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As CEOs Postpone Retirement, Succession Plans Still Matter

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, August 13, 2012

Three out of four CEOs say their boards don't want them to leave, and 52% say no one at their hospital is qualified to replace them.

Genser says the survey points to the need for succession planning in the C-suite, even for CEOs who aren't ready to retire. "As people get older, things happen health-wise. You have to balance it," she says. "You always want to train more than one successor. If they leave to go somewhere else, you wouldn't have anybody. This is about protecting the organization."

While noting that hospital boards usually name successors, Genser says that doesn't mean CEOs should play no role in the planning.

"The CEO should have a conversation with the board and say 'it is the fiduciary responsibility of the board and myself that we take a look at this. I don't have any plans to retire. This is my personal timeline, but we ought to start taking a look,'" she says.

Succession planning shouldn't necessarily be limited to the CEO.

"Maybe the entire executive team is aging in place and you need to start to look at succession planning around the organization as a whole," she says. "Then it does not become a situation where 'Oh we are worried the CEO is going to leave' and that gives a signal that others should start looking because who knows what will happen? It's more of a mindful approach to prepare for the future at all levels, just in case and to be prepared."

Succession planning allows hospital leaders to evaluate the skills, and skills gaps, of their would-be replacements to determine what experiences and exposures they need before taking over.

Genser says it's important for senior CEOs who are nearing retirement to understand that the demands in leadership have changed considerably over the decades since they launched their careers.

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