For a staff level position a hiring mistake is costly but never fatal. When you start rolling the dice for the C-Suite — the Chief Executive, the Chief Financial or Chief Nursing Officer — making an employment mistake can be painfully costly, even devastating.
Hiring mistakes are common because the art of recruiting is not an exact science, everyone’s psychological profiles and computer algorithms notwithstanding. It is hard work that requires extensive due diligence, in-depth research and comprehensive chronological and behavioral interviewing, most especially at the executive level. Organizations that shortcut the process because they either do not know how to do it, or they do not think all of those steps are important. I have witnessed that the less research you do, the greater the risk of hiring not only the wrong candidate, but a leader who will do real harm.
Then there are hiring decisions — or near misses — that are made for decisions that defy common sense. When discussing these types of scenarios, one is reminded that common sense is a classic oxymoron in that it is not very common any more.
Consider these examples of governance gone astray. These illustrations are based on my many years of working as a health consultant and executive recruiter. In a couple of instances I have omitted some facts to protect the horrified innocent bystanders.
A Near Miss — A North Texas hospital board in search of a new CEO identified a local businessman, the manager of a small grocery store in town, as a stellar candidate for the job. The rationale: he runs his own business. Heck, how hard can running a hospital be? Besides we can get him cheap.
Calmer heads finally prevailed and the ultimate successor CEO, a solid operator with excellent experience, led the organization for eight years and positioned them for constructing a replacement hospital.
A Candidate’s Fashion Statement — A regional hospice considered hiring a fairly inexperience candidate to be their CEO because she wore an Armani dress to the interview and her shoes were great. This faction of the board was serious, or at least that is what the majority of horrified directors thought. They opted for a more experienced executive with prior CEO experience in a hospice, and the organization recovered and thrived. He remains in the position today and has built an important legacy of respect and service to those with fatal diseases
Hometown Qualifications Do Not Win Out — Some towns are predisposed to make illogical decisions based on geography. To wit: place of residence regardless of academic preparation or relevant experience. A 500-bed medical center with a 500-bed nursing home was searching for a new CEO. It was a critical time for the organization. Hiring the wrong person would probably prove fatal. A group of search committee members were robustly touting a practice executive from a small five-doctor surgical group. He had no acute care hospital experience.
When told by their consultant that he did not even begin to meet the barest of qualifications for this difficult position, his supporters huffed and puffed and loudly protested: “But he’s local” as if that would somehow automatically overcome his glaring deficits.
Fourth Time Is Not The Charm — A former staff nurse whose career included positions as a nursing tech, RN staff nurse, manager of medical surgical nursing, chief nursing officer and three terminations for performance or insubordination, all at the same hospital, was named CEO when the incumbent was fired by the board for trying to get his medical staff to follow Medicare Conditions of Participation. At the time of her appointment, she was serving on the board, an elected position.
This southern hospital now sits empty, overgrown by vines. Guess who the CEO was when it closed?
If you are looking for some important management insight or celestial point of wisdom, forget it. There is no rhyme or reason for some hires, or near misses.
© 2017 John Gregory Self