Having an impact — Success is more what you achieve on the inside, not the outside: Dr. Margaret McKenzie

Dr.-Margaret-McKenzie-300Dr. Margaret McKenzie is one of the panelists of Smart Women 2016.

When she was younger, Dr. Margaret McKenzie used to view success as something to be achieved by attaining material things.

“But as you evolve over time, you realize it’s more about living your life’s purpose, becoming resilient and joyful as you do it and at the same time, really trying to be impactful and empower other people to move the needle,” she says.

Now in her second year of a five-year term as section head of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Cleveland Clinic, McKenzie has witnessed the Clinic’s successful growth in her 21 years there. But she has also recognized that success is less of what you achieve on the outside and more on the inside.

“Empowering and serving others is a big part of who I am,” she says. “It is what I do when I am not even noticing myself. I enjoy helping other people succeed.”

McKenzie says when she was in her 30s, she began to realize that the things she thought would make her successful didn’t really make her feel that way.

“As I grow older, if I have impacted how students took care of patients, or influenced the kind of physician or leader that somebody became, that is where success lives for me now,” she says.

McKenzie, who is also assistant professor of surgery at Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of

Medicine of Case Western Reserve University, says at the risk of sounding trite, success is fulfillment and contentment, living your passion and giving back. An attitude of altruism is one of McKenzie’s core values.

“If you’re not living your passion and you’re not giving back, you are missing the boat on what being successful is all about,” she says.

“Much of the definition of success has to do with making an impact wherever you show up. If you have a team at your work, how are you impacting the lives of those people?” she says. “How are you leading your team to impact your organization, and when you live your everyday life in the community, do you impact others? Are you empowering others?”

In the process of empowering other people, McKenzie says complacency is one of the major challenges she faces, along with getting people to be introspective.

“Sometimes people sort of get into the rut of everyday living and they forget who they are,” she says.

“When you are trying to empower people, you’re really trying to tap into their strengths that don’t show up every day in their work. You know the strengths are there, but you don’t see them because they are being bogged down by the everyday routine of living.”

For instance, McKenzie was working with a physician leader, who found herself in a group where she felt even though she was highly competent, she felt stifled, not being given opportunities and that her voice was being quieted.

“I have been able to help her to reflect deeply on her skill set as opposed to focusing on how she was being disempowered — and to sort of say, ‘I have all of this potential. What can I do that will move the needle of this team as opposed to me focusing on what they are doing to me?’” McKenzie says.

“She’s clearly on a path of reinvention in many ways now.”

How to reach: Obstetrics and Gynecology, Cleveland Clinic, (800) 223-2273 or my.clevelandclinic.org/services/ob-gyn-womens-health