GI Outlook
GI Outlook
August 13, 2018
2 min read

How to successfully embark on succession planning in your practice

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AUSTIN, Texas — In 2013, Joseph J. Vicari, MD, MBA, FASGE, announced he would step down from his leadership role in his private practice, but it would be 4 years before he did so. In those 4 years, the organization put into play a successful succession plan.

“We all need to have a succession plan in our organizations,” Vicari, co-course director of GI Outlook, said during his presentation. “Succession planning is mandatory for the future success of many organizations and, most importantly, your organization.”

Vicari outlined how Rockford Gastroenterology Associates managed its succession plan and how others could do so in their own practices.

“It’s a two-step process: First, identifying someone that you believe can lead the organization and then giving them the skill set they need to be successful. In short, it’s a replacement process for leadership,” Vicari said.

This process, Vicari explained, should start well before the desired transition time.

“We need to be proactive and start early in the process. ... You should start at least 2 to 5 years in advance of anticipated leadership change,” he said. “That time frame gives you plenty of time to develop the process and ultimately implement the process. And it gives certain advantages to the organization.”

Clarity in current operations, continuation of successful pieces and flexibility to change the plan as needed are chief among those advantages, Vicari said.

“You can’t plan for disaster, but you can plan for leadership change,” he added.

The lead time also allows for physician input into the new leader as well as the forthcoming changes.

“Physicians want to have a voice in who their next leader is going to be,” Vicari said. “It leads to security and comfort in an organization and it avoids organizational and individual stress.”

When starting the inquiry into the next leader, Vicari said there are certain characteristics that should be required: integrity, communication skills, consensus building, critical thinking, fair and compassionate but stern when needed – all while being a good listener, he said.

“Servant leaders are those who have a natural feeling of wanting to serve first and letting leadership flow from that service,” Vicari said. “They truly want to lead for the right reasons.

When you’re a servant leader, it allows you to put patients first, the organization second and individual physician’s needs last, which is not always easy.”

While serving the patients, a physician leader must also act as the “quarterback” of the organization, being a team player with staff, peers and other organizations, he added.

Once the organization chooses the ideal successor, the current leader must mentor him or her.

“Mentoring allows for peaceful transition,” Vicari said. “Leadership changes can make people uneasy, especially staff. ... Through the mentoring process and having a long transition time, the staff can become familiar and comfortable with the new leader long before the actual transition. ... If you’ve made the right choice, the transition becomes seamless.”

Vicari recommended overlapping for at least 6 months and up to a year.

“The outgoing physician leader must remain available to the new physician leader post-transition. ... But it’s a balance,” he said. “The outgoing partner must completely step away from the position after the transition happens. ... If the outgoing partner meddles, there will be organizational chaos and leadership chaos and that’s a mistake.”

But setting these expectations and knowing the succession plan is laid out gives both new and old leadership a path to succession and success, Vicari said. – by Katrina Altersitz

Reference: Vicari J. The Power of Leadership. Presented at: GI Outlook; Austin, Texas; August 10-12, 2018.