<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=353110511707231&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

Selecting Effective Healthcare Managers: Too Important to Just Roll the Dice

December 15, 2011
Our team was working on a new hiring system for hospital.  Among other goals, this hospital wants to ensure that every hiring decision helps to improve the patient experience.   They’ve also recognized that they need to do a better job identifying direct contributors with management potential, selecting those with the best chance of success, and then providing new managers with every opportunity to succeed.

Hospitals are notorious for assuming that a talented nurse, therapist or physician will make a good nurse-manager, department head or physician leader.  Part of the problem is that nearly 100% of the education, training, and selection focus has, historically, been on technical and clinical skills

Our team interviewed every middle-manager at this hospital and was surprised at the general impression of what most believe it means to be a “manager” – for a nurse, for example:
  • I understand what it takes to be a good nurse.
  • I have the additional responsibilities of managing the schedule, communicating to the staff the initiatives underway, and attending lots of meetings.
  • I get a small raise.
  • I have hiring/firing authority.
  • I get to deal with every problem and headache and lose the ability to do what I am good at – taking care of patients.
  • My goals for my department are to manage to my budget and meet or exceed the patient satisfaction and quality goals set for my department.

Now compare this with a few of the leadership competencies from Leadership Competencies: Knowledge, Skills, and Aptitudes Nurses Need to Lead Organizations Effectively, by Diana S. Contino, RN, MBA, CEN, CCRN
  • Mentors staff in meeting personal and career goals
  • Manages and implements change to improve operations
  • Communicates and promotes continuous learning
  • Looks for solutions and new business opportunities
  • Creates opportunities for employees
  • Creates effective relationships with peers and business partners.
In our experience, this is not an uncommon disconnect and it’s attributable to failures at several levels:
  1. Limited focus on management and leadership skills in education programs.
  2. Leadership fails to adequately define what it means to manage.
  3. Leadership fails to communicate to staff what it means to be a leader so they move into these positions with the wrong expectations.
  4. The organization has failed to create a selection process to determine whether a nurse/clinical has the skill set and behavioral competencies to truly lead others and help move the hospital toward its vision
Think about the impact of a single unit nurse manager.  His or her abilities will impact the job satisfaction and career development of the staff, the quality of care provided, the physician’s experience, the satisfaction of the patient and family, and the financial performance of a multi-million dollar book of business.  Yet, how much thought and diligence goes into selecting and developing the right person for the job?

I’d encourage you to read the fine article cited above by Ms. Contino.  It does a nice job illustrating what it really means to manage in a hospital.  There are many fine managers out there.  Unfortunately, their existence and success are more luck than planning.  Given the challenges we face, rolling the dice every time we fill one of these critical positions is not much of a strategy.

Bryan Warren Bryan Warren is the President of J3 Personica, a consulting, assessment, training, and coaching firm, and a guest blogger for PSI. Bryan is an expert in progressive talent strategies, with a particular focus on leader and physician selection and development.