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Most hospitals take a 'hit or miss' approach with finding and developing leaders

March 17, 2011
The business of healthcare is changing and the increasing demands mean we need to lead and manage more effectively than we have in the past.  But what is your organization doing to make this happen?

Many hospitals still use the traditional selection process.  We assume that a good clinician will make a good manager.  We make selection and promotion decisions to manager, director or executive positions based on processes that have almost no predictive validity.  Given what’s at stake and the slim margin for error, it’s time for hospitals to apply more progressive strategies and tools.

The consultants on our Healthcare Solutions team (More info available here), who are experts in the science of selection, rank the predictability of selection tools in this order:

Most predictive:

Assessments (personality and cognitive ability)

Moderately predictive:

Structured Behavior-Based Interviews

Minimally predictive:

Background Review/Application Review

Not predictive:

Unstructured Interviews

What’s the norm in healthcare?  Background and application review followed by unstructured interviews!  Is it any surprise when we discover that the talented nurse is NOT a great nurse-manager or that the fine physician is NOT much of a CMO?  Even a Service Line Director – this person has a significant impact on the quality of patient care and the bottom line performance of the service line, yet we merely look at the resume and use an unstructured interview that research shows is simply not predictive.

There seems to be momentum for taking a more deliberate approach.   A large academic medical center lost their CEO recently.  Our team is working with senior leadership to define the desired competencies, create a structured interview process and use our executive assessment reports as a key data point in the decision-making process.   Another system recently implemented executive assessments for all of its Vice President and Director level positions, with great success.

While I’ve spent most of the past twenty years in healthcare, I’ve advised clients from other industries and the difference in the approach is startling.  If leading companies in other industries use these strategies, why not hospitals?  You could argue that even more is at stake when a hospital chooses someone for a leadership role.  These decisions impact patient care, the financial performance of the organization, its ability to fulfill its mission, to serve the community and to create a culture where thousands of highly trained professionals can succeed and have professional satisfaction.

Having worked with over 100 hospitals, I can tell you that the quality of the leadership team – not the quality of the facility or having the latest technology, determines the level of success.  Our recommendation – apply the same level of discipline to the selection of leaders that you do to finding nurses, allied health professionals or front line workers.  Stop guessing.  There is too much at stake.

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.