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By Sarah C. Threnhauser, MPA

Finding talent for the c-suite is a big challenge for health and human service provider organizations. There is the aging workforce/retirement issue. According to the American College of Healthcare Executives, 2017 marked the fourth straight year that hospital CEO turnover was 18%—one of the highest turnover rates seen in the last 20 years (see Hospital CEO Turnover Rate Remains Steady). Then there is the fact that the health and humans service field is more competitive, where success and sustainability determined by customer perceptions of value. This all requires a new set of executive competencies.

If you’re recruiting for one of those c-suite positions, what executive competencies should you be looking for? In her recent presentation at the mhca Fall Conference, The Changing Market Landscape For Behavioral Health Services: Strategies To Compete With The New Disruptors, Monica E. Oss, OPEN MINDS chief executive officer, spoke to the strategies and executive competencies that health and human service organizations need to adopt to maintain competitive advantage in a time of complexity.

But what kind of executive does it take to lead in this new environment? What are the characteristics of an executive that can manage this “complexity?” That was the topic on the table at The 2018 OPEN MINDS Executive Leadership Retreat session, Changing Executive Team Roles: New Executive Competencies For A New Market, featuring Linda Timmons, President & Chief Executive Officer, Mosaic; John Sheehan, MBA, FACHE, President and Chief Executive Officer, Harbor Behavioral Health; and Mark Lashley, Chief Executive Officer, Caregiver, Inc.

Linda Timmons, President & Chief Executive Officer and Mark Lashley, Chief Executive Officer, Caregiver, Inc.

First, it takes vision. Especially in an environment where adaptation is a strategic must. Mr. Lashley explained that once Texas announced that I/DD LTSS was moving to managed care in 2021, Caregiver needed to adopt a vision for the new landscape, as well as recruit and/or develop the executives to lead that vision. Caregiver decided to do both, starting first with outside recruiters and then developing from within after the executive team was set. He explained:

We set the vision of what we wanted to be, established where we were. That’s where the leadership came in. Strategically, we wanted to go from paper driven to data driven and more efficient and that means that in the two years the executive team has almost completely changed. And once we had the base in place, we wanted to keep our great management team in the field, so we rolled out a development program for our directors, or anyone who is managing people to help them deal with the challenges we were facing.

John Sheehan, President and Chief Executive Officer, Harbor Behavioral Health

Second, build organizational leadership and culture. Mr. Sheehan explained that the way to address leadership strategy, and the way to build executive teams, is to understand four priorities—the mission, the value equation, the vision, and the culture. Harbor’s does this using the “TRUSTED” model to define Harbor employee behavior using seven criteria—Team Player; Responsive and Respectful; Understanding; Safe; Talented; Executes; Dedicated. The goal is to improve communication and collaboration, focusing on efficiency, and improving productivity-but the key is that all leadership must “live it.” Mere lip service is unacceptable (see Ethical Culture Needs Ethical Leaders). Mr. Sheehan noted:

We throw a lot of management theory at new leadership and they don’t understand how it all goes together. For me, all the leadership attributes we can learn about and teach come down to culture. Culture drives everything.

Finally, invest in executives with both a knowledge of the field and leadership skills. Ms. Timmons noted that these two dimensions are critical, but executives are often only really good at the first—Remember the clinician-to-executive career path (see From Clinician To Manager-Rethinking Best Practice)? Unfortunately, knowledge and technical skills are not enough. Executive need a set of leadership attributes needed to be successful in a today’s executive roll. Ms. Timmons explained, “Executives themselves don’t understand that they need to carry the mantel of ethical leadership and authority.” The Mosaic solution is to recruit with seven leadership essentials in mind: create and convey trust; build collaborative relationships; think and act strategically; encourage innovation, lead change; demonstrate open communication; engage and develop others; and drive for results through others.

“Executive teams need to be able to look out and strategically,” Ms. Timmons said. “Many are used to looking down at our consumers, but that needs to change. We need a team of people that will look beyond being the experts and come to lead collectively.”

As boards of directors and executive teams develop strategies to assure the future sustainability of their organization, finding (or building) the executives to make those strategies a reality is key. For more resources on executive competencies in a changing health and human service market, check out these resources:

  1. What Does It Take To Outlast The Disruptors?
  2. Preparing For The Very Glacial VBR Rollout In Some Markets
  3. Reinventing Health & Human Service Organizations For A Value-Based World: Transformational Leadership Required!
  4. Defining Your Executives’ Critical Competencies
  5. Strategic Talent Management In A New Era
  6. Succession Planning: The Key To Long-Term Leadership Success
  7. Two Key Questions – Retirement & Succession Planning Advice From Executives Who’ve Been There
  8. The Art & Science Of Replacing Key Executives
  9. Getting Your Replacement Ready To Go
  10. Non-Profit Executive Compensation-More Than Just Mission

And, to build your organization’s executive team of the future, mark your calendar for September 9 to 13, 2019, the dates of the 2019 OPEN MINDS Executive Leadership Retreat. We’ll be announcing our new program and faculty in the next few weeks. For an idea of what is in store, check out https://leadership.openminds.com/years/2018/ for the agenda from the 2018 OPEN MINDS Executive Leadership Retreat.

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