentors. It's free, it's informal. It should be a given that you should have multiple mentors as you're trying to advance your career. And there's no reason not to use a coach if you can afford it. And there's a process for finding and selecting the right coach. But again, these different things are actually complementary to one another.

And then the mastermind is another one that I think if you can get into a mastermind, and commit to it and show up and be accountable, they can really speed things along.

So, now the question becomes, "What do I offer? Well, I certainly provide a fair amount of free mentoring. I mentioned that earlier. If you just send me an email with a question, I'm happy to share my wisdom such as it is, my insights, my knowledge. I'll send you a free list of nonclinical careers or a free list of different resources for different things.

Coaching I've done to a very small extent. I've avoided coaching primarily for two reasons. I don't have that much time. And so, I'd have to really charge a super high fee to make it worth my while. And I don't feel like I have the best skills as a coach. I feel I'm better at being a mentor and offering resources.

But I have been intrigued by the idea of developing a mastermind group for physicians interested in nonclinical careers for a long time, because I think it offers a lot of great advantages and, again, could complement the other process that you might be going through.

So, I took the leap and I started a paid mastermind group with five listeners like you about three months ago. We've been meeting biweekly every other week for the past three months. And I must say, I'm really impressed by how well the physicians have taken to the process because I really don't think that we're generally exposed to this kind of a process during our training or at other times. As far as I know, none of them have been involved in a mastermind group before.

We've had some major breakthroughs and the members are very pleased with the way things are going. So, we're still going, we're still meeting. Our next meeting will be a week after I'm recording this. And I plan to start another group of up to 10 members in September. So, I haven't really gone out and started looking for those members.

But for those of you who are interested, you can join a waiting list to find out more and definitely with no obligation, of course, at It will require a short interview at some point in the process just to answer your questions and to be certain that you're appropriate for the next group.

I'm going to have some constraints on it. I probably won't take residents in, for example. I definitely will not take people that are just simply burnt out and need more of a burnout coach or something like that.

But for those that are interested in going from a clinical to a nonclinical career and wanting to get together with peers who are doing the same thing, even if it's in vastly different fields of careers pharma versus hospital versus insurance company and so forth. I think a group of physicians together can really work and make some great progress and breakthroughs.

Again, I am looking forward to sharing this process with more of you as time permits. Again, if you want to check it out, you can definitely go to Right now, it's just a waiting list, but because we're getting close to September, I'll be sending out more information to the people on that list very soon.

Well, I think that should do it for today's episode. I hope you've enjoyed it. If you have any questions about today's content, you can email me at As usual, I'll put my links in the show notes, which will be at


Many of the links that I refer you to are affiliate links. That means that I receive a payment from the seller if you purchase the affiliate item using my link. Doing so has no effect on the price you are charged. And I only promote products and services that I believe are of high quality and will be useful to you.

The opinions expressed here are mine and my guest’s. While the information provided on the podcast is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge, there is no express or implied guarantee that using the methods discussed here will lead to success in your career, life, or business.

The information presented on this blog and related podcast is for entertainment and/or informational purposes only. I do not provide medical, legal, tax, or emotional advice. If you take action on the information provided on the blog or podcast, it is at your own risk. Always consult an attorney, accountant, career counselor, or other professional before making any major decisions about your career.