Healthcare Financial Management

Becoming a CEO or COO requires planning

Becoming a CEO or COO requires planning – chief executive officer or chief operating officer

Edward A. Kazemek

Becoming a CEO or COO requires planning

Conventional wisdom says that a financial manager, even a chief financial officer, is too narrowly focused and trained to be considered for general management positions. In this case, however, conventional wisdom can be wrong.

Strong financial managers can and frequently do become chief operating officers (COOs) or chief executive officers (CEOs). Nonetheless, it takes a planned approach and a lot of hard work.

To achieve the goal of becoming a CEO, financial managers should consider the following steps:

Setting clear career objectives. Financial managers are managers and must decide if they like that. Wanting to become a COO or CEO simply to make more money or to meet ego gratification needs may indicate an inappropriate career objective.

On the other hand, a financial manager who enjoys and is challenged by the managerial aspects of the job may achieve career satisfaction as a COO or CEO. If this is the case, a financial manager should set realistic objectives and time-frames for career advancement.

Assessing management ability. Feedback from subordinates and superiors can provide financial managers with an evaluation of their managerial skills. If a financial manager explains that feedback is needed to develop skills, others may be willing to provide honest and helpful comments.

Creating a self-development plan. Armed with clear objectives and a self-assessment of management ability, a healthcare financial manager can prepare a plan for becoming an executive. Help in developing a plan can come from a superior, a board member, or someone outside the institution.

A plan should focus on the knowledge, skills, and experiences needed to become a fully developed general manager. Often, a plan includes educational courses or pursuing a master’s degree in management or business.

Demonstrating enthusiasm. A healthcare financial manager wanting to become a CEO might look for non-traditional ways to serve the institution. Volunteering for task forces on non-financial issues, speaking out on an institution’s operational challenges, participating in an institution’s strategic planning, or other activities extend the scope of a financial manager’s experience. Essentially, a financial manager should resist being pigeon-holed as the numbers person.

Getting closer to the board and medical staff. Much of a healthcare CEO’s time is spent with a board of trustees and medical staff members. A healthcare financial manager can develop these relationships by making presentations before a board rather than submitting a written report, for example. Getting closer to medical staff members formally and informally is another critical developmental experience. A healthcare financial manager should be perceived by medical staff leaders as someone who understands their problems and who has a “big picture” view of health care today.

Becoming visible in the community. A CEO often is a healthcare institution’s chief representative in a community. A financial manager can get involved in community functions by speaking to business groups or volunteering for a leadership role in a charitable organization. This type of exposure and experience will help prepare a financial manager for fulfilling the community relations aspect of a CEO’s role.

Determining promotion probability. By sharing career objectives with superiors, an aspiring financial manager can determine whether career objectives realistically can be met at a particular institution. If the COO and CEO are comfortable in their jobs and have no plans to leave in the foreseeable future, a job change may be needed to get a financial manager’s career on the right track.

In this case, prospective employers should be informed of the reason for changing positions. Leaving a secure financial management position to increase the chances of being promoted to a general management position can help strengthen commitment to this career objective.

Edward A. Kazemek is chairman and chief executive office of ACCORD Limited, a management consulting firm in Chicago, Ill. Readers’ comments and questions are encouraged and, whenever possible, will be addressed in future articles. Address to Edward Kazemek, ACCORD Limited, 919 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1200, Chicago, IL 60611.

COPYRIGHT 1990 Healthcare Financial Management Association

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group