I. Situation—Compelling Case
The Board, in collaboration with senior leadership at this Community-Based, Regional Health System invited partnership with Wiederhold & Associates to design a multi-year succession planning process for seven high potential leaders who were considered possible successors to the CEO, COO and Sr. Vice President of their regional medical group. This request was motivated by anticipated retirements over the next few years of several of their senior leaders. Anticipating the destabilization this may cause the system, and wanting to preserve and build upon their strong culture, the system was committed to internal promotion opportunities, while also keeping options open for external candidates.
The health system Chief Human Resources Officer, along with the CEO, COO and Sr, VP for the medical group served as sponsors for this four-year engagement with Wiederhold & Associates Leadership Development Team. Joy Goldman RN, MS, PCC and Dr. Larry McEvoy MD served as co-leads for a coaching and organizational development team that comprised of six executive coaches, mentors and consultants. The diversity of the team included coaches and consultants who have held the following roles:
Healthcare CEO role; Nurse Executive roles; Healthcare Advisory Board Consultant; Organizational Development Leader for Large Academic Medical Center; Polarity Thinking Leaders and Faculty in Academic Leadership and Organizational Development Programs. All executive coaches were credentialed by the International Coaching Federation at the Associate or Professional Certified Coach level.
This four-year engagement incorporated the following key elements we considered critical to our success:
- Individual, team and systemic transformation
- The development of high potential individuals poised for increasingly more senior roles
- Use of validated, evidence-based assessment tools to provide pre- and post-comparison
- Integrated framework where consultants combined their expertise with the system leaders’ culture, action learning and strategic wisdom
- Identification and leveraging of polarities within the client system and within the consultant team
- Regular, monthly sponsor updates and touch-points to allow for ongoing evaluation and course correction as needed
- Yearly review of success and co-creation of the next year design and outcome focus
- Board exposure
III. Strategic Interventions
The following theoretical frameworks served as the foundation for our design and strategy:
- Systems theory and network science
- Stage development theory and complexity theory
- Polarity thinking
- Behavioral change principles
- Executive coaching
Our goal, recognizing the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) environment was to increase each leader’s ability to better manage complexity, so that we multiply the capacity of the system to better manage, adapt and thrive in today’s healthcare world, and prepare them for more senior roles.
By the start of year three, the following successes were identified by the client leaders, sponsors and consulting team:
- Growth in scope and title changes for several of the client leaders
- Successful transition from individual leaders to leaders of integrated and high performing teams
- Broader strategic contribution with six out of the seven leaders asked to lead or participate in the system’s 2025 strategic planning committee
- Increased innovation and disruptive strategic thinking by leaders demonstrated in a broadening strategic impact simulation providing accurate forecasts for system future direction in organizational structure and operations
- Generative energy amongst the leaders as compared with subjective experiences of fatigue prior to the engagement
- Greater system loyalty amongst the seven client leaders and the retention of higher departure-risk leaders
- According to system CEO, there exists a greater strategic dialogue between executive sponsors and client leaders, where prior discussions were more transactional and current discussions were more focused on strategic results and mentoring opportunities
- Integration of polarity thinking across teams and the system. Polarities leveraged included: mission and margin; continuity and transformation; tactical and strategic; centralized and decentralized.
- Third year utilized seven client leaders as vehicles for systemic spread for effective leadership capacity and team development. The leaders have self-organized as a leadership group where there is greater strategic partnering and use of each other’s complementary strengths to achieve strategic results
- The organization has reached “strategic arbitrage”—both able to tap its incumbent leadership more deeply and widely and the capacity to attract and support higher level talent. Further, the candidates express confidence in handling not just intended scenarios but anticipated unintended ones. As one sponsor remarked, “I realize when I pay more attention to my thinking, I can help the organization think better, and the results will come, whatever the circumstances.”
- The leaders have demonstrated greater emotional intelligence and levels of self -awareness where each leader is better able to lead from an “eco”-system vs. “ego”-system foundation.
SixSeed Partners offers a suite of inter-collaborative, interdependent and custom-designed services to increase leader and system-level capacitation within the healthcare industry. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how we can help you drive sustainable, transformational change within leaders, teams and entire organizations.