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Episode 176 | How to Coach the Right Employees into Leadership with Kimberly Cummings

Episode 176  | How to Coach the Right Employees into Leadership with Kimberly Cummings

WITH Kimberly Cummings

  • Episode 176 | How to Coach the Right Employees into Leadership with Kimberly Cummings 00:00


Hey Group Practice listeners! In this episode, I’m talking with Kimberly Cummings about the how to find and coach the right employees into leadership roles in your group practice.

In this episode we cover:

  • Benefits of helping employees develop their leadership skills
  • Understanding what employees want from their roles
  • Identifying which employees are the right fit for a leadership role
  • Clinical vs Leadership skills
  • Honing your practice vision
  • How to train for leadership roles

This episode is sponsored by TherapyNotes. TherapyNotes is an EHR software that helps behavioral health professionals manage their practice with confidence and efficiency. I use TherapyNotes in my own group practice and love its amazing support team, billing features, and scheduling capabilities. It serves us well as a large group practice owner.

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Maureen Werrbach

Maureen Werrbach

Hey, everyone, welcome to another episode of The Group Practice Exchange Podcast. Today I have a leadership expert. Her name is Kimberly Cummings. And I’m really excited to chat with her about how to coach the right employees into leadership. And I’ll have her introduce herself a little bit. But she’s an author. She’s written a book called Next Move, Best Move. And she’s also podcast co host as well, of Your Next Move Podcast. So, Kimberly, how are you?

Kimberly Cummings
I’m good. Thank you so much for having me.

Maureen Werrbach
Like I said earlier, before starting the recording, I’m very appreciative of having you. Because this topic is just becoming so relevant as business owners, especially in our industry, I’ve really been feeling burnt out and needing extra leadership support. I think this is such a relevant and timely topic. So I’m really glad to have you on to share your expertise in that leadership arena.

Kimberly Cummings
Yes, thank you so much, very happy to talk about all things leadership.

Maureen Werrbach
Awesome. So I know I gave a very short intro to you, but do you want to start with letting us know who you are? And for any one of my listeners who might not yet know you, why are you the person to talk to when it comes to this topic?

Kimberly Cummings
Oh, gosh. Okay, so the short and skinny. Again, my name is Kimberly Cummings. I’m a career and leadership development expert. I’ve been in the space for over 10 years, I founded a company called Manifest Yourself. It’s a leadership development company helping women and people of color, navigate the world of work, make more money and position themselves as leaders. And as you shared, I’m a brand new author, I guess not brand new now. But it feels like it happened yesterday. So in June, I published my first book, and fun fact, we’re talking about group practice. I have a Master’s of Science in Counseling.

Maureen Werrbach
Oh, that’s awesome. I did not know that.

Kimberly Cummings
Yes, indeed, yes, indeed.

Maureen Werrbach
Oh, even more relevant, you knowing this information, you also get, you know what it’s like to be in the counseling world and as a therapist, owning a business and, you know, bringing people into leadership. So I’m really appreciative. I’m, so I feel like COVID has really kind of started this process for a lot of group practice owners. And I’m sure it’s like, you see this with other entrepreneurs and business owners as well, of feeling burnt out and trying to pivot when it comes to, you know, not leading in a silo and having other people on a leadership team to be able to support them so that they can step back a little bit and recalibrate. Are you seeing this as well?

Kimberly Cummings
100%, I think people thought that working from home would make things easier, that we’d have more time for all the things, that our schedules would be lighter. But when in truth all the studies show that most folks who work from home now remotely, especially with COVID, are working 10 times harder, longer hours, there’s no cut off no separation between work and home anymore. It used to be cute, but oh, you know, it’s gonna pop a load of laundry in. And now it’s like, I haven’t done laundry in two weeks. Like, I don’t know, when the time is going to happen. Um, so I think across the board, people are thinking more, how can they get time back? How can they have a life in addition to their career? So leadership is one of the topics that frequently comes u, especially for entrepreneurs, because that kind of alludes to scaling. How can you scale your business to replicate yourself?

Maureen Werrbach
Yeah. And what I see is specifically in our industry, because that’s what I see most practice owners having a hard time figuring out who the right person is to lead. Because it’s a different thing, to have a team of really great clinicians. And you can’t really use that data of like, who’s a great clinician as an example of who could be a great leader. And I feel like we I’m seeing a ton of this for the past few years, with practice owners that I work with is that they’re bringing their best clinical person into leadership. And those are two very different skills. And so I want to get your feedback on, you know, how, I guess one: what should you be looking for when looking at your team, and wanting to potentially elevate someone into a leadership position? And then we can go into like how to coach people into getting into that space.

Kimberly Cummings
So the number one thing is understanding what everyone’s career plan is. I think the age old thing happens in every industry in that you do really great at your job. So therefore, you get promoted to manage people to train them how to do your job. However, there are a lot of people who don’t want to be managers, or they simply just need more development in order to do so. So understanding people on your team understanding what their career growth is going to look like, what they would like it to look like, what their skill set is outside of, let’s say being a great clinician, I think, like you just said like being a clinician is very different from managing a team. And sometimes you need a completely different person in there. Sometimes I’ve seen business owners find the Chief of Staff, bring on someone in operations. Someone else who is looking for that versus taking someone who is working in, let’s say, their zone of genius and elevating them to a role where they’re now exercising skills that they may not even want to develop. They may like being what I call an individual contributor, like being in the weeds doing the work, not necessarily being that people leader.

Maureen Werrbach
Exactly. And I also think that there are, you know, people who feel like, they’re just always has to be that movement, you know, because they’re successful in the role that they’re in, it feels like, it’s just the next thing you’re supposed to do is then move up. And so what do you–what is your suggestion for people who are employees that are on a team, who are doing great work, who are maybe thinking about the next opportunity, whether that’s in leadership, or just the next thing within the business, in terms of really ensuring that that is what they want to do versus it feeling like–I just remember when I grew up, like, you’re supposed to get married that, like, there’s like this whole thing you never even really, at least I didn’t think about, like, is this really what I’m wanting? Or is this just what society says to do? And so I feel like it can be very similar, in employment. If you’re doing great work, like you might think I’m just supposed to go to the next, like, move up somehow. Right? What is your feedback for employees who are feeling like they’re doing great work right now aound consciously I guess, deciding if leadership or leveling up in some sort of way is the next step for them? Or if it’s just okay for them to say like, I’m in my zone of genius, and I’m doing great work and I’m be and I’m a success for me, you know?

Kimberly Cummings
It’s really crucial that all employees really understand what do they really want? And that sounds like such a simple question, right? What do you really want, I need to do a podcast on this. I think I’ve said it a few times recently to my own clients, but I’m gonna share it here. Most time when people start to feel stuck in their careers just because they’re operating in a box. When we think of any job nine to five, just let’s just say that the hours we’re using, no matter what hours you work, you operate in a box. Now some people’s box could be this beautiful plexiglass, like decked out with Crate and Barrel furniture inside like it’s perfect. Other people’s box can look like it got delivered by USPS. And you don’t even know if your stuff isn’t still in it. Like right, it can be all beaten up. But regardless, whenever you’re working, and not necessarily as an entrepreneur, when you’re working in an open environment, you’re your role is a box, right? Like you have to operate in here. But in order to really figure out what you want to do next, it’s important to blow the lid off the box. You have to think big grandiose, what brings you joy? What do you want to learn? What do you want to experience? What do you want your day to day? reality to be like, when you’re logging into work every single day? I think you have to think for yourself, what are those things that bring you joy? What gets you excited? What do you not want to do?

I’m a big believer in strengthening your strengths, you do not have to improve upon your weaknesses unless you like to, or unless it’s keeping you away for something. So for instance, I spent almost 10 years of my career in career development counseling. And I knew I wanted to be a Director of Career Services. At one point in my career, understanding assessment was a really big piece of that. I was not going to be able to get to where I wanted to be unless I understood assessment, qualitative and quantitative. Those are the worst classes I had in grad school, or classes I had in undergrad. But I wanted to get there. So what did I do? I learned how to do assessment, because that was a barrier. And I had to overcome that hump.

Now, in my last corporate job, I was a director of Global Diversity, talent acquisition strategy at a fortune 100 company. And when we had to start getting into data analysis, I was like, I can actually hire someone to do this. Yes, does not have to be me. Instead of struggling through them, like I don’t need to strengthen that strength anymore. I don’t want to, I’m going to work on what works for me versus I don’t need to work on strengthening that weakness. It’s not something that I have to do at this time. So I think blowing that lid off your box and determining what is going to make you happy, what excites you, or what do you even like to try? I have some career coaching clients who they’re excited just to try something different. And that’s what moves them and that could be lateral. Every move does not have to be promotional.

Maureen Werrbach
I think that’s a really great point to make, because there’s this assumption that every move needs to have some up leveling to it, for it to feel like a positive thing, you know, and that’s, that’s not necessarily the case. And there’s so many instances that I’ve seen where the move is lateral because they’re now more in their zone of genius, or they’re now more in line with the type of work that really fills them up. So it’s a really great point.

Kimberly Cummings
Yes, niching down, like we talked about in business, like not being so broad, you got a niche down to get to your thing.

Maureen Werrbach
Yep. So if for group practice owners who are in this space right now, and maybe have an employee or two that they feel like would be a great fit to either be their clinical director or supervisor, that tends to be kind of the first leadership person that practice owners bring on, what are some tips that you have for them to really help coach them to really leading? Because what I see oftentimes is that we bring people into leadership, who really become almost like middle managers, like they aren’t owning the outcomes of whatever it is that they’re leading on. So they really don’t have that autonomy and control in that leadership role. And I’m assuming it comes from the space of like, this is the first person you’re bringing into leadership. So you have to actually know how to let go of some control to, yes, feedback you have on that.

Kimberly Cummings
So before even talking to the person, I think, as the leader of the practice, make sure you understand what you actually are looking for this person to do. And many times this is about also what needs to get offloaded off your plate. So what are the things that you no longer want to be responsible for? What are the systems you need to put in place so someone else can run with this? What are the templates? Document your processes, so when you’re promoting someone, or bringing someone into this role, you have things kind of ironed out a little bit more. Because that’s exactly what happens when you bring someone in and you can’t kind of let go, because there’s no process, you have to keep on touching, they have to keep asking you, oh, well, how do I do this? Like, I’m not really sure, can you help me with this real quick, then you’re just you’re not really managing, you’re kind of just giving a task, piece by piece, right? So understanding what you need, understanding what the processes are, and building that out. So you can train someone and then having discussions have a very honest conversation about what your needs are, what you’re looking for the job to entail, what that person’s strengths are, what their weaknesses are, and how can they–how would they like to function in this role? Is it in alignment with them? Right to move forward? What is also your vision if you’re owning your own practice? What is your vision? Is this going to be you’re going to be managing two or three people right now? Or are you looking for this person to manage 10 people down the line? When you start to hire and bring someone into a leadership role, they also have to buy into your vision. So being clear on your vision and your expectations is really key. So that person can make an educated decision, if they’d like to move forward.

Maureen Werrbach
I think that’s such an undervalued area of business ownership is having an actual vision it for your business, and then actually communicating it with your team. Because I feel like that’s like to a two step problem is that there’s a lot of business owners that–because creating a vision doesn’t feel like it’s –there’s no tangible physical success in that, you know? You’re not, you don’t see money come in, because you’ve done it you in a global sense, you do, yes, you’ve done it, right. But it’s not an immediate sort of results based thing. And so it can feel like, you know, especially new business owners, it feels more successful to put out like small fires that are going on in their business, because they’re like, they can see the success of that fire is now out.
So I feel like that’s problem number one, is a lot of business owners don’t even know what the vision of their business and the values of their business are, because they haven’t spent that time. And then the second issue I see is for those that do have it, it’s almost as if they feel like, that’s just their thing, because they own the business that they have to know. And not that their employees or the community that they serve knows this information too. And you really have to have the buy in of your team for that vision to actually be ever, like seen, you know?

Kimberly Cummings
You want people to be bought into your vision, bought into your core values when you talk about hiring. If you understand what your core values are, and the core values for your company that allows you to make better hiring decisions, because you can then interview and screen and identify those core values in others to help you grow. And it all depends on–no matter if you want to have a practice and you have four people or you want to practice of 25 people, it’s important to understand what that vision looks like as you’re growing and scaling for yourself too. Because you know, as business owners, you know, money is a thing right? Like making sure you can pay these bills every single month. But there’s a time when just the money isn’t enough to keep you going. Right? People have to be tied to something more than the money. Right?

Maureen Werrbach
Yeah, exactly. So let’s say, we have some listener here who feels like they’ve found that person on their team that they want to bring into a clinical director or leadership sort of role. What are some tips around successfully coaching them into leadership versus what I see happening a lot is, oh, you’re a great clinician, you know, our policies and procedures. So you can lead, you know, just not enough information for someone to actually lead successfully as them being good at the job that of the people they might be leading. And, you know, having been in the, in the practice for long enough to know all the policies and procedures, there’s so much more to leadership than that. And I think a lot of practice owners forget that. When they bring people into leadership, and then they have someone who’s leading who’s not really wasn’t given the tools to actually be successful in that.

Kimberly Cummings
There needs to be a training period. So let me put on my counseling hat and remember what happened in grad school. Like when I first started counseling students and counseling clients, you had practicum, I think that’s what also called right practicum, where someone shadowed with you. You learn these things, you weren’t just put into the fire, like, go forth and help this person out. There was someone there, you did it with your peers first. And then you did it in like group environment, you really listened to tapes, I remember transcribing and talking about every counseling skill I used with each reply. I hated it. Absolutely. But it helps when you actually had someone in front of you, you knew what to say, I think in the world of work, we just throw people into things and expect them to go because many times you’re hiring because you needed the person yesterday, not because you actually feel like you have the time to train.

So again, making sure you put those processes into place and think about what resources that person needs. I’m a big believer in education in the workplace still. So would it be beneficial for you to send them to a seminar? Would it be beneficial for them to get a coach quickly to help them? And what other mentorship, can you provide them with someone else? Don’t just throw them into this role and expect them to be successful without training, especially if you don’t have existing processes and systems and everything else outside of just how to run your business, right? Like they’ve been doing the job, they know that. But when it comes to being a leader, even if it’s a really good book, and you have discussions about it weekly, in your one on ones together, how can you kind of hold their hand through the process, in the same way they learned how to be a clinician.

Maureen Werrbach
I really liked that. And I think one of the areas where it’s an almost like a mental obstacle for group owners, because they’re making a financial investment in them to lead, they just want them to be like producing the leadership stuff. And to, to pay for time to read and learn and just talk and shadow feels like an expense for a lot of practice owners that they “might not have”, which I’m putting quotes in that because you do. It’s just a matter of how you’re looking at it. But I remember one of the first books I read and I don’t even remember the name of the book, because it was when I started my group practice 10 years ago, but it said something that always stuck with me, which is for every five minutes of a job, you should be training them for 20 minutes. Now obviously, if someone works 40 hours a week, they’re not doing those five minutes. Yes, they might be doing a lot of whatever’s in that five minutes replicating that. But it really like shined a light on me when it came to training that we historically, across all industries severely under value the time investment it takes to train someone successfully.

And so right now I just elevated someone into an executive director position. And she’s doing six months of training. She’s essentially taking pretty much most of my, what I do as a business owner and I’ll just be in visionary. But we have a six month period from October 1 through April 1, where every Wednesday for eight hours her and I sit together and she just gets into my brain. And we do we do nothing else with it. I mean, we literally just process and chat and talk through all the things that I as a business owner, think about that she is going to be taking on.

Kimberly Cummings
That’s incredible. And I think kudos to you for even dedicating that time because I rarely hear someone investing that much time to brain dump, to talk. And I think we do it for interns, right? We do it when we have interns, we spend so much time with them because we don’t want them to mess up. They have someone on their heels for the longest time. And even when you’re slightly off their heels, you’re literally like around the corner eavesdropping, just to make sure that they’re there and we hold their hand. But magically, when someone gets into the workforce, we assume like, Oh, you’ll get it figured out, school is over. Like, you’ll be, great that education is so needed. And sometimes it’s just having conversations, it’s that first time someone calls out sick without notice. And that manager doesn’t know how to have that conversation in a kind way, right? You just have to be there to do a little bit of hand holding to usher them in. And especially if it’s your company, you don’t want anyone representing your company who is tainting your experience. People leave managers, they generally don’t leave companies.

Maureen Werrbach
I don’t know, is that you that I’ve read this from? Because I remember it either it was on your Instagram. But when I read that, I was like that is so true. In many cases, it has to do with whoever is leading them. Nine times out of 10 it’s due to unhappiness in the workplace, which leadership is obviously I think part of that.

Kimberly Cummings
I can’t take credit. I don’t think, I don’t think I originally said it. I’ve said it for years. But I don’t remember who told me that.

Maureen Werrbach
I feel like I it was the–it might have been on your Instagram or whatnot. But I was like, that is such a great point. And I have to say, I know you said oh, this, you know, it’s so great that you’re training for six months, this is going to be the–I have eight people in leadership in different capacities, because my group practice is large. And this is the first time I’m doing at this level. So it took me 10 years and eight leaders to get to the point where I’m investing at that level because of learning through mistakes. And I think I have done more training than maybe others with leadership, but never to this level. And I think it’s gonna make such a big difference. And so I’m assuming that’s one of your tips around coaching is to actually provide ample amount of time to coach them into leadership versus throwing them kind of into the wolves, so to speak.

Kimberly Cummings
Time and understand what it is that they need. Yeah, what are their weak areas? Where do they need more support? Where do they need more coaching and all that comes from conversations, really asking the person and creating a safe environment where they want to come to and are comfortable coming to sharing like, I need more help here.

Maureen Werrbach
Yeah. So I know, we’re kind of running out of time here. But I know you have some things going on, course wise, and the book and all that stuff. Is there anything that would be helpful to either the group practice owners who are trying to support someone into a leadership position, or for maybe those employees who are wanting to do what they need to do to become the type of leader that their, you know, the business are the practice needs?

Kimberly Cummings
Yeah. So for the employees, my book, Next Move, Best Move: Transitioning into a Career You’ll Love is a perfect fit. I also have a group program that’s four months long, that really gives you that development, so that you can start positioning yourself as a leader, because in order to get promoted, and to get into these roles, if it is your goal to be a clinical director, it’s a different type of skill set that’s needed and starting to think about that. And I guess more of a business minded way. It’s a new tool, a new mindset, you have to start to flex. I think for the directors and leaders, I think I have some great tips and tricks on my podcast. And I’m working on writing my second book already, and that’s strictly going to be on managing up, down and across. So when that comes out, that book will definitely definitely be for you.

Maureen Werrbach
Okay, you’ll have to make sure that you send me a message on Instagram when that comes out. I’m sure I’ll see it anyways. But keep it in your back pocket to remind me to when it does come up, because I’d love to share that with my audience. I think that sounds like a much needed book for my audience.

Kimberly Cummings
It’s gonna be a little while though. Don’t get too excited. I’m still so stressed out over the first one.

Maureen Werrbach
You can write a book in like a month.

Kimberly Cummings
Oh my gosh, no, no, no, no, no, I’m still like shaking thinking about that. I’m doing this again. Like why? Why am I doing it? But it really, I think it’s gonna be more of like a 2023, early 2024 release.

Maureen Werrbach
Awesome. Well, I’m really excited for all that you’re doing and it’s all valuable stuff for my audience. So I appreciate you, you know, just being in this world giving this type of information out there. It’s so needed. And yeah, I appreciate you coming on oh, what? What’s your website so that people who want to either go to your podcast or go to your website and see that course you’re talking about were set up?

Kimberly Cummings
Perfect if you go to kimberlybcummings dot com. That’s all things about the podcast, my courses, etc. If you’re looking to bring someone into your organization to help with trainings, go to manifestyourself dot com, my leadership development company, and I am most active on LinkedIn. So Kimberly B Cummings or on Instagram, kimbcummings.

Maureen Werrbach
Awesome. Well, thank you so much for coming on. And it’s nice talking to you.

Kimberly Cummings
Yes. Thank you so much.

Thanks For Listening

Thanks for listening to the group practice exchange podcast. Like what you heard? Give us five stars on whatever platform you’re listening from. Need extra suppor? Join The Exchange, a membership community just for group practice owners with monthly office hours, live webinars, and a library of trainings ready for you to dive into visit www dot members dot the group practice exchange dot com forward slash exchange. See you next week.


Here are the resources and guides we recommend based on this episode

Recruiting & Hiring Your Ideal Therapist

Whether you’re a seasoned or a new group practice owner, one thing we all have in common is the overwhelming, sometimes painful process of recruiting, interviewing and hiring of therapists.

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We use clack to communicate within the office. It is almost like Facebook, in that you can search through old threads, which makes it easier than sending the same emails over and over. We have threads like general, clinical, administrative, and referrals to help us communicate without emails.

G Suite Business is a great HIPAA compliant tool that allows for sending HIPAA compliant emails interoffice (add on service for sending HIPAA compliant emails to clients), HIPAA compliant use of google drive, docs, forms, sheets, slides, and more. You can share documents between clinicians in an organized way too. G Suite Business also has HIPAA compliant video through Google Meet, that comes with the Business package.

Email us to get a promo code for 10% off your first year of Google Workspace.

* I am an affiliate for some of the businesses I recommend. These are companies that I use in my own group practice, and make recommendations based off of my experience with them. When you use some of these companies through my links, I receive compensation, which helps me continue to offer great free information on my podcast, blog, Facebook group, and website.

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Meet your host


Maureen Werrbach is a psychotherapist, group practice owner and group practice coach. Learn more about her coaching services here:


The show

The podcast is structured so that you get practice building tips in small doses, where an episode can be listened to (and a group practice building lesson can be learned) in a single car ride.

Episodes are structured into categories: coaching sessions where I coach a group practice owner on a specific topic, tips of the day by yours truly, real talk where you get to be a fly on the wall while an established group practice owner and I talk about the highs and lows of ownership, and trainings done by experts in the field.

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