Tap­ping young ex­per­tise

Time for a new gen­er­a­tion in hos­pi­tal board­rooms

Modern Healthcare - - From The C-suite - Ritch Eich Ritch Eich is pres­i­dent of con­sult­ing firm Eich Associated and past board chair­man of Los Robles Hos­pi­tal and Med­i­cal Cen­ter, both in Thou­sand Oaks, Calif.

Hav­ing served as a hos­pi­tal ex­ec­u­tive, trustee and board chair­man of not-for-profit and for-profit hos­pi­tals and health sys­tems in the Mid­west and West, my ex­pe­ri­ence sug­gests that other than hav­ing ma­jor fric­tion with the med­i­cal staff, noth­ing can un­der­mine the CEO faster than dis­il­lu­sioned or frus­trated board mem­bers.

How of­ten have you pon­dered the fol­low­ing ques­tions as you’re head­ing home af­ter a less-than-pro­duc­tive hos­pi­tal board meet­ing: Why doesn’t the pres­i­dent and CEO bet­ter uti­lize board mem­bers? Why aren’t some of the new direc­tors (trustees) young adults who re­flect the grow­ing and im­por­tant dig­i­tal dy­namic, mul­ti­task­ing ap­proach to the busi­ness world? Why are the “lead­ers of yes­ter­day” of­ten be­ing se­lected to fill seats in the board­room in­stead of the “lead­ers of to­mor­row?”

There is no doubt that the time has come to more fully use the ex­per­tise rep­re­sented by hun­dreds of thou­sands of young com­mu­nity lead­ers who cur­rently give un­selfishly of their time, tal­ent and even trea­sure to serve as board mem­bers of hos­pi­tals and health sys­tems. This sense of ur­gency is height­ened by the ne­ces­sity to ex­pand our ex­ist­ing board ranks by en­list­ing the youngest “best and the bright­est” from the wired world—peo­ple who can more ef­fec­tively make use of the lat­est tech­nolo­gies to im­prove pro­ce­dures and ex­pand the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s outreach. Here are four prin­ci­pal ways you can help ad­dress the is­sue:

When you are asked to join a hos­pi­tal board or sug­gest names of ex­cel­lent board can­di­dates, ask the pres­i­dent and CEO if he or she truly in­tends to tap the ex­per­tise of new board mem­bers and how.

Ask how, out­side of board meet­ings (four to eight a year), will mem­bers’ skills in such ar­eas as cus­tomer ser­vice, merg­ers and ac­qui­si­tions, brand­ing, me­dia re­la­tions, pro­duc­ing fi­nan­cial re­sults and in­vest­ing—to name a few—be max­i­mally har­nessed. Is there a well-de­vel­oped board ori­en­ta­tion pro­gram? Are newer mem­bers “teamed up” with more ex­pe­ri­enced board mem­bers to more quickly grasp the mis­sion of the or­ga­ni­za­tion and their role in it?

Then, if you’re sat­is­fied with the re­sponses, ask if the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s leader has con­sid­ered go­ing “out­side the box” to re­cruit young, bright, en­ter­pris­ing pro­fes­sion­als for at least a few of the avail­able board seats. When he pauses to con­sider your ques­tion, quickly ask if he re­al­izes how young peo­ple are of­ten poles apart from him and from you in how they ap­proach to­day’s busi­ness prob­lems and how dis­tinctly they en­gage in crit­i­cal think­ing and process chal­lenges. In other words, ask him how high a value he places on hear­ing di­verse, gen­er­a­tional points of view be­fore mak­ing de­ci­sions.

If you con­clude that you and he are on the same wave­length, pose these $64,000 ques­tions: What role does he see the hos­pi­tal board play­ing in set­ting strat­egy? Is the board go­ing to be more in­volved than it was a year ago? Does he en­cour­age the board to dis­cuss strat­egy dur­ing din­ner be­fore the meet­ing ac­tu­ally con­venes? Is the pri­mary role of the board to help set the over­all strat­egy for the or­ga­ni­za­tion?

As we all know, the best hos­pi­tal CEOs want the best boards, and they also want the best pos­si­ble board re­la­tion­ships. Too of­ten, how­ever, there is dis­par­ity in how the CEO sees the board func­tion­ing and how an in­di­vid­ual board mem­ber wants to be uti­lized. The re­sult is fre­quently un­der­uti­lized or mis­used hu­man cap­i­tal, which can lead to frus­tra­tion and po­ten­tial con­flict in the board­room and be­yond.

If you ask these ques­tions and oth­ers that oc­cur to you, I can as­sure you that you will have a bet­ter idea of how much the CEO wants the board to be in­volved in true gov­er­nance and what kind of board he or she gen­uinely wants. And, you can hope­fully help im­prove how your board func­tions, thus en­hanc­ing your hos­pi­tal’s suc­cess.

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