Working With Penny

I found coaching from Penny to be invaluable at the time and still useful several years later. Understanding the power of being relationship-centered, methods to create meaningful and productive relationships and her facilitation of my personal self-reflection immensely improved my core competencies as a leader within increasingly complex and complicated health systems.
Specifically I benefited from approximately 8 years of personal coaching as well as her direct engagement of leaders on our team in regards to laying the foundation for a high performing team charged with starting a new hospital with new medical staff. The hospital and medical staff, while part of a larger academic system, developed its own sense of character and reinforcing rituals and symbols all supported by Penny’s coaching. As CEO of this community of caregivers I believe we consistently met or exceeded all financial and quality targets because of our ability to create our own path through the use of relationship centered leadership practices.
Today, I serve as CEO of a different organization. Leading a larger and fully integrated health system I find myself frequently drawing upon the coaching I received from Penny several years ago. I can attest to the lasting, positive impact of learning from Penny.

Al W. Gatmaitan, FACHE, CEO
IU Health Arnett, Lafayette IN;
Sr. VP, IU Health

My work with Penny Williamson over the last nine years in courses and at work retreats has created for me a more authentic approach to work and personal life. The power of being mindful of my actions and being respectful and a careful listener has produced incredible results for me and my organization. Developing a culture of relationship-centered management has permeated how our staff works together and how we relate to other people in diverse organizations.  This training – developing respectful and trusting relationships has been a major factor in the success of the Choosing Wisely Campaign® -- we all owe Penny Williamson a deep sense of gratitude and appreciation, 

Daniel B. Wolfson
Executive Vice President & COO
ABIM Foundation

I participated in The Courage to Lead during a critical phase of my professional life. Penny helped shepherd me through this time, allowing me to grow into the leader I needed and wanted to be. She has a masterful ability to create a safe environment that is a prerequisite for individuals working to make changes in their personal and professional lives. She does this with a combination of playfulness and a serious commitment to the principles underlying her work, a deep appreciation and understanding of the participants, and a joyful sense of humor. I am profoundly grateful to Penny for this life-changing experience.

Elizabeth L. Shapiro, Ph.D.
Clinical Director, Boston Institute for Psychotherapy
Department of Psychiatry, Cambridge Health Alliance

Working with Penny has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my professional career. Penny helped me discover ‘who’ I was as a leader and that ‘how’ I participated in the work was as important as ‘what’ I did as a leader. Penny introduced me to a community of people and a body of work that showed me how individuals can lead with integrity and be in positive relation to each other to create effective organizations that honor the human spirit. My only regret is that I did not discover Penny sooner in my career!

Darcy H. Shaw DVM, MVSc, MBA
Associate Dean, Professional Services
Atlantic Veterinary College
University of Prince Edward Island, Canada

Penny Williamson was one of two longitudinal consultants in the Relationship Centered Care Initiative (RCCI), our culture change project that took place at the Indiana University School of Medicine from 2003-2008.  This initiative was designed to focus on changing our culture from one that was based on hierarchy and bureaucracy to one that takes advantage of the positive core of every institution.  Penny brought to us two methods, Appreciative Inquiry (AI) and emergent design that allowed us to tap into the nascent energy of our faculty, students and staff to want to be connected and in community, and to strive for a future school based on who we are when we’re at our best. We went from 13 faculty who were involved in the initiative to over 700 in the first 18 months of the project.  This is no mean feat and the amazing stories and change that began to emerge were due in no small measure to Penny’s leadership and stewardship of the AI process.  Many lives were transformed by the RCCI, some in small ways; others profoundly.  For me, the transformation was in seeing an institution that I care about deeply, open itself to the power of positive thought and action and deep trust that the process would work. The IU School of Medicine and I as a faculty member are different today because of Penny’s work to give us the courage to change and grow.

Richard M. Frankel Ph.D.
Professor of Medicine and Geriatrics
Indiana University School of Medicine

I met Penny Williamson in her capacity as co-leader of the Courage to Lead Program. I was immediately struck by her warmth, openness and her ability to create a welcoming, safe space in which to work. This program was a revelation to me. It is a rare experience to be encouraged to be honest and authentic in one’s interactions and to be shown that these skills can be taught. Penny is a gifted teacher. She lives what she teaches and therefore models the behavior, but she also possesses the capacity to clearly explain and develop the concepts that underlie the work of personal change. I left the program with greater openness of heart and clarity of mind.

Carol Leicher Hatch
Retired physician
University of Connecticut School of Medicine

Penny draws on a life of committed learning and self-development in her work as a coach, facilitator, group leader and organizational catalyst. Penny brings Wisdom into circles of participants, organizations, and one-to-one coaching where Trust and Courage are guiding values in creating safe spaces. In these spaces, exploration is undertaken of the symbolism of the seasons of our lives; of paradox; of darkness and light; and of the questions brought by each which are given to the circle “to hold…(like) songbird eggs that can still hatch…; butterflies opening and closing themselves in cupped palms.” * I have personally witnessed the gentle power of growth and transformation this process offers. Utilizing many approaches including poetry, journaling, music, movement, imagery, exploration of nature and shared dialogue in small and larger circles that are such an integral part of Penny’s work, Soul is gently invited to quietly reveal itself and, in so doing, heal divided lives of individuals and organizations.

Philip Panzarella, M.D. Chair,
Department of Medicine, Franklin Square Hospital
Baltimore, Maryland
*Denise Levertov Sands of the Well

Penny Williamson is as effective in large groups addressing organizational change as she is in small groups exploring personal change; she knows that the  greater impact comes from within each of us. Penny is at her best in a circle of leaders in which, by opening herself to respect and trust the wisdom in the circle, she opens the hearts and minds of everyone else in the circle to see the true purpose of their journey as leaders.  She calls this being “open-hearted” and I have found it to be a deep, rich source of creativity and relationship-building that has changed the way that I work with others.
Diane Magrane, MD 
Director, Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM)
Drexel University
Philadelphia, PA 

Penny was a facilitator of my first yearlong 'emersion' leadership program experience (LOH). As part of my peer coaching group, Penny awakened me to the true power of being a quiet, listening, and questioning leader, as opposed to being a leader who is quick to solve other people's problems. Gaining a deep appreciation for open and honest questions and appreciative listening has allowed me to become a more effective leader at the AAMC, as well as a more supportive friend and family member.

Outside of such small group experiences, I was privileged to co-facilitate with Penny an Appreciative Inquiry session at a recent AAMC Annual Meeting, introducing AI to a diverse audience within the academic medicine community. Few, if any, of our academic medicine challenges are easy, and AI is an effective approach to identifying creative solutions to complex problems. Penny provided a gift to our community in agreeing to participate in this important session."

Jennifer M. Schlener
Chief of Staff
Association of American Medical Colleges
Washington, DC

There are few people in this world who are as clear about one's purpose in life than Penny.  Beyond her personal clarity of purpose and resultant joyfulness, Penny has a true gift of helping others get re-centered and in touch with their own personal strengths, re-energized by their hopes and dreams, and able to find their own inner peace and tranquility.  This is a much needed gift in our current chaotic world full of tumultuous events that challenge one's serenity. 

It is a true pleasure to have partnered with Penny in bringing this "formation" work into our health professions environment and to experience the positive impact on our academic culture.

Debra Litzelman, MD, Professor of Medicine
Associate Dean for Research in Medical Education
Indiana University School of Medicine

Transformational and inspirational best describes my Relationship Centered leadership work with Penny.  Becoming self aware of my gifts and challenges has allowed me to develop courage to lead in an authentic way.  In addition to being self-aligned with my true north, I have been able to better appreciate diverse opinions and approaches of others.  Developing relational skills has inspired me to find the best in others and build relationships on strengths of each other.  Mentoring colleagues to use relationship centered leadership skills and observing positive outcomes where previously there were barriers to move forward has been rewarding.  My ability to effectively lead has been tremendously enhanced through this work. I will be forever grateful for the guidance and coaching Penny has provided me over the years.

William Maples, MD
Sr VP Quality and Safety
Mission Health Systems
Asheville, NC

Penny has extensive knowledge and experience in health care and in the social sciences.  To that, she brings a deep understanding of the nature of human relationships.  Through my work with Penny, I have come to a clearer awareness of my place in medicine.  I feel a much greater sense of confidence and satisfaction in my role as a leader.  Most importantly, I have learned how best to use my skills in service of the patients, residents, faculty and staff with whom I work.
Richard Shugerman, MD
Professor of Pediatrics
Pediatric Residency Director
University of Washington School of Medicine
Seattle, WA

Finding, connecting and learning with colleagues who share similar core values is so precious. The Courage to Lead experience has filled, and continues to fill, a special spot in my personal and professional growth. When queried about why this is, by colleagues and friends, the response that feels right is "Soul for the role"

Philip A. Marsden, MD, Professor of Medicine
Vice-Chair, Department of Medicine, University of Toronto

Working with Penny Williamson changed my understanding of the importance of community and the importance of myself, both in community and alone.  This understanding resulted in greater confidence that gave me more satisfaction and modified my leadership style.

Lynn O. Langdon, COO
American Board of Internal Medicine
Philadelphia, PA