Planning ahead to avoid a long goodbye
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Succession planning is a frequent topic of conversation among the boards and executive teams we work with at health systems, and for good reason. There’s a large cohort of CEOs and other C-suite members in their late 50s to mid-60s who are probably two or three years away from retirement. Smart organizations are way ahead of these transitions, creating a deliberate bench of next-generation leaders, and explicitly evaluating their performance at a board level to determine who will fill key leadership spots in the future.

One aspect of succession planning that’s gotten less attention but can prove equally disruptive to the organization if ignored, is what role the CEO will play after retirement. We’ve worked with a number of systems over the years whose CEOs have been in seat for a decade or more, and who are reluctant to take a full step away from the post once their time is over. Of course, it’s ideal to have a transition period that lasts for a defined time, to give the new executive time to get up to speed and build confidence.

But what we sometimes see is former CEOs whose shadows loom large over the system, as they continue to provide (often unsolicited or unwanted) advice, stay in close touch with former subordinates, or keep a running dialogue with board members. This creates an awkward situation for the new CEO, who finds her own plans and ideas constantly tested, sometimes explicitly, against the “What does [former CEO] think of that?” standard.

The key to avoiding this problem is to address it well in advance. We’ve been part of explicit conversations between incoming and outgoing CEOs about expectations and role definition post-exit, and even seen a few outgoing CEOs engage career counselors to help them manage the personal challenge of letting go of the organizations they’ve poured their hearts and souls into. A delicate situation to be sure—but a critical one to get right.


Phoenix hospital CEO gets $85K raise despite criticism from board members

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The CEO of a public and nonprofit safety-net health system in Phoenix will get an $85,000 raise despite objections from two board members who questioned if the increase was excessive, according to the Arizona Republic.

Under a new five-year contract effective Oct. 25, Steve Purves, CEO of Valleywise Health, will see his annual salary rise to $685,000. Mr. Purves could also receive a discretionary $171,250 performance bonus and is eligible for a $68,500 retention bonus on Oct. 25, 2020. In 2020, Mr. Purves’ base pay will climb to $753,500, and by 2023 his base salary will be $872,191, according to the contract cited by the Arizona Republic.

The hospital’s governing board approved the contract in a 3-2 vote. The two board members who voted against the contract raised concerns about its length as well as the rise in salary and bonuses. They questioned whether a raise of that magnitude was appropriate, given that the hospital has faced federal penalties for five consecutive years over patient injuries and infections. They also noted Valleywise Health anticipates a $3 million deficit this fiscal year.

But the three board members who supported the contract said it was necessary to ensure Mr. Purves remained at Valleywise Health. They argued the package is similar to other CEOs at comparable health systems. They also praised Mr. Purves for steering Valleywise’s finances in a better direction, according to the Arizona Republic.

The final contract is $15,000 lower than one proposed in September. In that proposal, Mr. Purves would have received a $100,000 pay hike with a discretionary performance bonus of up to $175,000.

Read the full report here.