LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — We all have  a boss, someone we have to answer to in our professional lives — a senior executive, board of directors, financial investors, customers etc.

Even if you are independently wealthy beyond your wildest dreams you, too, have to answer to someone, your spouse, the IRS, someone.

Then there is this executive character.  “I’ve been running hospitals for 30 years.  I meetingsknow what I am doing.  I don’t want a board telling me what to do or even asking a lot of questions about what and why.

“I am going to do what works for me.  Everyone needs to get on board.”

Confidently said.  But what happens when the “what works for me” does not fit well with the culture of the hospital or more importantly, the community?

There are bad hospitals across the country.  More than likely they are bad because of a bad board of directors.  They cannot seem to hire the right leader or make other right strategic decisions.  People come and go but the boards remain and the turmoil continues.   However, the overwhelming majority of hospitals and boards in this country do a credible job for most of the communities they serve.  These hospitals deliver good, safe care and the trustees, charged with ensuring that the organization is moving along a sustainable course for a stable future, provide good governance.

I have been thinking about leadership-governance for several weeks now as I conduct several senior leadership searches in hospitals across the country.  On the CEO level, I find myself frequently following an executive who “left to pursue other interests” after he/she  alienated employees, physicians and board members — the trifecta of groups you want to avoid  irrevocably upsetting.  Over the past week, in my blogs and on my podcasts, I have been examining this CEO turnover phenomenon.  I keep seeing the same causes again and again — poor recruiting and poor hiring. 

First, most recruiters, especially those who work in secondary markets, fail to spend enough time figuring out the culture of the organization and the community.  Many do an OK job with the former and ignore the latter, hoping, I guess, that everything will work itself out.  The truth is the search is run more like a transactional process, not as a strategic project that will determine the long-term success of the organization. 

The poor hiring is abetted by the poor recruiting.  Hiring a CEO is one of, if not the most, important duty a board has.  Many board members operate businesses, typically smaller enterprises, but they do not have much experience in running an executive search nor are they familiar with how the process should work.  That makes them vulnerable to recruiters who are more interested in completing the work as quickly as possible to meet a corporate performance target and/or to facilitate cash flow.  This process approach supersedes the outcome.

So, it is not surprising that there are too many failed searches each year — especially in the smaller markets.  Why then, don’t the parties come together in a partnership which focuses on the best interests of the hospital and the community? 

This partnership includes the search firm, if one is used, the CEO, the board and the medical staff.   The cornerstone of this partnership must be integrity, trust and transparency wrapped in a commitment that the hospital is one of the community’s most important social and economic institutions and its success is integral to the well-being of the community and its residents.  When hospitals close communities can begin to decline economically and in population.

The essential tools are a strategic plan, an objective CEO evaluation process that judges his or her performance against specific objectives, a marketing communications plan with special emphasis on building solid working relationships with physicians, employers and other users, and finally a renewed commitment to education for the employees to support continuous performance improvement. 

While each community’s partnership approach may vary based on unique characteristics of the market, this cornerstone partnership will be invaluable in ensuring that the hospital thrives and serves, something it cannot do with constant turmoil and leadership turnover.

For CEOs or those aspiring CEOs concerned with the turnover issue, this partnering approach can enhance career and personal brand management strategies.   You just have to remember one thing:  You may know a lot about hospitals, but ego, arrogance and a fierce territorial approach to the issue of scope of responsibility,  is a quick way to find yourself back at the knee of an outplacement coach.


More Than A Search Firm

We are more than a search firm.  When we are engaged to recruit a CEO we make it clear to the board that our primary commitment is to ensure their future success, the CEO search is but one step, one very important building block to that end. 

Our team of specialists includes executive and physician search, onboarding, interim JohnGSelf logo_color_Smallermanagement, operational turnarounds, outplacement, talent planning, physician alignment and strategic planning.

Our portfolio of solutions is not about increasing sales.  We are committed to your success. 

For more information, call John G Self, Managing Partner, or Laura Merker, Dr.PH, RN to learn how our team can support your success