As hospital executives gather this week in Chicago for the annual Congress of the American College of Healthcare Executives, perhaps this is a good day to revisit a subject I have written about before in this space: increasing numbers of hospital CEOs are in trouble, professionally speaking.
While CEO turnover has declined slightly to 18 percent from a high of 20 percent in 2013, you can rest assured this trend will not continue.
Two years ago I predicted that by 2018 the annual CEO turnover rate would top 25 percent. To add a little context, the turnover rate in 2013 was the highest in 15 years.
Across America, hospital CEOs are facing rapid intensifying financial pressures, market disruptions in traditional relationships with other providers (especially physicians), a greater emphasis on quality of care and patient satisfaction, and the arrival of value based reimbursement and accountable care strategies. These, and a host of other market reforms, are outpacing the ability of some executives to cope. They are holding on to outdated views about how organizations work, how things should get done. Trying to hold on is not pretty to experience or to observe, nor is it a sound strategy to avoid becoming a turnover statistic. Trying to hold on without asking for help — there are some great coaches who can help — is a guaranteed ticket to outplacement.
I have seen this before. Through the implementation in the mid-1980s of DRGs to the Balanced Budget Act in the late 1990s, from the arrival of managed care to the emergence of hospital-physician partnerships and the wholesale buying/renting of physician practices, all of these market reforms and disruptions took a toll on CEOs. While most survived, the number and reputation of the victims was surprising.
So here we go again.
History has taught us one important lesson: there is no silver bullet solution. There is no expensive prepackaged formula, no consulting guru with the real, true answer all others are seeking. Sorry. As my grandmother used to say, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” I am not sure who said that first, but she was right about so many things, I always give her the credit.
The elephant in the room is tired of listening to you, or so the song says. So perhaps the best approach is to start listening to what others have to say. It is, after all, not about you.
Leading is not dictating and commanding. It is about inspiring people to unite behind a common goal. You cannot get there unless you listen to what others have to say – what they want and need and what keeps them up at night. For every CEO who has that special talent to create a universally embraced vision and strategy behind closed doors, there are 99 who cannot.
Quit trying to be that guy.
The research is full of examples of organizations that excelled not because the CEO had all the answers or possessed some crazy passion for command and control. No, they excelled because the CEO was a good listener. He or she understood that listening and then asking questions is where true power and success emanates.