How do you ‘hire’ (and manage) an interim executive?

Abstract:  This article is about the optimum relationship between an interim executive and their client.  It has been a while since I wrote on Interim Executive Services.  In this article,  I  return to the primary topic of this blog.

What is the difference between interviewing and hiring an interim vs. an employee?

First of all, it is not in your best interest to ‘hire’ an interim.

If the interim is furnished though a firm, they are more than likely paid on a W-2 and you are not technically ‘hiring’ the interim, you are engaging or entering a contact with their firm.  The interim is ’employed’ by the firm and not you.  Employed is loosely used in this case because while the interim may be on a W-2 program with their firm, the only time they are paid is if they’re producing billable revenue. Sadly for the interim, they get to bear all of the disadvantages of being paid by W-2 while consulting without having the ability to reap any of the benefits of being an independent expert.

Now assume that you are smart enough and lucky enough to source the perfect independent or free lance interim directly, what then?

Congratulations, you are probably well on your way to having a far superior resource that will  be highly motivated to address your situation without the interference of a third party that in my experience, adds little if any value beyond sourcing the interim.  If you have experience with this, you know what I’m talking about.  When was the last time you saw anyone from the interim firm you engaged other your interim?

With a free agent, you will be contracting with the Interim or a company (LLC or Sub-S Corporation) they own.  Legally, you are dealing with a sole proprietor in most cases regardless of whether their corporate entity is involved or not.  For this reason and depending upon the circumstances, you might want to get their personal guarantee of their firm’s performance.

I have a Sub-S Corporation that I can use for contracting.  The problem for me is that if I bill though my corporation, I am obliged to pay the federal government 9% of my earnings in the form of federal unemployment tax or FUTA that I can never claim because as an independent consultant, I cannot be ‘laid off’ so I am ineligible to receive FUTA.  Don’t get me started.  I have been fortunate that my clients have agreed to engage me directly and individually.  A corporate structure when dealing with a sole provider affords disproportionate list to the provider.

What about insurance?  Increasingly, client firms are requesting or requiring professional liability insurance.  Setting aside the fact that I have never seen a claim against a professional liability policy for interim services, I have been successful in convincing my clients to name me under their Directors and Officer’s Insurance (D&O) coverage if I as an interim am going to be authorized to execute documents and take actions on behalf of my client.  To me, this makes more sense for the client because if I am required to obtain insurance that will most likely be less robust than the organization’s D&O coverage, that cost is going to be passed along and in effect, the client will be paying twice for the same coverage.  Not only that, in the event of a problem, you are more than likely going to be drawn into a subrogation fight.  If I have no authority and I am not going to be executing documents, i.e., I am engaged to do project work, then liability insurance should be a non-issue.

In another article, I talk about how to find interim executives.

If you have found the ‘perfect’ interim for your transition or challenge, good for you.  If the interim is experienced and sophisticated, you should not have any reservation about engaging them directly and putting them to work in your organization immediately.

Once the interim is aboard, do not lose sight and do not allow your organization to lose site of the purpose of the interim engagement which is usually to help an organization work through a transition usually while beginning the process of addressing major challenges or problems.  The scope of the work to be performed should be mutually understood and memorialized in the contract with the Interim Executive.  Subsequent departures from the agreed scope represent sub-optimization of the engagement at best and a useless waste of resources at worst.

An interim is not an employee and the more you treat them like an employee, the less effective they will be and the higher risk you will bear with respect to their status as an independent contractor.

A number of requirements must be met before your interim reaches reach the IRS threshold of independent contractor status.  To name a few:

  • You cannot set the interim’s hours
  • You cannot dictate when and how the interim does their work
  • You cannot require the interim to use your facilities and equipment to do their job
  • You cannot subject the interim to your personnel policies and procedures like travel policies, etc.
  • You should not require the interim to participate in employee related activities like employee health, computer system training, etc., unless their specific responsibilities require patient contact or hands-on operation of hospital systems which should be very rarely.
  • You should never require interims to record time on your organization’s timekeeping system

The more you require your interims to engage in the actives of employees; things like requiring them to attend out of scope meetings, the higher your risk that the IRS may subsequently find that they were not independent contractors and subject your organization to payroll tax liability and overtime claims that you did not anticipate.

Time and again, I have been required by hospital personnel departments to go through all of the clearances and sometimes orientation of employees.  Then I get invited to every meeting in the organization.  All of this increases the client’s risk while wasting my time.  I have asked the person that executed my contract to screen and approve meeting requests to insure that I am able to stay on task and that the rest of the organization understands my roles and its limitations from their perspective.

I tell clients that regardless of the number of hours they pay for, they receive 100% of my mental capacity virtually 100% of the time.  I find it difficult if not impossible to mentally divorce myself from the needs and issues of my client whether I am ‘on the clock’ or not.  Because of this, flexibility of hours should not be an issue because when I am engaged, I am always working for the benefit of my client.  That said, I assure my client that regardless of the ‘normal’ schedule we agree to, I endeavor to make myself available on-site as needed.  This means spending weekends in the client’s city and/or traveling on behalf of the client for matters not related to Interim services commuting.

Take another look at my article about how to find an interim.  The effort you expend to locate a ‘free agent’ Interim Executive is worth the trouble.  My prediction is that you will thank yourself for taking charge of what should be expected to be one of the most important decisions you may ever make because of the potential of a well conceived Interim Engagement to be favorably transformative in your organization.

If you are a Board member or a CEO and you do not know where to start or how to go about finding an Independent Interim, get in touch with me and I will give you some pointers.

Contact me to discuss any questions or observations you might have about these articles, leadership, transitions or interim  services.  I might have an idea or two that might be valuable to you.  An observation from my experience is that we need better leadership at every level in organizations.  Some of my feedback is coming from people that are demonstrating interest in advancing their careers and I am writing content to address those inquiries.
The easiest way to keep abreast of this blog is to become a follower.  You will be notified of all updates as they occur.  To become a follower, just click the “Following” bubble that usually appears near the bottom each web page.
I encourage you to use the comment section at the bottom of each article to provide feedback and stimulate discussion.  I welcome input and feedback that will help me to improve the quality and relevance of this work.
This is original work.  This material is copyrighted by me with reproduction prohibited without attribution.  I note and  provide links to supporting documentation for non-original material.  If you choose to link any of my articles, I’d appreciate notification.
If you would like to discuss any of this content, provide private feedback or ask questions, I may be reached at ras2@me.com.

 

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Who are you?

Abstract: This is an article about integrity and its importance as a critical success factor in business.

A very good friend of mine suggested I write an article entitled, “Who are you?”  After thinking about this concept, I decided that this is a very good question.  Who are you?  What are you made of?  What are your values, morals, mores, ethics and guiding principles?  What are the tenants of your faith?  To what power do you ultimately ascribe?

My living has shown me that a lot of people wax eloquently about their high values and standards.  I have heard my fill of this around churches.  My experience has taught me that in the course of life, you will be tested.  Sometimes the test is over a big issue with substantial consequences and a high level of visibility.  At other times, the test is trivial.  The only witnesses will be you and your God.  Will that test show that you are who you say you are when it really matters?  Will your proclamations be affirmed by your actions?

I was coming back to my mountain house one day.  As we approached, we saw the man of the family that was renting the house next door and two of his small children coming out of our driveway with all of our firewood they could carry.  When I confronted the man with his children as witnesses, he offered to pay me for the wood.  I told him that if he needed the wood bad enough to feel compelled to enlist his small children in the act of theft by taking, I did not want his money.  He offered to return the wood.  I asked him if he was inclined to return the wood, why would he steal it in the first place?  I told him that if he had asked me in advance, I would have given him enough wood to build a campfire for his family.  I told him to enjoy the stolen wood.  I did not want it back.  I think the man was so ashamed that he did not know what to say.  I hope his encounter with me burned an image onto his mind and the minds of his children they will never forget.  I wonder how the children’s opinion of their father might have been permanently altered by their encounter with me?  The children were not old enough to think about who they are but I wonder if what their dad was doing with them was consistent with other values he was supposed to be teaching them?  I wonder if the man will remember his encounter with me when his children become teenagers and get involved in considerably more serious thefts?  I wonder if he will connect the dots back to the day he was teaching his children that theft was acceptable?  Who was this man?  Is who he really is consistent with who he tells others he is?  Who will his children grow up to be?

I have seen my fill of  bizarre behavior in healthcare organizations.  People that will say or do anything to advance their cause in the organization.  Business partners that are actively or complicity involved in less than honorable dealings.  I worked with a man who had a very simple test of integrity:   Does the other person do what he says he will do or not?  If you cannot trust someone to do what they say they will do, what can they be trusted about?  I have developed a serious problem dealing with people I do not trust.  I know that this is more the rule than the exception in politics where anything goes but I choose to avoid dealing with people who have demonstrated they cannot be trusted.

When my children were growing up, I taught them that there is a major problem with integrity.  You can spend an entire lifetime developing integrity, respect and rapport among your acquaintances that can be permanently destroyed in a matter of seconds when a breach of honor or integrity occurs.  After the breach, there is no cure.  People aware of the indiscretion will never trust you again because they have no way of knowing if what you are saying this time is true or not.  Along the way, I came across the following poem.  It had a profound effect on me and my children and probably has something to do with them going up to be the adults they are.  Their formative years were very highly influenced by their grandparents.  Do not underestimate you ability to have an effect on others, especially children.  Remember the Randy Travis song ‘He Walked On Water?’  I cannot listen to this song without tearing up because Randy is singing about my mother’s father, a man whose shoes I could never hope to fill.

Your Name

You got it from your father,

it was all he had to give.

So it’s your’s to use and cherish, for as long as you may live.

If you lose the watch he gave you, it can always be replaced.

But a black mark on you name son, can never be erased.

It was clean the day you took it, and a worthy name to bear.  When he got it from his father, there was no dishonor there.

So make sure you guard it wisely, after all is said and done. You’ll be glad the name is spotless, when you give it to your son.

So, who are you?  Are you who you say you are?  Who do others say you are?  Do you have to tell people who you are or is it evident in your living?  What will you do when you are tested?  I can say from personal experience that I have been tested and I failed a test when I was younger in an effort to protect my self-interest by going along with something that I knew was wrong.  While I have been forgiven, I have never been able to forgive myself.  I have been tested since then and I will not make the same mistake twice if for no other reason than the pain of bearing the guilt and remorse is not worth it.  What would you do if the stakes of the test was your job?  What if you did the wrong thing and still got the outcome you were trying to avoid?  Would you judge the risk as having been worth taking?  My experience has taught me that it is not worth it to take such a chance in the first place regardless of the risk.

An acquaintance of mine has been charged with felonies by the government related to alleged falsification of reporting related to a corporate integrity agreement among other things.  Did he know the reporting  was incorrect?  The trial will make that determination.  If the erroneous reporting was intentional, the result will be devastating.   The government has asked the court for his assets to be forfeited.  He and his family will be severely impacted regardless of the outcome of this dispute.  Sadly, the government’s case has carried so often when healthcare compliance is involved that political candidates like John Osoff run on the claim that they will save the government by curtailing abuse of the Medicare program.  The Attorney General recently made news by announcing that he was bringing charges against over four hundred people at the same time alleging they defrauded the Medicare program.  Anyone involved in making any kind of disclosure to the government that does not take the potential consequences of inaccurate disclosures whether intentional or not seriously is a certifiable idiot in my opinion.  That someone would spend a single second contemplating whether or not to do the right thing when compliance is involved says everything about who they really are.

Willie Nelson said in a song that, “Regret is just a memory written on my brow and there’s nothing I can do about it now.”  While you cannot change anything that has happened before, you can change a lot going forward.  If you owe anyone an apology for anything you regret, strongly consider doing it.

I would like to thank my dear friend Linda Jackson who is one of the strongest and most incredible people I have ever met for inspiring this article.

Contact me to discuss any questions or observations you might have about these articles, leadership, transitions or interim  services.  I might have an idea or two that might be valuable to you.  An observation from my experience is that we need better leadership at every level in organizations.  Some of my feedback is coming from people who are demonstrating interest in advancing their careers and I am writing content to address those inquiries.
The easiest way to keep abreast of this blog is to become a follower.  You will be notified of all updates as they occur.  To become a follower, just click the “Following” bubble that usually appears near the bottom each web page.
I encourage you to use the comment section at the bottom of each article to provide feedback and stimulate discussion.  I welcome input and feedback that will help me to improve the quality and relevance of this work.
This is original work.  This material is copyrighted by me with reproduction prohibited without attribution.  I note and  provide links to supporting documentation for non-original material.  If you choose to link any of my articles, I’d appreciate notification.
If you would like to discuss any of this content, provide private feedback or ask questions, I may be reached at ras2@me.com.

More examples of what not to do AKA how to stay in the frying pan and not fall into the fire.

This is the second article in the series about what not to do.  The person suggesting this article asked for examples of things that might help you save yourself from yourself.  Please send me your examples and stories of things not to do.  Your confidentiality will be protected unless you want credit for the idea.  Sharing this experience, especially with younger executives is one of the best ways to serve the industry.  I have an outline of a third article and depending upon response, I could probably keep this going for a while since like a consultant friend of mine used to say, “One idiot can keep three consultants busy forever.”

Project planning

Ben Franklin’s adage goes, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”  I have found this profound simple statement to be true time and again.

After being appointed interim CFO in a hospital, I learned that there was a major construction project under way.  The project and the rate at which the hospital was burning money on the project did not make sense to me.  To make a long, complicated story short, no one could produce a feasibility study to support the project’s value proposition or pro-forma analysis to support the project’s underlying  financing.  When no one could produce a sources and uses of funds analysis, I spent a couple of weeks creating my own from scratch.  When I was finished, it was clear that the project was underfunded by over $20 million and the hospital did not have sufficient reserves to cover the shortfall.  When this information was provided to the Board, after they recovered from the shock and horror, they decided to stop the project that would have resulted in a problem with the bonds used to finance the project by drawing reserves below bond covenant minimum requirements triggering a technical default.  The entire organization was oblivious to this looming disaster.

Ole Abe said that, “You should spend twice as much time sharpening your axe as you spend cutting with it.”  The implication of this admonition is obvious to anyone that has ever cut wood with an axe.  Still and yet, executives let distractions and competition for their time lead them to allow ill-conceived initiatives to go forward then they are surprised when the projects blow up on them.  If you want to entertain yourself, pick any executive out at a cocktail party and ask them if they have ever seen a project go bad.  The war stories you will hear are spectacular. Better yet, ask the ‘expert’ if they have ever seen a peer do something stupid.  Apparently, they have not heard or have disregarded the advice of Einstein, “Doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome is the beginning of insanity.”

Project control

Oh boy!  The easy part of a project is the planing and approval.  The hard part is execution.  There are a lot of challenges with project execution.  One is that other unanticipated confounding priorities arise in the organization that bleed capacity from the organization’s leadership to remain focused on a critical project.  Another commonly seen problem with project execution is the loss of key leaders during the course of the project.  All too frequently, critical assumptions underlying the project’s rationalization are proven inaccurate or incomplete once execution begins.  Sometimes, a project’s success is largely dependent upon one person and if that person leaves or is incapacitated, the entire project goes into jeopardy.

To some degree, a project is analogous to a marriage.  In order for it to succeed, more than 100% commitment is required from all sides.  Every effort you make to manage your risk can be thwarted by uncontrollable changes in your business partner(s).  There is no guarantee that the people that sold a deal and made commitments on behalf of your business partner will be around to honor those commitments.  If they made commitments that were not in the contract, they may not be allowed to honor them.  More than once before a project was completed, I have found myself dealing with an entirely different cast of characters.  What about a business partner that gets acquired during implementation and none of the commitments made before the acquisition are honored?  A business failure or overcommitment by a business partner can move into your life like bad in-laws.  This is why business partner selection is so important.  Too often, a decision maker will chose a business partner based on cost alone and in the process buy himself a set of problems that turn out to be exponentially more expensive than the most expensive option that was under consideration at the time the decision was made.

A project does not have to fail to become a disaster.  Delays in a project can be as damaging.  I do not know of a delayed project that resulted in a better outcome.  Sometimes, delays cause cascading problems.  Take a construction project for example where the electrical contractor is contracted to start on a date certain and the project is not far along enough for them to begin work.  This kind of a delay can rapidly spread throughout an organization and create enough problems to overwhelm the ability of the leadership team to address them.  This is the reason you were required to study PERT in school.  How often do you see it applied in practice?

If a mistake is to be made in project management, it should be biased in favor of overcompensation for potential problems.  I am regularly criticized for being too conservative and too hard on pro-forma analysis assumptions. Never the less, time after time I see projected revenues and time lines being overstated and projected expenses understated.

Waiting too long to intervene

I have watched executives demur from engaging an issue in hopes that it would go away.  I have rarely seen this strategy work.  More often than not, a problem in an organization will get worse the longer intervention is delayed.  There are a lot of reasons that this occurs not the least of which is that addressing operational problems most often involves dealing with a personnel problem.  I do not know many executives that enjoy taking on a personnel problem.  Vince Lombardi said, “Hope is not a strategy.”  Failing or refusing to intervene can allow a problem to become exponentially more damaging until it reaches the point that the organization’s financial statements are impacted.  Time and again as an interim, I have been asked, why it was going to take so long and cost so much to address a problem?  I have seen ten or more interim executives committed to address what had been allowed to become a major business problem on more than one occasion.  My answer to this question is always the same.  Cutting costs after an organization finally decides to address a problem only prolongs the time and cost necessary for the mitigation.  All too frequently, organizations create a problem by under-resourcing an area or initiative.  When this leads to a melt-down, the leaders charged with the mitigation are frequently frustrated by the cost and time associated with fixing the resulting mess.  Sometimes, I have to tell them for their future reference that the cost associated with keeping a process or function under control is always a small fraction of the time and resources necessary to straighten it out after it goes catawaumpus.  Every executive I know can relate one or more horror stories to prove this point.  More often than not, the fiasco is related to an I/T implementation where the costs and operational consequences associated with a failed project can exceed the original budgeted cost of the project.

Fire fighters are known for over-commiting resources to a fire.  This strategy is designed to err on the side of having more resource than is needed to address the fire as opposed to running the risk that a growing fire will overwhelm the resources that are available on site.  Once, I asked an interim CEO how it was going relatively early into his engagement in a very troubled large hospital.  His answer that I have never forgotten was, “The platform is on fire.”  A platform is like a ship.  When it catches fire, getting off is rarely an option.  You must fight the fire where it is and failure is not an option.  Remember the USS Forestall?  Skimping on resources when dealing with a problem like this can lead to figurative death in the form of an unplanned career transition.  A business problem is analogous to a fire in the organization.  If you are going to make a mistake addressing a problem, your personal risk will be much lower if you respond aggressively to a problem and err on the side of over-commiting resources until the problem is resolved and the situation stabalized.  The alternative is a potential conflagration.

Non-evidence based decisions

The mantra of UAB’s Doctorate of Administration in Health Sciences program is, “Evidence based practice in Healthcare Administration.”  I have commented before on what appears to be a paradox in healthcare.  On the clinical side, most of what is done is based on evidence gained from objective, peer reviewed research.  The purpose of the research is to yield better outcomes and safer facilities for patient care.  In the administrative suites of too many healthcare organizations, decisions are routinely made based on seat-of-the-pants hunches, historical precedent, little or no analysis, ridiculous assumptions, no assumptions, flawed analysis, systematic ignorance or reckless disregard of applicable evidence and research.  More often than not, harried administrators do not even bother to see if any applicable research is available to help them make better decisions.  In other cases, decisions are made for political expediency or to appease Dr. Huff-and-Puff.  I got into trouble in a Catholic hospital for suggesting the leadership team’s decision making ranged from magic eight ball to Ouija board.  I now keep a magic eight ball on my desk as a reminder to not fall into this trap.  It is funny to have younger people ask me what the magic eight ball is.  They’re not old enough in some cases to have ever heard of the magic eight ball and they are fascinated to see how it works.  It is a wonder some organizations get along as well as they do.

Indecisiveness
I was perusing novelty signs in a gift shop in Indiana when a sign captured my attention.  It said, “Decision making around here is like a squirrel crossing the road.”  Indecisiveness can be dangerous when it is practiced in the front office.  At its least, indecisiveness can lead to project and initiave delays.  At worst, it can wreck not only projects but the credibility of executives with their Boards.  There’s a one liner that says, “The road to failure is littered with run over squirrels.”  In an earlier article I said, “If you are a decision maker, make a decision.”  Not making a decision is making a decision.
As before, I would like to thank Dr. Christy Lemak Professor and Chair of the UAB Department of Health Services Administration for the inspiration or should I say assignment that resulted in this article. I am looking forward to seeing my grade.
Please feel free to contact me to discuss any questions or observations you might have about these blogs or interim executive services in general.  As the only practicing Interim Executive that has done a dissertation on Interim Executive Services in healthcare in the US, I might have an idea or two that might be valuable to you.  I can also help with career transitions or career planning.
The easiest way to keep abreast of this blog is to become a follower.  You will be notified of all updates as they occur.  To become a follower, just click the “Following” link that usually appears as a bubble near the bottom this web page.
There is a comment section at the bottom of each blog page.  Please provide input and feedback that will help me to improve the quality of this work.
This is original work.  This material is copyrighted by me with reproduction prohibited without prior permission.  I note and provide links to supporting documentation for non-original material.
If you would like to discuss any of this content or ask questions, I may be reached at ras2@me.com. I look forward to engaging in productive discussion with anyone that is a practicing interim executive or a decision maker with experience engaging interim executives in healthcare.

Further rumination on success

The Wall Street Journal’s lead editorial on June 23 featured an article by Kay S. Hymowitz entitled, “Is there Anything Grit Can’t Do?” The article is about the work of Angela Lee Duckworth.  In my article about career advancement, I talked about hard work, paying a price and the perseverance necessary for career success.  Here we have another excellent example of a researcher that has dedicated their career to the study of a specific topic.  If you do not believe a researcher in academia can become the undisputed authority on a subject, check out Dr. Duckworth’s CV.  For those of you interested in further study of this topic, the list of grants, articles and presentations in Dr. Duckworth’s CV reads like the literature review in a dissertation.   In the case of Dr. Duckworth, her expertise flies in the face of a lot of conventional ‘wisdom’ and political correctness.

The ideology of indoctrination of children in too many failed government schools and universities for that matter vacillates between victim-hood and entitlement insuring the continuing institutionalization of mediocrity and poverty.  In my opinion, public education has deteriorated markedly over the past thirty years.  The US Department of Education was founded in 1979.  In federal fiscal 1980, the department’s  budget was $14 billion.  By FFY 2015, the bureaucracy’s budget had ballooned to $73.8 billion.  Studies have shown an inverse relationship between spending per student and outcomes yet the common proposed solution to every problem is more money.  I do not know anyone that thinks that public education is any better for this spectacular increase in investment.  I have heard Eric Von Hessler and others advocate for the elimination of the Department of Education in its entirety as a means of balancing the federal budget.  I think a lot of people would agree that education is better-managed locally and not from a central federal government bureaucracy.   Too few young people are being taught that the thing that has the greatest potential to make a positive difference in their life is drive or ‘grit’ as described by Dr. Duckworth and not the narrative of the NEA.  There are probably not very many people who have done a more thorough job than Dr. Duckworth understanding how to help children and adults succeed.

If you search Dr. Duckworth on YouTube, you will find a long list of videos.  These presentations are as inspiring as they are compelling.  A lot of Dr. Duckworth’s inspiration and early discovery came from teaching elementary school math.  She became fascinated almost to the point of obsession to understand why some of the smartest students as measured by IQ exhibited lackluster performance while others who did not have the gift of rote intelligence excelled.  Those of us fortunate enough to have parents that were members of the greatest generation of Americans know what grit is.  The greatest generation got their grit honestly from the great depression, WWII and the work involved in building our country into the success it has been.  I will never forget my son’s late scoutmaster, A.H. Friel, a WWII veteran saying, “We were not worried about whether or not we would die in the war.  Our biggest concern was that it was going to be over before we could get into the fight.”   Mr. Friel’s service included a stint on the USS Indianapolis just before its fateful mission.  Contrast Mr. Friel with the current ‘run, hide and tell’ advice citizens are getting from western governments about responding to the threat of terrorism.  Many of us that grew up in these homes learned a ‘git ‘er done’, ‘suck it up’, no griping no whining demeanor.  When those of us that are products of the 60’s and 70’s got to college, we encountered a fiercely competitive environment that extended into our early careers.  Many of us have driven ourselves to the edge in relentless effort to succeed.  This phenomena inspired one of my favorite songs; Luckenbach.  Willie and Waylon lament that, “This successful life we’re livin’ got us feuding like the Hatfields and McCoys.”  They go on to sing, “We’ve been so busy keepin’ up with the Jones, got a four car garage and we’re still building on.  Maybe it’s time we got back to the basics of love.”  One of the most memorable days in my life was spent in Luckenbach, TX.  I highly recommend you put it on your bucket list.  The inspiration of the song and the ‘town’ led me to start my article on success by posing a question; what does success mean to you?

People that know me know I like motor racing.  Two of racing’s biggest stars are Dale Earnhardt senior of NASCAR and John Force of NHRA.  Both of these men rose from very difficult childhoods.  They grew up in poverty.  They are not well educated.  Yet they became titans in their respective sports and grew massive racing enterprises.  Why?  A lot of people would say grit or drive or in the case of Force, brute force.  They have a refuse to lose, ambitious, opportunistic demeanor that dominates their personality and their performance on and off the track.  This is in spite of vicious wrecks that in the cases of other drivers permanently altered their competitive drive.  An example is Earnhardt’s 1996 wreck in Talladega that was eerily similar to and actually more destructive than the 2001 wreck in Daytona that killed him.  Force has said, “I’ve been on fire from here to Australia” and “I saw Elvis about 1,000 feet down a drag strip one day.”  I have heard a number of professional athletes say that they were not born with their talent or gifted.  Many of them attribute their success to willingness to work much harder than the people around them and to take chances others would not take.  That and a vision of success.  I heard John Smoltz say that when he was nine years old, he was pitching in the World Series in his mind.  There was never a shred of doubt in his mind that he would pitch a decisive game in a World Series.  By the time he became a World Series pitcher according to his account, the reason he was so calm and focused was that he had played the game in his head over 1,000 times.  Napolean Hill said, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”  Les Brown said, “To be successful, you must be willing to do the things today others won’t do in order to have the things tomorrow others won’t have.”

So to sum this up, if you are not happy with how things are with you, you might want to reconsider Pogo; “We have met the enemy and he is us.”  The demons standing between where you are and where you want to be might be mostly between your ears.  All of us can cite examples of people we know and work around that are examples of what I am talking about here.  As I said before, success is not always best measured by career accomplishment.  However you measure success, if you want to increase yours, one of the best strategies might be to resolve to turn up your grit.  My hope for that you have the courage to click some of the links in this article and that you are as blessed and inspired as I have been by what the people I have referenced are saying and doing.

Please feel free to contact me to discuss any questions or observations you might have about these blogs or interim executive services in general.  As the only practicing Interim Executive that has done a dissertation on Interim Executive Services in healthcare in the US, I might have an idea or two that might be valuable to you.  I can also help with career transitions or career planning.

The easiest way to keep abreast of this blog is to become a follower.  You will be notified of all updates as they occur.  To become a follower, just click the “Following” link that usually appears as a bubble near the bottom this web page.

There is a comment section at the bottom of each blog page.  Please provide input and feedback that will help me to improve the quality of this work.

This is original work.  This material is copyrighted by me with reproduction prohibited without prior permission.  I note and  provide links to supporting documentation for non-original material.

If you would like to discuss any of this content or ask questions, I may be reached at ras2@me.com. I look forward to engaging in productive discussion with anyone that is a practicing interim executive or a decision maker with experience engaging interim executives in healthcare.

 

 

I got one right

Throughout my blog, I have argued time and again that the development and practice of cognitive ability is one of the key enablers or detractors of personal and organizational performance.   I have encouraged my readers to focus on improving their cognitive skills as a means of empowering improved decision making capabilities.

When I was in undergraduate business school years ago, we were required to subscribe to and read the Wall Street Journal on a daily basis. That assignment started a discipline that has endured through my career.  One of the reasons that I read the Wall Street Journal daily is that its healthcare industry coverage is as good as any.  In addition, The Wall Street Journal is intellectually stimulating on many levels.  For example, one of the things that has been shown to improve cognitive ability is vocabulary study.  Rarely a day goes by that I do not see at least one word in the journal that I cannot define.  I look these words up and record their definition.  When I find myself with nothing to do, I get my list out.  More often than not, these words are found on the Journal’s editorial pages that are written by some of the smartest people alive.

My article on career development has been very popular.  I am honored and humbled by the number of people following my work that are genuinely interested in developing their careers and advancing in organizations.  The comments, feedback and suggestions this article stimulated have been inspiring to me and motivate me to find suggestions and recommendations that will be helpful to my readers.

Many of us know and are motivated by the stimulation that comes from affirmation.  In my article on career advancement, I argue for the development of cognitive ability as a means of building a foundation from which you may advance your career.  One of the things that fascinates me about universities and the people that work there is that regardless of the subject, how arcane or trivial it may seem to be, there is a professor at some university somewhere that is an expert on the subject.  We are so blessed and our society and life is so enriched to have these geniuses among us.

An article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal on June 5, 2017 is a very good example of what I’m talking about. This article confirms my theory that the development of cognitive ability is a critical success factor when it comes to roles and responsibilities requiring the incumbent to be able to do their own thinking.  I had no idea that for many years this very characteristic has been under study.  Not only that, there is a ranking of the degree to which various university programs are or are not successful in developing cognitive skills among their students.  It is very sad and some may argue disingenuous that these data are not readily available to people considering one academic program over another.

The  article title is:  Exclusive Test Data: Many Colleges Fail to Improve Critical-Thinking Skills

So I’m vindicated.  The admonition of this is that all of us can benefit from  focus on continuous cognitive ability improvement.  So what are you waiting for?  How much more evidence do you need to be convinced that among the highest and best uses of your time is investment in yourself?

Please feel free to contact me to discuss any questions or observations you might have about these blogs or interim executive services in general.  As the only practicing Interim Executive that has done a dissertation on Interim Executive Services in healthcare in the US, I might have an idea or two that might be valuable to you.  I can also help with career transitions or career planning.

The easiest way to keep abreast of this blog is to become a follower.  You will be notified of all updates as they occur.  To become a follower, just click the “Following” link that usually appears as a bubble near the bottom this web page.

There is a comment section at the bottom of each blog page.  Please provide input and feedback that will help me to improve the quality of this work.

This is original work.  This material is copyrighted by me with reproduction prohibited without prior permission.  I note and  provide links to supporting documentation for non-original material.

If you would like to discuss any of this content or ask questions, I may be reached at ras2@me.com. I look forward to engaging in productive discussion with anyone that is a practicing interim executive or a decision maker with experience engaging interim executives in healthcare.

Best of luck – Ray Snead

Examples of what not to do – simple mistakes you have seen that others could avoid.  AKA – How many ways can you get yourself into trouble?

One of the items of constructive feedback I have received is that some of my articles are too long.  The subject of this article resulted in an article over 2,000 words long.  I have reminisced with friends in the consulting business that have suggested that we collaborate on a book on this topic based on the experiences we have had.  As a result, this article will be posted in multiple editions.

A very highly regarded friend of mine recommended that I address mistakes that might be beneficial to others.  Nasreddin said something to the effect that, ‘good judgment comes from the experience we get from exercising bad judgment.’  Given the benefit of this insight, I will address some of the things that I have seen as the cause of extreme angst in one healthcare organization after another.  An exhaustive listing is beyond the scope of any article.  However, I welcome tips and stories from my readers addressing vivid memories of things that would be beneficial for others to know, especially those that do not have the experience of some of us.

Blind trust of systems

This is one of the most basic managerial errors and it is seen over and over.  People ‘assume’ that a system will or will not do something without proving the assumption only to be surprised when their blind faith is proven wrong in a spectacular faux-pas.  Rather than assuming that people understand the meaning of the word ‘assume’, I will define it by dissection.  All to often, people engage in assumptions leading to flawed decisions that make an ASS/out of U/and ME.  I wish I could remember how many times I have witnessed flawed assumptions wreaking havoc around me.  Sometimes, these errors result in terminations of the people involved.  Mark Twain and Ronald Regan said that, “It is not what you know that will get you, it is what you are absolutely certain of that is just not right.”

Once upon a time when I had reason to doubt the controls in the hospital’s accounts payable system right after a new state of the art, super whiz-bang accounting application had been implemented, I was assured by my Controller that there were safeguards in the system that he said would guarantee that there was no scenario under which an automated check for more than $25,000 could be produced and signed with my facsimile.  I had set this limit to insure that I had the chance to personally review large disbursements and sign them manually.  About a week later, it came to my attention that instead of keying a construction draw request of less than $25K, the A/P clerk keyed the remaining balance of over $275K to a contractor that the hospital was engaged in an active dispute with.  What do you think happened when this transaction went through the system without interruption and out to the contractor?  If you ass/u/me that he brought the check back, you would be sorely mistaken.  I am sure others can provide similar nightmare stories.

There are thousands of ways to be trapped by our own systems. The more complex the systems, the greater the number of interfaces with other systems and the higher the volume of transactions, the greater the potential for error and the larger the error will have to become before it is discovered by normal control and balancing processes.

Hiring mistakes

Another HUGE area of learning in the school of hard knocks is hiring decisions.  Jack Welsh said something to the effect of, “Getting the right people into the right jobs is a lot more important than developing a strategy.”  As an interim executive I have observed that one of the more common areas that gets organizations into trouble is hiring decisions that result in people being put into roles where they cannot succeed.  Some organizations and hiring decision makers are highly motivated to put the next person in line into a role whether they are qualified or not.  I have been criticized for bringing people from outside of town into the organization to fill crucial roles.  My response is that if  properly qualified local applicants were available, I would hire locally to save travel money if for no other reason.  I have counseled Boards and written on the subject of organizational performance being nothing more complicated than the collective caliber of the team on the field.  One of my mentors taught me by example the potential and value of getting the right people into the right places in an organization and the difference they can make.

Getting the right people is as important if not more important than avoiding hiring the wrong people by making mistakes in the vetting process.

AR valuation

I have seen so many executives brought down by incorrect valuations of their accounts receivable that I have lost count.  So many in fact, that I was inspired to address one of my blog articles to CEOs that all too often become one of the first victims of this error.  The article asks the question, ‘have you been caught looking?’  One of the biggest risks on a hospital’s financial statements is the valuation of revenue and accounts receivable and for every understatement, there are multiples of over-statements of receivable and revenue value.  In fact, I have not seen an undervaluation recorded although I have been in arguments with outside auditors about under and over valuations of revenue and A/R.  It is a lot easier to convince an audit partner to not book an undervaluation than it is an over valuation.   The executive that wishes to avoid becoming a victim of this trap needs to take the advice of my article on the topic to heart.

AR reclassifications

A reclassification of AR is potentially more dangerous and harder to catch than a simple error in calculating realizable value.  For example, consider an organization that holds self pay balances after insurance in the same bucket as the insurance.  This is considerably more common than many managers appreciate.  Suppose a commercial receivable is valued at 70% of the underlying charges and self pay receivables are valued at 5%.  When an amount like $5 million is reclassified from insurance to self pay to clean up a backlog after the insurance balances have been satisfied, the adjustment to the value of receivables will be 65% (70% – 5%) or $3.25 million.  There are other reasons for balances to accumulate in the wrong buckets on the receivable system leading to reclassification adjustments.  The receivables are not wrong, they are just valued incorrectly.  This kind of error is enough to knock an enormous dent into or potentially wipe out the operating income of any enterprise.  There are rarely adequate cushions or reserves in realizable value calculations to absorb a shock like this.

Summary

As can be seen, a text-book could easily be written on the topic of what not to do.  There are plenty of texts that are written on what to do, they are just all too regularly ignored.  Some leaders seem to not have the ability to connect academic learning and practice. These are but a few examples of things that I have seen go wrong in healthcare organization’s business operations.  This discussion is a good example of the value of experience.  Experienced executives operating on evidence based practice have a far better potential to avoid these pitfalls and others.  Sometimes the value of an executive in an organization is more related to what they know than what they do.  Once a patient in an outage accosted a surgeon  over his fee.  The patient took the position that the fee bore no relationship to the time spent on the procedure.  The surgeon replied that 5% of his fee was for the cutting and the other 95% was for knowing where to cut and what not to cut.

My plan is to publish another article on this topic with more examples of what not to do. If you have any stories to contribute, I would love to hear them.

I would like to thank Dr. Christy Lemak, Dean of the Health Administration program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham for inspiring this article.  I am looking forward to seeing my grade.

Please feel free to contact me to discuss any questions or observations you might have about these blogs or interim executive services in general.  As the only practicing Interim Executive that has done a dissertation on Interim Executive Services in healthcare in the US, I might have an idea or two that might be valuable to you.  I can also help with career transitions or career planning.

The easiest way to keep abreast of this blog is to become a follower.  You will be notified of all updates as they occur.  To become a follower, just click the “Following” link that usually appears as a bubble near the bottom this web page.

There is a comment section at the bottom of each blog page.  Please provide input and feedback that will help me to improve the quality of this work.

This is original work.  This material is copyrighted by me with reproduction prohibited without prior permission.  I note and  provide links to supporting documentation for non-original material.

If you would like to discuss any of this content or ask questions, I may be reached at ras2@me.com. I look forward to engaging in productive discussion with anyone that is a practicing interim executive or a decision maker with experience engaging interim executives in healthcare.

Should I pursue professional credentialing?

I need to start this article with a disclaimer.  I am HIGHLY BIASED in favor of professional credentialing.  If this is offensive to you, stop reading this now.  I am fairly well credentialed.  I have a Masters of Business Administration degree and a Doctorate of Science in Healthcare Administration.  I hold Fellowship certifications from both the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) and the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE).  I hold HFMA certifications in Managed Care and Patient Financial Services (PFS).  I am in the first class to be certified by HFMA in managed care and I was the national co-valedictorian in my HFMA PFS exam class.  I served a sentence on HFMA’s Board of Examiners (BOE) including a year as Chairman of the BOE.  The BOE is responsible for HFMA’s professional certification program.  Other than this, I have not done much to improve myself professionally or promote professional certification.

Lest this come across as self aggrandizing, you should know that I had a rough time in high school but ended up being the first in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree and that undergraduate degree was bestowed by The University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce.  One of the highlights of my service to the healthcare profession is my service on HFMA’s BOE.  A number of changes to the HFMA certification process occurred during my service on the Board and as the Chairman of the BOE that I am very proud of.  Changes that were focused on making the certification process more objective and making the preparation process more efficient.

You’re damn right I think credentialing is important.

More than anything else, I think a professional credential makes a statement about you.  I discuss this in my article about getting ahead.  Holding professional credentials makes a statement  that you have shown willingness to go beyond the minimum required by a job to be recognized by your peers in your discipline as being one of the best among them and an example for others seeking career advancement and improvement.

Professional certifications usually require a combination of education, experience and ability to demonstrate mastery of a discipline.  The effort required to obtain a credential is useful in that in the process of achieving the recognition, it is impossible to not learn something or possibly a lot.  This knowledge is helpful in career development and can differentiate you from your peers in a competitive job or search situation.  Among your peers, those with professional certifications are typically held in higher esteem.

For some credentials and some disciplines, certifications are minimum requirements for certain roles.  There was a time when holding an ACHE Fellowship was practically a minimum requirement for becoming a hospital CEO.  That is not as true today because of the shortage of FACHEs and the effects of some head-hunters focused on making their own jobs easier by convincing Boards of Directors that requiring professional certification will unnecessarily restrict the pool of candidates.  My question of a Board making a decision like this is why would they want to expand their net to catch applicants that did not feel that getting certification in their discipline was important?  Ironically in hospitals, these Boards preside over medical staffs that increasingly require Board Certification of their members.  My question is if they support requiring Board Certification of their physicians, why would they intentionally establish a lower threshold for the executives operating the organization?  If the demand was higher for certified leaders, it could result in an remuneration differential and lead to more executives seeking certification.  If I was advising a Board or a hiring executive, I would and have required headhunters to build a very strong case for recommending consideration of a non-certified executive when certified executives are available.

If you are an executive that is interested in career advancement, my advice is that credentialing is one of the first things you should consider.  The type of credentialing you pursue can vary depending upon your current or desired role.  In nursing for example,  a wide variety of credentials are available.  Many nurses carry several credentials.

We have all heard the adage that if something was simple or easy, everyone would have it. This principle certainly applies to credentialing.  Credentialing can be expensive, time consuming and difficult.  Credentials require a combination of minimum education, in-role experience, examinations, service under the tutelage of another certified leader and the like.  Each discipline has a process for determining the requirements for one of their members to be recognized as the best among them.  Some are more rigorous than others.  An argument can be made that the more onerous the process, the higher the value of the credential and the greater the degree to which a credentialed executive is set off from his peers.  In the case of HFMA, the credential is a Fellowship and it is earned by less than 10% of the members.  If you are a HFMA member, start paying attention to the certified status of your peers and look at their career advancement success compared to the 90%+ of uncertified members.  It should not surprise you to discover that the type of people that pursue professional certification are the same type of people that tend to advance their careers faster than others.  Is it the credential?  To a degree, I would argue that the answer is yes.

Please feel free to contact me to discuss any questions or observations you might have about these blogs or interim executive services in general.  As the only practicing Interim Executive that has done a dissertation on Interim Executive Services in healthcare in the US, I might have an idea or two that might be valuable to you.  I can also help with career transitions or career planning.
The easiest way to keep abreast of this blog is to become a follower.  You will be notified of all updates as they occur.  To become a follower, just click the “Following” link that usually appears as a bubble near the bottom this web page.
There is a comment section at the bottom of each blog page.  Please provide input and feedback that will help me to improve the quality of this work.
This is original work.  This material is copyrighted by me with reproduction prohibited without prior permission and attribution.  I note and  provide links to supporting documentation for non-original material.
If you would like to discuss any of this content or ask questions, I may be reached at ras2@me.com. I look forward to engaging in productive discussion with anyone that is a practicing interim executive or a decision maker with experience engaging interim executives in healthcare.

What is a blind reference?

Some people naively think that the only reference checking that is done is with the references given by a candidate or to a head hunter.   Executives recruiting for talent will peruse your CV looking for places where you and they might have common acquaintances.  They will also look for places that some of their friends and professional contacts might have insights.  When these links are found which is most of the time for an experienced recruiter or hiring executive, you are about to become the victim of a blind reference.

A ‘blind reference’ is an investigation into your past by a hiring executive that you know nothing about.

I do not put a lot of faith in  references provided by a candidate although I have had candidates give me references that were not very complimentary of them.  If you are going to give a reference, at least have an idea about what they are likely to say about you.  No one that has any sense is going to intentionally give a bad reference on a candidate to a stranger.  I also disregard reference letters.  No one is going to write a letter that states the candidate is bad.  On occasion, I will write a reference letter for someone as a personal favor but I aways counsel them that reference letters in my opinion are a total waste of time.  The only time I pay any attention to a reference letter is if I know the author.

Because of political correctness and the cold legal realities associated with references these days, the best you are going to get from formal references in most cases is that the candidate was hired on one date and departed on another date.  The most you are likely to learn is that the candidate actually did work for the firm you are contacting for the stated period of time.  They will rarely tell you anything more because references are subjective by nature in most cases.  Subjective references that cause a candidate to be ruled out of a search can become a liability for the person that gave the reference.  This is one of the reasons that blind reference checking has grown in my opinion.

If I get a reference call on a candidate being evaluated by someone I do not know, I refer the call to HR where I know what they are going to be told.  Even if the reference call comes from a friend,  I know the candidate and I know them to be bad, usually instead of giving a bad reference, I will usually refer my friend to HR where they will get the standard, canned response.  The hiring manager gets the message.  If a friend encounters me refusing to give a reference, they get the message.

The more frequent call that I get is from a decision maker that is checking references that are not on the candidate’s list.  These are the calls that are dangerous for candidates because they are blind to the candidate; hence a blind reference call.  The candidate will never know in most cases they were vetted through a blind source.  This is one of the many reasons why it is so important to keep up your networking and to not burn bridges unnecessarily.  If you left a place under questionable circumstances, you need to have a good explanatory story and you need to be forthcoming and transparent.  Of course a blind reference is not necessarily a bad thing.  Under the right conditions, it can propel you to the front of the line.  I received a blind reference call on a candidate I happened to be considering at the same time.  I told the blind reference caller that they could dispense with their questions because my reference will be very simple, “If you do not hire her, I will.”  I had worked with this candidate before and she is outstanding.  She was going to end up with a gig regardless of how the reference checking worked out in this case.

When I get a blind call from someone I know and trust, they are going to learn the whole story.  The reason is that I know I can call them to have the favor returned at some point in the future.  If the candidate departed under less than ideal circumstances or told a story that I know to not be true, I will give the reference to HR as stated above.  This usually surprises the decision maker that hoped to get something from me.  The fact that I refuse to provide a reference for someone that the decision maker knows I know well usually tells them enough, especially when I put off multiple requests for help.   About the third time I refuse to provide any information, the recruiting executive gets the message.  If you are going to engage in this activity, you have to be absolutely certain that your confidence will be protected.  This is the main reason that I resist giving references to head hunters unless I know them personally because it is hard to be certain your confidentiality will be protected.

When you are looking for a job, who will the hiring decision maker call?  What will they be told by people you used to work around?  Time after time, I have received blind reference calls.  Often, these calls are about someone that has done little if anything to endear themselves to me or to even keep in touch.  People like this generally do not return calls, ask of an acquaintance while offering nothing of value i.e., they do not engage in networking, they do not accept meetings or referrals, they do not attend or participate in industry related networking or continuing education activities such as ACHE or HFMA.  I wonder what these people expect I am going to say about them?  And of course, all of this is above and beyond anything I might know about their acumen, experience or capabilities.   I would rather not receive these calls in the first place but I do not control who calls me.

I do not know what it is about some people.  In one case, I reached out to an executive that I thought might benefit from my insight about handling executive turnover in his organization.  He humored me then never called me back in spite of the fact that I specifically requested a call regarding a wealth of information that I volunteered.  I never heard from him and I do not expect to hear from him because his failure to take my advice was at least partially responsible for his own firing a couple of months later.  A few weeks ago, I got a blind reference call.  The guy was seeking employment with a consulting firm and I knew the hiring executive very well.  What do you think happened?

This kind of thing does not have to happen to you.  If you are smart, you will get serious about networking and building as many positive relationships as you can.  Many of these relationships come from active participation in associations, alliances and industry peer groups.  You should volunteer your time to give yourself exposure to people that you might need for a job some day and in the process help them develop a positive impression of  you.

There is a saying that there are three kinds of people;  Those that make things happen, those that watch things happen and those that wonder what happened.  You never know when someone is going to make a call to someone that you might not even know; about you – a blind reference.  When that occurs, what will the results of that call be?  If you or someone you know is having difficulty getting a job and their qualifications appear competitive, they may be the victim of blind reference checking which puts them in the category of wondering what happened.

Please feel free to contact me to discuss any questions or observations you might have about these blogs or interim executive services in general.  As the only practicing Interim Executive that has done a dissertation on Interim Executive Services in healthcare in the US, I might have an idea or two that might be valuable to you.  I can also help with career transitions or career planning.

The easiest way to keep abreast of this blog is to become a follower.  You will be notified of all updates as they occur.  To become a follower, just click the “Following” link that usually appears as a bubble near the bottom this web page.

There is a comment section at the bottom of each blog page.  Please provide input and feedback that will help me to improve the quality of this work.

This is original work.  This material is copyrighted by me with reproduction prohibited without prior permission.  I note and  provide links to supporting documentation for non-original material.

If you would like to discuss any of this content or ask questions, I may be reached at ras2@me.com. I look forward to engaging in productive discussion with anyone that is a practicing interim executive or a decision maker with experience engaging interim executives in healthcare.

Just a nurse?

Merry Christmas.  This article is my Christmas gift to my readers, especially nurses whether they read my blog or not.  I thank you for your support and wish all of you the very best for this Christmas season and a safe and prosperous new year.

My wife sent me an article that ran in Fox news about an Australian nurse that fought back on Facebook after having her fill of hearing, “just a nurse.”

One of the saddest aspects of our society in my opinion is the general lack of regard that people have for hospitals.  It is especially demoralizing when community leaders are actively engaged in destroying their community hospital and in the process disrespecting the doctors, nurses, volunteers, leadership and hard-working employees who would do anything for them at any time, no questions asked.  It makes you wonder whether the people who engage in this destruction even care about the capability of the hospital should they or one of their loved ones be stricken with an accident or illness.  I tell audiences regularly that it is not hard to see that  people do not care about the hospital . . . . until they need it.  The same people who persecute voluntary trustees and administrative representatives of their community hospital  expect nothing but the best that medicine has to offer when they or one of their loved ones needs the hospital’s services.  Some of these hypocrites will quietly seek healthcare elsewhere while doing nothing constructive to help their community hosptial.  Sometimes I wonder if the people in the towns where these activities occur realistically believe that they can escape an involuntary visit to their community hospital when they are the victim of an accident, a heart attack or some other unanticipated serious illness?

When the people who engage in activities of this ilk intentionally denigrate their hospital, they are disrespecting all of the employees, physicians and volunteers of the hospital by inference regardless of what they say.  Just like the disgusting, duplicative politicians that commit the young people in the military to life endangering missions then withhold resources and/or engage in open criticism of the military.  This disingenuous behavior is too routine in our society when we witness the spectacle of politicians holding hands and praying together before they send the military overseas only to then undermine and denigrate military leadership and increase the number of body bags coming home by their subsequent lack of support.

I view a hospital like an aircraft carrier.  On a carrier, EVERY person aboard the ship has a job that can be directly traced to the support of a relatively small number of airplanes and their pilots.   The ratio is over 6,000 to about 100.  In a hospital, the primary  reason for every person in the organization is to support the nursing function, more specifically, bedside nurses.  The services delivered in hospitals are for the most part ordered by physicians but they are delivered by nurses.  It is the nurse that is in the building with the patient 24/7/365.  It is the nurse that will place themselves between a patient and any source of danger or threat.  It is the nurse that is the first responder to the patient’s every need.  It is the nurse that carries our their responsibilities with dignity and pride even when they are disparaged or abused by physicians and other authority figures in a hospital.  It is the nurse that is the voice of assurance when a patient is afraid.  It is the nurse that is left to pick up the pieces when a tragedy occurs.  It is the nurse that carries out the final preparations following death.

Nurses control resource utilization and therefore the cost of providing healthcare.  It would seem that executives that are interested in getting more out of nursing would see to it that nurses have what they need to do their job.  In my experience, most of the time, no one has to tell nurses what to do.  They know what to do and they will do it gladly if we will facilitate their efforts and get out of their way.   Those of us in healthcare administration should be ever vigilant to remove barriers, policies and procedures that frustrate the efforts of our nurses to give their patients our collective best.  Nurses influence patient satisfaction and patient outcomes.  One of the greatest sins in society in my opinion is activities of any kind in a hospital that undermine nursing, particularity when these activities are carried out by authority figures.

You do not have to teach or train a nurse to be compassionate or focused on error free work.  In fact nurses operate at far higher levels of performance than the rest of us usually appreciate.  Most of us would not make it very long if we had to perform at the level of our nurses.  Nurses understand the grave consequences of errors in their work.  All too frequently, a nurse that is involved in an all too common human error becomes the second victim of a bad outcome.  That these people can function at all under this stress tells the rest of us how incredible our nurses are.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my relationships with nurses over the years.  The type of people who gravitate to nursing are special.  Most of them are motivated to be in a position to do things to help other people in their time of need.  They do not allow those of us that are ‘bad patients’ to detract from their focus to give us their best.  Their attitude is always positive and uplifting even when we are in the mist of having our worst day(s) and showing it liberally.

Most hospitals recognize their nurses by providing badging that clearly indicates that they are nurses.  One of my personal crusades is to make sure that EVERY nurse in the organization whether they are a bedside nurse or not PROUDLY display their RN identification so that no one will mistake these giants of humanity for any one of the rest of us regardless of their role.

What would our world be without nurses?  What would our world be without the type of people that gravitate to nursing?  What are we doing as leaders that is making life more difficult for our nurses?  Are we creating environments more or less conducive to patient safety?

The next time an opportunity presents itself, do not miss taking the time to thank every nurse you meet for their service to the hospital, its patients and your community.

Please feel free to contact me to discuss any questions or observations you might have about these blogs or interim executive services in general.  As the only practicing Interim Executive that has done a dissertation on Interim Executive Services in healthcare in the US, I might have an idea or two that might be valuable to you.  I can also help with career transitions or career planning.

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If you would like to discuss any of this content or ask questions, I may be reached at ras2@me.com. I look forward to engaging in productive discussion with anyone that is a practicing interim executive or a decision maker with experience engaging interim executives in healthcare.

Thanksgiving 2016

As hard as it is to believe, it is Thanksgiving again already.  Thanksgiving is a time for all of us to stop running like we are crazy and reflect upon what we have to be thankful for.  Most of us are blessed beyond anything we deserve with health, family, wellbeing, a career and a lifestyle.  Most of my generation is blessed with a much higher standard of living than we grew up in.  In my case, I am so blessed that I would not know where to start to give proper thanksgiving for all that I have to be thankful for.

I am thankful for each and every one of you, my blog followers.  I am thankful for every person that has intervened throughout the course of my life to save me from myself or to mentor me so that I might be better prepared to serve healthcare organizations at their time of need.  Many of you have played critical roles by providing opportunities that have helped me to grow my skill and relevance to organizations in transition.  Many of you have taken chances on me to provide opportunities that I likely did not deserve to demonstrate that I might make a difference.   I am eternally grateful to everyone that has played a formative role in helping me become the person that I am today.  I sincerely hope that I have not been too much of a disappointment to some of you.

I am eternally grateful for the unbelievable people I have had the privilege of working with.  The incredible demonstrations of integrity, drive and knowledge around me have inspired me to embark on a never-ending odyssey of self-improvement.  I wish I was able to personally thank each and every one of you but time does not allow and I would be certain to overlook someone.

Recently, a CEO of a hospital I had served told me that the place was better for my intervention.  He went on to say that people in the town that never knew I was there owed me a debt of gratitude for the difference my service had made in that hospital and community.  Like so many people like us, this is what we live for; the opportunity to make a difference.  To help an organization and the people that make it up be better for the patients and families we serve.  We are so blessed to work in healthcare where our work improves the abilities of the organizations we serve to save lives and heal people.

Each and everyone of us can always find ways to be better.  This is a heavy burden for those of us serving in the healthcare industry.  In our case, people that do not know us are entrusting their very lives to our ability to insure that the organizations we serve delivers the very best that is possible for them.

I owe my family, especially my wife, thanks for putting up with me .  .  .  through years of education while working.  For getting moved several times.  For suffering with me through terminations and transitions.  For encouraging me and believing in me when no one else believed in me including myself.

I am thankful that I live in the United States.  In spite of the malaise that characterizes our country and the political divisiveness we suffer under, we still live in the best country on earth.  Not deterred by the fact that over the past eight years, we have seen the standard of living begin to fall as opportunities for the young, especially those in the middle class evaporate or are exported over seas;  we can remain thankful and resolved to each do our part to fix this mess for our children and grandchildren.  Now we have a historic opportunity to reverse some of the blight that has overwhelmed our country.

We all need to remember and be thankful for those that sacrificed so much to give us what we have in spite of the thankfully shrinking contingent of consistently incompetent, self-serving, dishonest and sorry politicians that we elected.  This is one thing we can thank the current administration for.  There has never been such a comprehensive sea-change of leadership at every level in our country inspired by disgust at what Washington has become.  Remember, it was around this time in 1941 that the Japanese fleet sailed for Pearl Harbor.

Last but not least, I wish to especially thank those in my inner circle.  Those that report to me directly or work closely with me who collectively have seen to it that I do not fail.  They consistently refuse to let me quit or get down on myself. Not only that, they will not allow me to get discouraged in spite of the daunting tasks I face.  They will not allow me to become demoralized and they continue to sacrifice much of themselves for the cause of the hospital we serve to insure that failure does not occur on our watch.  Thanks to all of you.

Every year, I try to make some calls during Thanksgiving week to thank some of the people that have meant so much to me.  I encourage you to do the same.  Life is so delicate, precious and short.  Among my regrets are things that I wish I had said to some people about how much they had meant to me or my family before it was too late.  Do not let this happen to you.

Here is a thanksgiving toast to you and yours:  Here is to health, money & love and the time to enjoy them – John D. McDonald

THANKS to each of you for being such a positive part of my life.  I wish the very best for you and yours for Thanksgiving and the upcoming Christmas season.  I appreciate each and every one of you.

Ray Snead