Interim “C” Suite Management: Develop a Customized Job Description

Turnover is inevitable and occurs in all types of entities and can be a costly distraction. In healthcare organizations, from hospitals/health systems to medical practices and related organizations, a vacancy doesn’t necessarily have to have negative consequences. When an open position occurs in a management role, such as a C-suite executive, one short-term response is to fill the role with a highly-qualified interim manager.

Interim C-suite executives bring to mind my school days when the teacher was absent, and we had a substitute. The class members were quick to assess whether a fill-in could be taken seriously or was serving merely as a “babysitter.” So we acted accordingly! While interim managers are not intended to be babysitters, some substitutes do little more than fulfilling the essential functions of the job, e.g., “keeping the lights on” in the organization, rather than carrying out the hard work of the position. On the other hand, depending on the nature of the individual leaving and other variables, the interim management option can be both beneficial and worthwhile. The Coker approach is to use the following descriptions for fulfilling temporary roles and guide the organization in selecting what choice fits best.

  • Interim executives often assess the immediate needs of the organization. With the understanding that the interim executive likely will not be in the position for long (and not permanently), he or she can focus objectively on the more challenging or problematic needs of the organization.
  • The interim executive should approach the assignment as a consultant. As a temporary position, the approach of the work should hone in on specific goals and objectives, as with any other consulting advisory project.
  • Interim executives must understand the expectations and boundaries of their responsibilities. If, in fact, the healthcare organization wants to limit the interim manager’s role rather than to tackle issues and challenges, the choice is theirs. However, at times an interim manager can focus on the tougher problems and, thus, improve the pathway for the incoming permanent executive.
  • The interim executive can achieve significant progress toward successful transitioning to the permanent executive. Again, an experienced interim manager can accomplish a lot toward transitioning to the new permanent executive, based on collaboration and definition from the employer.
  • The interim executive can test the boundaries and expectations for the new permanent executive. Sometimes executives leave a position because of mistakes made on both the employer and employee sides. By temporarily replacing the departing executive with an interim manager, the employer has time to discover the best characteristics of the incoming executive, and also allow the interim manager to interpret and recommend best case scenarios.

With these position descriptions, interim management can play a beneficial and fruitful role in making the next executive in that particular position more successful. The essential point is to develop the job to fit the needs of your organization until a permanent manager is in place.

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