How hospital boards can overcome bumpy CEO transitions

Hospital boards that attempt to ease the transition between CEOs might make a mistake--one that could damage the well-being and success of the organization in the long run, according to a blog post by Reshmi Paul, Ph.D., in Harvard Business Review.

With hospital CEO and administrator turnover at an all-time high, board members must set aside their feelings about the current CEO and take a fresh look at their future prospects through succession planning, according to the post. If boards focus too much on keeping the sitting leader happy, they might be too reliant on his or her help post-transition, and not adapt well to the next leader as a result.

Here are Paul's tips to help boards embrace the transition while putting the organization's success first:

  • Don't be afraid to ask the tough questions and give up on the idea that the transition will be smooth, Paul cautioned. There are times it will be an unpleasant process. 

  • Emphasize interest in ongoing succession planning, and gradually take ownership over from the CEO a few years before his or her anticipated retirement. She suggests boards address the timing of the transition, candidates and the CEO's role on the future board.

  • Set clear expectations so the CEO definitively knows his or her role.

  • Do research by comparing and interviewing candidates and observe how the outgoing CEO acts with and around them.

  • Support the new CEO, but keep up with succession planning even when the organization continues to thrive.  

Great CEOs know their limits and graciously expect the board to challenge them, according to Paul. "Great boards in turn know that their best contribution to the long-term health of their companies is to keep challenging their CEOs in these areas. This can make for a sometimes bumpy road to succession, but a better outcome for the company and its shareholders," she wrote.

Sometimes succession planning starts at the bottom. Lehigh Valley Health Network, an academic community hospital in Pennsylvania with five hospital campuses and almost 13,000 employees, created a two-year leadership program that focuses on teamwork, collaboration, and social and emotional intelligence to find leaders within their organization, FierceHealthcare previously reported. 

To learn more:
- here's the post