In pursuit of the C-suite

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Elizabeth Newman, McKnight's Senior Editor
Elizabeth Newman, McKnight's Senior Editor

Imagine an industry where an entry-level person is encouraged to be hungry and aggressive, to work long hours for little pay, lead (almost by default) an unhealthy lifestyle, and not have to dress all that nicely. Or be all that nice to people. The person may be a closet introvert, possibly disorganized, and must able to spend long hours manipulating the written word.

And if they're good at all of that, you promote them.

Lucky for you, that is how people historically became newspaper editors, not long-term care administrators. But the two industries do have one big thing in common — they are looking for leaders who will be able to ensure financial survival.

It's not a secret that more long-term care systems are watching Uncle Sam break up with them gradually. While some are pleading with him to come back, others are looking for new boyfriends. As I wrote this month, there's been big growth in the search for healthcare executives who can balance financial savvy with commitment to the elderly. Healthcare, especially long-term care, is in a unique position as it looks for new executives, because of a need to find people who can seek out new revenue sources, says Witt/Kieffer Senior Vice President Elaina Genser.

While strategic development has many parts, organizations are getting away from “friend-raising,” says Genser. They are instead “looking for these new revenue streams, such as opportunities for planned giving and charitable trusts.”

Chief executive officers used to spend at least a third of their time on future positioning, fund-raising, growth and other financial concerns, but there are “not enough hours in the day,” she says. Long-term care facilities are among those in healthcare trying to figure out what role they have in an accountable care organization or other alliances. That's a job that could easily take up half of one's time.

Additionally, those who want to lead in long-term care must have communication skills beyond dealing with residents and families, Genser points out. They also must have the internal and external skills to assuage board member concerns, inspire their executive team, lobby legislators and handle media, including surly editors.

Of course, there's no single path to follow in a pursuit of the C-suite. While some might pursue a Masters in Business Administration or other upper level degree, those with years of experience might not need it.There is one surefire way, however, to build your personal brand, Genser says.

“You need to augment the skills you don't have,” she says. Be willing to stretch and take on a new project in the organization. Even if you don't succeed, you'll have gained new skills, she says. And that, in turn, can make you more marketable.

“It's no longer business as usual,” Genser says. “The pace of change has never been greater. There are definite possibilities.”


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.