To the Editor:
The board of any organization has as its primary duty the work of strategy, policy, and budgets. It may also from time to time help the CEO sort out particularly thorny issues, but it leaves the day-to-day responsibilities of the company (in this case, the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital) to the CEO, and should give the CEO authority commensurate with his or her accountability.
When a person interviews for the job of CEO, as a prospective candidate he should ask the board during the interview process exactly what is expected of him — what would the board like to have accomplished. The prospective CEO may even suggest that after his appointment, he will wait 60 days and present the board a ”white paper” as to what he has found and what he or she recommends be done, and how to do it. He may even suggest that he and the board work together in developing a strategy, if none exists. Once the board decides whom they want to hire, they make him an offer, and he if he is thoughtful, he asks for a severance package in the event of termination (except for cause). This is negotiated, and if the board refuses a severance package, the candidate should not accept the offer. The board has an absolute right to change its mind about the candidate after one year, or earlier, but the new CEO has a responsibility to ensure that his decisions are aligned and he is pursuing the vision of the board. The board should not second-guess the CEO’s decisions or micromanage, and if they are so predisposed, a good CEO will not take the job.
It is unfortunate that Mr. Woodin finds himself unemployed, but one wonders what steps he took to protect himself, and what he could have done to align himself with the interests of the board. Mr. Sweet, the board chairman, indicated that there is no character issue, and he rightly assured the CEO of confidentiality. Severance is warranted after such a short term, even if there was no agreement in place. For the general public to be up in arms over this separation is not useful, since they do not know any of the details, and frankly it is not their business. The board may have been careless in choosing Mr. Woodin, or did not do enough due diligence; however, Mr. Woodin had a responsibility to determine his levels of authority and accountability in advance, and understand what he was getting into. A good CEO during the interview process develops discernment as to what his relationship with the board will be. If he thinks the board is disposed to second-guess, this is a job you should not want. Both parties have been harmed, monetarily and in morale of the organization. We cannot know the reasons for the termination, but the proper process could have avoided it.