Leveraging Your Strengths as a Physician with Beth Chesterton

by Coach Jill Farmer | Leadership, Physician Coaching, Physician Wellness, Podcast

Learn about leveraging your strengths as a physician with the developer of The Ignite Method™ Beth Chesterton.


“Let’s say that you have an ability when you walk in a room, and you could be dealing with a patient, to make them feel safe. Well, that matters.” -Beth Chesterton

In today’s episode, Master Certified Coach Jill Farmer talks with the developer of The Ignite Method™, Beth Chesterton. Beth is a consultant, seasoned facilitator, coach and creator of success stories. This conversation is all about discovering our strengths, naming them, owning them and understanding why they matter. Tune in to find out how investing time in understanding your strengths can be transformational.  

Beth Chesterton, Developer of The Ignite Method™, consultant, seasoned facilitator, coach and creator of success stories.

Beth spent her career creating cultures that inspire people to be their best. She has crafted transformational programs for Fortune 500 Giants such as Citi, MasterCard and Equifax and developed programs for the revolutionary Asset-Based Thinking™ at The Cramer Institute and taught other coaches how to integrate these principles into their own practices. Beth has worked with thousands of individuals ranging from corporate leaders to Emmy award winners, Shark Tank winners, globally recognized social entrepreneurs, C-suite executives and White House staffers.

The Ignite Method™ is forged from the culmination of decades of experience. It is built from the revelation that transformation isn’t something that only happens out on the horizon. With the right spark, transformation is available right here, right now.

Find out more about Beth and The Ignite Method™ at

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Podcast produced by: Amanda Taran

Please enjoy the full transcript below

Beth: Let’s say that you have an ability when you walk in a room, and you could be dealing with a patient, to make them feel safe. Well, that matters.


[DocWorking theme]


Jill: Hi, everyone. We are so glad you’ve joined us today for DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. I’m Jill Farmer, one of the cohosts of the podcast and lead coach at DocWorking. I’m really excited today to be joined by Beth Chesterton. Beth is the Developer of The Ignite Method. She’s a consultant, a seasoned facilitator, a coach, and she has spent her career creating cultures that inspire people to be at their best. She has crafted transformational programs for Fortune 500 giants like Citi, MasterCard, created programs for the revolutionary Asset-Based Thinking at The Cramer Institute, and in addition to that, she’s worked with thousands of individuals on helping them be at their very best. 


The Ignite Method is something that Beth developed, which is a culmination of decades of experience built from the revelation that transformation isn’t something that only happens out on the horizon. It’s with the spark, transformation can happen right here, right now. I think one of those key elements, if you will, to sparking that transformation Beth, is helping us understand how to better use our strengths and leverage the strengths that we have. So, thank you so much for being here. I’m really excited for us to have this conversation.


Beth: Thank you for having me. Glad to be here.


Jill: Give us a little bit of your origin story if you will. When the light bulb went off for you that understanding your strengths was going to be something that would help you be successful and find work and meaning in your life and your work. 


Beth: Well, I was lucky enough early in my career to connect with Dr. Kathy Kramer, who is a pioneer in the field of positive psychology, who developed something called Asset-Based Thinking. Asset-Based Thinking is about noticing in real time what’s strong, what’s working, and what’s possible within yourself, others in situations. So, I worked on a team that developed that. What became real, was noticing that even years and decades into this work of working with thousands of people helping them see what was strongest within themselves, what they had to work with, was noticing that sometimes it’s still so hard to see in yourself. So, that started the next generation of the work.


Jill: So, a lot of times when I’m working with physicians and I’ll ask them to talk about strengths, first of all, I’ve noticed, it makes everybody feel really uncomfortable. There’s some form of cultural conditioning that a lot of folks have around not wanting to brag, or boast, or be arrogant. The other thing is I noticed that there tends to be a hyper emphasis on skills and not so much emphasis on things that are what I would describe as a little more innate. So, is it common to see people who have a hard time seeing their own strengths, first of all? And secondly, let’s talk a little bit if there is a difference between skills and strengths.


Beth: I think that’s such a great point. When you think about your audience of such highly skilled people who have natural strengths in this area of medicine, but also have hard-earned skills, I would imagine many people who are listening are really good and have great insight about their skills, and their technical skills, and their knowledge. What I find and that we find is that, it’s much harder to see how you make people feel or what it is you do that comes so naturally, you don’t know it matters. Because we don’t spend time in the space of discussing it, we never get to know what it is that we do when we walk in the room that changes people.


Jill: I love that. I’ve heard you talk before about those hard-earned skills versus free strength. The things that come to use your terminology, which I’ve quoted you on this podcast before can come as naturally as breathing, we tend to dismiss those, don’t we?


Beth: We do. And even when people tell us, we think they are compliments. And you will see very bright, talented people at the top of their career. Push it off. No, no, no, you know, they might say thanks, but change the subject back to you. When in fact, if we can spend time like at DocWorking, you have great coaching, with a coach and somebody who’s observing us and experiencing us real time and who can reflect back what it is that we are experiencing, and you make the person sit with that, listen to it, analyze it as though it matters, it can really transform impact.


Jill: Yeah. Why do you think it is hard for us to name our strengths? You and I considered it an extreme privilege to be able to co-lead some leadership conversations with women in business and when you lead folks through the exercise, it is so interesting to see– as you said even topnotch– people at the top of their game when it comes to career squirm when you ask them to name their strengths. Why do you think that is? 


Beth: Well, I do think you mentioned it earlier, it feels like bragging. It was naughty. And we do know people who can be you know, now we use the word ‘Nurse Assistant,’ where they’re just talking about their strengths. Well, let’s put those people aside, the rare person who is bragging endlessly. And let’s just talk about most of the population that we’re interacting with, it’s like our skin crawls. Even if you’re coaching, I know you coach a lot, Jill. You notice, people can’t take it when you say, “Let’s talk about it.” 


Dr. Kathy Kramer was so great. She was a wonderful speaker. She’d speak in front of tens of thousands of people. And afterwards, I would do what so many people do and I’d say, “That was great.” And she would stop me and say, “What was great about it?” And now, I had to think. I know she wasn’t doing that because she wanted to feel complimented. She was actually training the people around her to be able to notice what was working specifically, what was it? I think she herself also wanted to hear, what was it specifically that I did that made an impact?


Jill: So, do you think that plays into it? I am always describing myself as a recovering people pleaser. Do you think if somebody like me is likely to give compliments and to say positive things about other people, but that makes it harder for them to really identify what their actual strengths are or do you think that’s still an important part of the conversations as long as we’re being really genuine and really clear on how it is that we are sharing positive things with each other?


Beth: Okay. So much there. First of all, when we are gushers like, if I have a tendency to gush, there are people and especially, in your audience, they won’t believe it. They just might think you’re blowing smoke. So, that’s why we have to really emphasize like on a podcast like this, and in the work you’re doing that this actually matters, and then get people who are trusted such as you, Jill, and sit with people such as your physicians and say, “No, no, no. We’re going to really talk about this. We’re not just going to push it off. We’re going to spend some time here. We’re going to marinate in it.” 


In fact, I want you to notice, what it is you’re doing well and we’re going to talk about it. One really great thing to do is to start thinking about the compliment you received from a mentor who you trust, and start to then bring that to your coach or your thinking partner, and simmer in it for a little while, and wonder about it.


Jill: So, let’s just walk people through an exercise of doing that. Tell me how you would facilitate this if we were just trying to get somebody to really think about this and not just be like, “Oh, yeah. I think my mentor said this one thing.” But how would we actually harvest the meaning from things that people we really know like and trust have said about us in a way that helps us to embody those strengths? 


Beth: Okay. So, we’d start with something so simple. Listing your top five strengths and how they help you in your work and in your life. Now, what’s funny is, for people who actually do this exercise notice, when was it easy, how many could you list easily, and where do you start to struggle? Our research shows that some of the highest level most successful people struggle about two and a half. They can do two and a half.


Jill: Yep. That’s been my experience when I’ve done it with you, unlike the first two, I can say those, but then it gets a little trickier.


Beth: Then, if you want to take it a little bit further, start thinking of examples. So, if you have feedback, and I will tell you, this is the craziest part, that I received one piece of feedback, I would say 150 times. I disregarded it 150 times. So, I’m not sure that we can always trust ourselves when it comes to seeing our strengths. So, we really have to dig a little bit deeper. What’s the one, let’s say, compliment or piece of feedback you’ve heard over and over that you didn’t regard as important? 


Sometimes, when you think of, like I think of your audience, when I say, “How you make someone feel?” Well, let’s say that you have an ability when you walk in a room and you could be dealing with a patient to make them feel safe. Well, that matters. But what if you also have that ability on your team to make people feel valued just by your presence? Now, there are some things you can do to actually up that. If it doesn’t come naturally, and also, you’re dealing with people under immense amounts of pressure, so there are some very simple things you can do when you want to cascade this down to the people around you.


Jill: I love that. Give us an example if you would of something– that somebody gave you as feedback or even complimented you 150 times, but you didn’t take it seriously for yourself. What would be a specific example of that?


Beth: An example. For instance, in my case, it said that they liked the energy I brought to something. Well, I thought, “Who cares? That’s free. Who cares about my energy?” I wanted to know what they learned from the content I was sharing. Was it good enough? And I was really eager to find out what didn’t work, what was the criticism. Not realizing that the very thing that came for free actually mattered.


Jill: Yeah, I love that. When I did this exercise with you several years ago, one of the things that came up for me that I hear from people a lot is, “Oh, you take information and then, the way that you repeated it and reflected back, it clarifies it.” I was like, “Well, that’s just listening and then talking.” And I really had that experience of wanting to minimize it, but after I owned it and let it as you said, marinate in it, let it kind of soak into my pores a bit, I recognized, “Oh, yeah, that doesn’t have to be like the only strength, or a superpower, or whatever.” But it certainly is something that I can use to communicate meaningfully into trust in myself. When I didn’t identify it, it wasn’t something I knew to trust in myself. What do you think about that?


Beth: I really love that because we talked about the idea that, what’s the point? So, when you think of a great surgeon, the point I’m certain in surgery isn’t thinking through, “Oh, gosh, I don’t know what I don’t know.” It would be having all of your strengths fully engaged, so that you can be 100% present to what’s happening real time. So, that’s life and death. But it’s also what we can bring to, let’s say, when you’re describing your strength and ability to listen in an interactive way that actually advances my understanding. When I’m speaking to you and the way you listen, it helps take our entire conversation forward. 


Well, when you know that you have that, it can help you just be more fully present to do what you do to do more of it. Especially, when you get into areas where people lack confidence or have doubt in themselves. I don’t know if anybody in your audience doubts themselves in any area. But if you have doubts and you learn to fully understand the strengths that you have, it can make you become more present to what it is you’re doing. So, the doubt isn’t in your brain. There’s no noise in your head. I have a great story about that. 


Jill: Yeah, I want to hear it.


Beth: Another thing is, when you create safe spaces where you can have these conversations, people feel permission to have them. So, we were in a group having this kind of a conversation and the woman stood up in front of the group. She was magnificent. Everything she said, we were on the edges of our seats. She was fully present. I commented on it. A week later, she came back, she spoke in front of the group, and she really wasn’t as impactful. I found myself almost bored listening to her. I asked her, “What was she thinking about?” She said, “I was really thinking about what I was wearing and wishing that I hadn’t worn this. I was feeling self-conscious about my body and my weight.”


So, what we had was one week prior when she was fully present, she was dynamic and compelling. When she changed clothes, felt self-conscious about her outfit, she came in, she’s thinking about it, she fell flat. Our strengths are left at the doorway when we’re in our head with noise in our head thinking about what we’re not doing.


Jill: Wow. That’s really meaningful. Okay, so, we identify the five strengths. Notice that it might get sticky or hard after a couple. As we identified those strengths marinated in them as you said, how do we bridge the naming them into weaving or integrating them into our life so that we embody more of those strengths, and make less room for those doubts, and the swirling worries, and things that take up space in our head?


Beth: Okay. First of all, we need to protect, nurture, and grow them. It’s not enough to just know. So, if for instance, one of the ways that you impact, let’s say, the team that you’re leading is by the presence that you have in the way that you see the people of the team and acknowledge who they are as people, let’s just say. But when you’re tired, you’re terrible at it. So, part of protecting, nurturing, and growing is taking care of ourselves and getting rest. Meditating, protecting, nurturing, and growing is the part that I think most of us forget about because we don’t have time, especially, in your audience, so we can begin to name it, and then we say, so what does it look like in action? 


Now, here’s something a coach can do or a thinking partner. When you notice, let’s say, I like the way, Jill, that when you listen to me, you do this, this and this. Well, at first, somebody is going to say, “Oh, thanks and disregard it.” But if you help them see how it contrasts to the other ways that most people listen. Really talented people might listen by nodding, and starting to speak, and stepping on your words, then you start to just compare and contrast this strength against the way that other people show up in the world, which isn’t bad. It’s just not the same. So, you help people see their unique strength. 


Jill: Give me an actual example of that. 


Beth: An actual example of a unique strength is, give me one right now, Jill. Throw a strength at me.


Jill: Yeah, specifically, I want to know what you mean by that compare and contrast. So, a strength is speaking comfortably either to individuals or in front of a group of people.


Beth: So, let’s try to understand. So, really, when we get into this work, we tease at the parts. We have this woman who you and I worked with who is great at interviewing people on a panel. One of the things she’s doing when she’s interviewing people on a panel is, she is noticing when the conversation is slowing down and transitioning it to another member of the panel in a way that doesn’t make the audience feel awkward. A lot of times what people will do when they’re facilitating is, they’ll listen to what somebody says and then they’ll say, “Oh, I have that, too,” and they start making it about themselves. She’ll never do that. There’s something else that’s happening in an audience is that, one person on a panel isn’t speaking enough, we start to feel bad for them. If somebody’s really good at facilitating this person you and I are talking about, she’ll notice and hand it over to them. 


If you’ve noticed, we’ve just broken down the idea of speaking into five subparts. Well, there are really like maybe 255 subparts to speaking. Okay, so, we help that person understand the very granular contributions they’re making. If someone is good at selling, break down what it is that you did when you influenced me to do something. And so, there’s just these granular elements that we need to help people see in themselves. When they see that, then we need to ask them, “When could they do that more often?”


Jill: Yeah, exactly. How do we make more space for that? Some people will say, “Well, you know, I feel like if I’m just focusing on my strengths, I’m not going to improve and I really find that I need to be focusing a lot more on my weaknesses.” And what I see is this sort of story behind the story is, their pattern is to be really strong self-critics, and so, it feels more comfortable in a lot of ways to beat themselves up then it does to look for strengths. What do you notice?


Beth: So, in the words of Dr. Kathryn Kramer, you already get an A at noticing where you’re falling short. You already get an A at all of the hard work, critiquing, etc., of your strengths. Now, we have an area where you probably haven’t even thought it was important. We can also look at it as muscle strength. You have great muscle strength in critiquing yourself, we need to develop some muscle strength in noticing when we’re making a contribution, what is it exactly that we’re doing, and why does it matter?


Jill: Excellent. Finally, let’s talk about this specifically for leaders. We have a lot of physicians who either are physician leaders or want to step into physician leadership at some point. So, it’s a conversation we have a lot on the podcast as well as in our Thrive subscription program for physicians about how to awaken and enable the leader within all of us. As a leader, how do I help my team better identify and embody their strengths to help them thrive?


Beth: This really works well with your audience because teams really do work so closely together. That is, as a leader, to take a moment to notice what someone else is doing that they don’t see in themselves. It’s hard to do. We get really good at saying, “Good job, good job,” and we’re moving on to the other 7000 crises that are happening in a given day and if we can just pause. I learned this from Aubrey Daniels, he was a guru in the World of Motivation, and one of the most motivational questions you can ask somebody is, “How did you do that?” So, when a team has just done something that worked, to actually pause and say to somebody on the team, “You know, that was a really great idea you had under an immense amount of pressure? How did you do that?” 


Now, you might already have a lot of guesses as to how they did it. So, it might sound like a stupid question. But what you’re actually doing is slowing down to speed up. We’re going to take a moment to have that person reflect on how they did that, and it helps them deconstruct what’s happening unconsciously for them, and then you can name. That’s really interesting, I don’t know that everybody would have thought of that. When you actually brought that way of thinking, thinking outside of the box under a lot of pressure, it helped the team do better or when you were actually able to remain calm when everybody else was freaking out, you helped settle us down. You slowed our pace down so we could bring our best thinking. Whatever it is, if you can say, “How did you do that?” 


Now, when in doubt, if you ever want to be so specific, you can say, “Everybody, let’s take out some paper and list our top five strengths.” You don’t have to deal with all five in one moment, but you can start to know your team. What are every person’s top strengths? And really what we’re talking about Jill, in this work is, how can you make something that’s unconscious more known to the person? Trust me, that translates into psychic income, that translates into people feeling very committed, and to bring in more of that to the job.


Jill: Yeah, that’s fantastic. Beth Chesterton, the founder of The Ignite Method, you have given us so many wonderful things to think about. I want to invite you to go check out The Ignite Method at for more information on how Beth can help you unleash your genius. Any final thoughts for us today? Beth, thank you so much again, for just giving us so many great ideas and inspiring us to look inside toward our strengths.


Beth: No, I just love what you’re doing. I would encourage people and I’m sure people are doing it to listen to the podcasts and to spend more time with DocWorking. I mean, the ‘Jeanet Wade Podcast’ was fantastic. Each podcast has so much to offer and I really am thrilled to be a small part of it. Thanks for having me today.


Jill: It was great to have you, and as Beth said, we’re so glad you’re here listening and learning, tell your friends about it, continue to give us these very important five-star ratings on wherever you’re listening to it. That’s one of the ways that we’re able to continue to bring these ideas to you. Until next time, I’m Jill Farmer for DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast.


[DocWorking theme]


Jen: Who is your favorite mentor along the line? Was it your softball coach when you’re a kid or maybe your favorite professor in medical school? Because now that you have so much responsibility for so many different people, you need this mentoring now more than you ever have. So, what if there was an online community of mentors, coaches, and likeminded physicians? Then, you’d be able to share and be supported in any problems that you have in any area of your life, so that you could go on to enjoy this beautiful life that you’ve made for yourself.


Amanda: I’m Amanda Taran, producer of DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. Thank you for being here. Please check us out at and please don’t forget to like and subscribe. Thank you for listening.


Jill Farmer is an experienced physician coach who has been helping doctors live their best lives, increase their success, and move through burnout for well over a decade.

She has delivered keynotes, programs, and training everywhere from Harvard Medical School to the American College of Cardiology.

She has personally coached hundreds of physicians, surgeons, and other busy professionals to help them be at their best—without burning themselves out. Her coaching has supported professionals at places like Mass General Brigham in Boston, Washington University in St. Louis, Northwestern University in Chicago and too many others to list.

Jill wrote the book on time management for busy people. Literally. It’s called “There’s Not Enough Time…and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves” which debuted as a bestseller on Amazon. Her work has been featured everywhere from Inc. to Fitness Magazine to The Washington Post.

Nationally recognized as a “brilliant time optimizer and life maximizer,” Jill will cut straight to the heart of your stress to liberate you from its shackles. She has two young adult daughters. She lives with her husband and their poorly behaved dachshund in St. Louis, MO.

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