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Forget slow and steady. When it comes to interim placement, the more appropriate descriptor is fast and furious. “The placement of the right interim executive into an organization is somewhat like speed dating on steroids,” says Mike Lieb, vice president, interim services, for HealthTech. “The organization has immediate, specific needs, and the candidate pool is full of qualified executives.”
Finding the right candidate right away is key to helping hospitals minimize the fallout of what can sometimes be a sticky situation—a botched survey, financial foul play, offensive behavior. But no matter what causes an executive to leave, the right interim leader can help stabilize the situation, giving confidence to both employees and the community that everything will be alright.
The typical timeframe time for getting an interim leader in place is 10 days to two weeks. Lieb placed one recently (and successfully) in only two days. How? By following these 5 tips for better interim placement:
1. Know the needs of your organization
Few hospital boards have the luxury of anticipating the need for an interim executive. The cause is usually a crisis that can’t be foreseen. Still, keeping your strategic plan up to date can help you quickly articulate your needs when the need for new leadership arises.
“If we can hit the ground running on the search knowing what particular challenges the facility has then we can immediately start looking for the right candidate, like a leader who experienced a similar situation in a previous interim position,” Lieb says.
2. Understand your culture
No two hospitals are exactly alike, but the differences are often even more exaggerated in smaller organizations. “I’ve found that community hospitals all have their own unique feel to them,” Lieb says. “Picking up on those distinctive characteristics and how they influence the culture can really make the difference with interim placement.”
3. Don’t underestimate the power of community
By their nature, community hospitals reflect the attributes of the community that they serve.
They’re often the largest employer in any given town, and members of the community are often heavily involved in other ways, such as volunteering, donating money or serving on boards or foundations. Lieb suggests picturing your interim candidates in a grocery store, with community members approaching them with questions or concerns. How they handle those types of interactions may seem silly, but it’s an important consideration given how entrenched a community hospital is in its community.
4. Clarify the role of the interim
Understanding your organization’s needs, culture and community help determine what your organization needs from the interim. In some cases, it’s about keeping the seat warm until a permanent leader is found. “Maybe the hospital is running pretty well and the job of the interim is simply to keep the car on the road,” Lieb says.
Sometimes an interim is tasked with doing the “dirty work,” like managing layoffs or restructuring departments. This approach helps give the permanent executive a more positive start. But to be successful, it’s important to find an interim who knows how to navigate said dirty work. While emotional intelligence is a handy skillset for any interim leader, it’s especially important for one who’s tasked with being a fixer.
5. Provide support for the interim
A good interim placement service will not just find you the right interim leader, they’ll also stick around long enough to provide them with support throughout their placement. “In many community hospitals, the interim is part of a relatively small management team,” Lieb says. “What happens when they need specialized support? Interim executives who know they have other executives and services to whom they can turn for support provides not only peace of mind, but also the ability and depth to deal with a wider variety of challenges.”