Nicholas Tejeda didn't grow up dreaming of being a hospital CEO. Up until his college years, he didn't really even know the position existed. Fast forward to today, and the 35-year-old is manning that position for Tenet California's 73-bed Doctors Hospital of Manteca.
Like it or not, baby boomers, who make up a large portion of the health care workforce, are likely to start retiring in droves in the coming years. There's a real fear that succession planning hasn't appropriately addressed the void that will be created when the current generaion of hospital leaders depart. That's why hospitals must consider young up-and-comers for executive positions to round out their leadership teams, Tejeda told us for our Q&A in the latest issue of H&HN.
If hospitals want to start building leadership teams of the future, they should stay transparent with young workers about emerging opportunities to lead, and talents that the administration lacks.
"Organizations need to be more candid with their team about opportunities for improvement, deficiencies in performance and what the gap is between where they are and where the organization needs to be," he says. "That's what an organization should be doing today to make sure that they have adequately prepared people for tomorrow."
Tejeda didn't know he wanted to be a hospital leader until — while working as an admitting clerk during college, simply because he could type fast — he was called into the CEO's office. Someone stole something from the patient valuables safe and the exec wanted to interrogate the young clerk. The two ended up hitting it off and the CEO suggested that Tejeda call if he was ever looking for work. Tejeda took up the offer after graduating and, years later, is successfully leading his own hospital. Those successes, he says, include readmission rates that've dropped from 35 percent down to as low as 12 percent, the introduction of nurse navigators who have helped drop the left-without-being-seen rate in the ER, and a 30 percent uptick in outpatient surgery over the past few years driven by new service lines.
One recipe to success for young hospital leaders, Tejeda believes, is running a good meeting. Along with the basics of starting on time and presenting actionable items, that means giving employees who don't often interact with the CEO a chance to see how you respond to adverse situations. Tejeda also believes that it's important for youthful hospital execs to play into the stereotype that they'll be energetic and enthusiastic in their duties.
"That's one of the preconceptions that should be taken advantage of," he says. "Allow yourself to be dynamic. Allow yourself to have that energy and enthusiasm. People will feel it. They will want it. People who have been at the hospital for a long time have wonderful ideas that need to be implemented, but they haven't had that spark. They haven't had someone who is the impetus to get things done. If they see that you have that energy, they will latch on and together you can accomplish wonderful things."
On the other side, Tejeda urges older, more experienced employees under a young CEO to leverage that energy and enthusiasm to pursue initiatives of interest. Before getting to that point, however, Tejeda asks hospital veterans to at least give young leaders a fair shake before reaching any conclusions.
"There's going to be a period of time where, as with any new leader coming in, they're going to ask dumb questions, make mistakes and make assumptions that may or may not be accurate. During that time period, give them the benefit of the doubt. Don't assume that the dumb questions are because they're young. They're just new. It's not their responsibility to trust the young leader; it's the young leader's responsibility to earn their trust. But as much as they can, try to give them a chance."