What Establishes Talent in a C-Suite Recruit?

An executive director doing some paperwork while standing in the office.

Placing the right leadership for your organization can mean the difference between simply operating and making a significant difference in the lives of the people you serve. Executive talent is never easy to find, but in the Life Sciences space, it is even more of a challenge due to high burnout and turnover rates.

An individual may excel in a clinical setting, but may not be cut out to lead at the c-suite level. In theory, they may seem like the perfect fit—they know your people and the issues you face on a daily basis, they understand the mission and objectives—but they may lack the key qualities we look for in our executive leaders. For a high-level placement to succeed, the fit needs to be just right for your culture and your clinical focus, but how do you quantify this and what are the marks they need to hit?

Cultural Fit

Your choice of a Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Medical Officer, or any other c-level position is legacy-creating. The right or the wrong person can impact your business operations and reputation for years to come. For this reason, choosing the right person for the job is absolutely crucial.

Having a great cultural fit is a small part of the bigger picture, but it may be the most important. While it may be hard to define, a cultural misfit will be easy to determine. The basis of culture is found in the alignment of beliefs and behaviors to the company’s values and mission.

Your leaders, while they may not be in the trenches with the clinicians and practitioners, need to have a deep understanding of what motivates the team. They should also be able to implement changes in such a way that it does not disrupt a functioning culture and they should also be able to introduce new ideas and methodologies successfully, fostering an atmosphere of respect and confidence among the rest of the team.

Ask yourself this: what qualities does my company culture possess that need to be reflected and supported in its leadership? Innovation, efficiency, customer service, and communication are all highly desirable traits. Technology and learning could also play an important role in shaping your culture. If you can describe your culture, alignment with these traits should be a prerequisite.

Experience and Background

Experience is important, but what kind of experience is the most important? Is it more important to hire experienced executives for executive positions, or is it preferable to hire physicians with no executive experience? do you hire internally, or conduct your search externally?

The answers are as complex as the question and what works for one organization may not work for another.

While Candidate A may have a long history of executive experience, but they may not be as sensitive to your objectives and they may not have the vision required to advance your mission. They have successfully driven myriad organizations to improved financial and operational outcomes, but they don’t fully understand your clinical focus.

Candidate B may be a physician who has displayed excellent leadership qualities and who already has a relationship with your clinical team. In this case, it may be a good cultural fit, but they may be too mission-driven, or too focused on improving a single aspect of your services to provide thought leadership in the organizational realm.

Either of these candidates has potential, but if you had to choose one, which would it be? Further investigation is necessary.

We might agree that they both share some key characteristics:

  • Integrity
  • Empathy
  • Vision
  • Optimism
  • Curiosity
  • Management experience

Beyond these, their must-have skills should include:

They have the ability to motivate. Top leaders need to be able to ask the hard questions and push for change when and where it’s needed. They should be able to motivate others to take up their cause and see it through to its fruition.

They are relationship-focused. Obtaining results in a healthcare setting begins with trust. The only way to get physicians, clinical leaders, and nurses on the front lines to be open is to establish trust through open communication. If a leader comes from another industry, this is even more difficult as there will be a perception that they don’t really understand what the issues are. A relationship-focused leader will transcend these barriers to bridge the gap.

They have operational experience. Having a background that includes organizational transformation is very desirable in a leader. Knowing what may impede progress is an important part of knowing how to avoid them. A good leader will foresee these issues and steer the organization away from them.

They should be respectful of how far you’ve already come. Beware the leader who seeks to establish change right away. The ability to take a step back and observe processes is important, as even if they are flawed, there may be a rationale as to why things are the way they are. A confident leader will realize that it takes time to understand the complexities of the operation and will learn as much as he or she can before implementing any sweeping changes.

Finding your next healthcare executive doesn’t have to be painful. If you are interested in speaking to one of our Life Sciences headhunters about your recruiting needs, call Pact and Partners today.

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