High Plains Drifter, MD

“There’s a new sheriff in town. “

That’s what my former Chairman told me as he suggested I “update” my CV last fall.  Within two weeks, he announced his resignation and, shortly after, I was informed that there would be a “new direction” in the department of medicine. Five clinical chairs in the college had “stepped down” in the months prior, and this was another notch on the new sheriff’s belt.  Up until then, we had been in denial that “our beloved chairman” would be in the cross hairs.

The new Dean of the college was shaking things up and the events of winter-spring 2010 could be characterized as the Milwaukee massacre. Division chiefs soon dropped like rooftop shooters at high noon in Deadwood. Fortunately my Chairman, who had hired me 4 years earlier, had the integrity and foresight to alert me of the coming change of the guard.  I heard the phrase “to serve at the pleasure of…” weekly during that time.

Eight months later, I have landed on my feet in Boston.  After considering multiple options, I find myself 1,000 miles away from my prior employer; more satisfied, stimulated and appreciated than I have ever been.

Had my former Chair not supported me and had he not given me the “heads up,” I do not know how I would have faired during the ensuing months.  A friend of mine with MBA after his name, once told me a B-school anecdote that has helped me cope:

A manager was asked to step down but he met with his replacement prior to leaving the job.  He wrote two letters, placed in sealed envelopes, and gave each to his replacement.  The departing manager said to his replacement, ‘The first time the sh_t hits the fan, open the first envelope. The second time the sh_t hits the fan, open the second envelope.  Good luck.”

Six months later, the sh_t hit the fan so the new guy opened envelope one. It read, ”Blame me.” Six months after that, the sh_t hit the fan again.  The now-seasoned-manager opened envelope two. It read, “Go write two letters.”

Succession planning is a leader’s responsibility whether or not the leader is “successful.”  Is there any advice from those of you who have had to write two letters?

Good Luck,
Michael Radzienda, MD, SFHM
Vice President, Hospital Medicine and Clinical Effectiveness
Vanguard Health Systems, New England

Leave a Comment