A “right fit” interim often is offered the permanent position—but rarely do they take it. Mike Lieb, vice president, interim services, for HealthTechS3, estimates fewer than 5% of interim leaders choose to stay in their roles: “Most of these leaders enjoy the flexibility of interim work.”
He’s speaking from experience—Lieb has been an interim leader 10 times. “You get to focus on the most important four or five issues and leave the place better than you found it,” he says. “There’s something very exciting about that.”
It may not be a permanent position, but it’s certainly an important one. No matter what the interim leader is tasked with—from keeping the seat warm to being a change agent—finding the right fit for your organization’s culture and needs will help ensure a successful start for the permanent leader.
Here are 5 ways a hospital can help—or hinder—the interim selection process.
1. Don’t go it alone: When your hospital needs an interim leader, chances are it needs it now. What’s even more likely? The right person for the job doesn’t already live in your community. You wouldn’t find your permanent leader on your own, so don’t chance the interim selection process either. Placement services, such as those offered by HealthTechS3 for both interim and permanent positions, can help you identify qualified candidates and suss out the right fit for your organization quickly.
2. Agree on your priorities: Few hospitals have the luxury of anticipating the need for an interim leader. But, by creating a comprehensive strategic plan and keeping it up to date, you can more readily understand what your needs are. Agreeing on the most important ones, which will drive the interim selection process, is the next challenge. Invite discussion on the topic from hospital leaders and board members. “Ask questions, try not to direct and try not to give solutions,” Lieb recommends. “You want them to be the ones giving solutions. That’s how you get stronger buy-in.”
3. Be clear on expectations: Seat-warmer or change-agent or somewhere in between? To ensure your interim leader is successful, the organization needs to set clear expectations for their role. Sending mixed messages about what’s expected of them could result in hiring the wrong interim for the job and/or cause friction during the interim’s term. Without clear expectations, you may discover your interim doesn’t even last the whole term, and then you’re back where you started.
4. Expand your definition of expertise: For an interim leader, soft skills such as emotional intelligence and communication are just as important as the technical know-how for dealing with whatever particular challenge the organization is facing. Without the former, they could solve one problem but create another.
5. Be honest about your culture: Identifying the technical skillset needed for an interim position is the easy part. The HealthTechS3 maintains a database of more than 500 interim candidates, searchable by skillset. There might be 20 interims who can do the job, but when you consider the culture of both the hospital and the community it serves, that list can get whittled down quickly.
“To find the right fit for an interim position, you really need to be able to articulate the culture of the place,” Lieb says. “Particularly in smaller hospitals, they all have a unique feel to them. And that can mean a lot for when or where an interim leader can press and when and where they can’t. Describing the culture isn’t enough, says Lieb. Invite interim candidates to stay for a few days, meet with other leaders and employees, and let them get a sense of fit, too.
Want to learn more about how you can make or break the interim selection process? Lieb will be leading a webinar on the topic on Friday, Sept. 25. Reserve your spot today for The Hospital’s Role in Getting the Right Interim Leader—What Does It Needs to Know?