• How do I hunker down?
  • How do I get through this? 
  • When will things get back to normal?

For healthcare executives who are approaching the end of their careers and find themselves asking these three questions with greater frequency, I have some bad news.  It is not going to get any better.  The reimbursement and regulatory environment is only going to be more challenging.   

Tough Decisions

The transformative changes in healthcare are part of the “new normal,” according to Seth Godin, who writes about the marketing of ideas in the digital age.

The challenges executives are facing today, are the ones they will face for the foreseeable future with the exception that they will probably get worse. 

Healthcare executives really have only two choices:  change or perish.

While these challenges afford leaders with unmatched opportunities, they are an impossible barrier for those who are stuck “in the way its always been.”  If you have heard yourself think these questions or, God forbid, actually said them out loud, now is the time to begin planning for an orderly career transition.  Do not try to hang on because you have reached some false calculus that the troubling predictions of what it will be like to run a hospital over the next five to seven years are greatly exaggerated.  They are not.

The damage that you can do to your organization by trying to hang on to the job will not endear you to your board, your medical staff or the community you have long and faithfully served. 

Consider this – a two-year rule.  In 19 years of leading executive search assignments in seven countries across four continents and observing hundreds of hospital leadership transitions, I have found that there is a two-year rule for career management.  The CEOs who went loudly and badly into the good night of retirement, usually stayed two years too long in the position.  If they had left two years earlier, they could have gone out on top, a hero, a respected business leader who did a good job instead of the recipient of whispered, unflattering comments of what a bad job he/she did.

Stepping down as a hospital CEO is not the end of the world, especially for those with a distinguished career.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel and it does not have be the proverbial oncoming train of boredom or irrelevance. 

There are second career opportunities – structured and entrepreneurial – that can produce enormous satisfaction and deliver value.