7 Insights to Help You Select the Right Executive Director

Ideal talent matches don’t have to try to find purpose from their jobs to fit into the organization – it’s already in their nature.


When it comes to the overall health of our senior care communities, no role has arguably more importance than that of the Executive Director. As the “Swiss Army Knife” of the organization, the ED needs to have a wide skill set that can handle the variety of different daily challenges thrown his or her way. 


With so many different roles and responsibilities to uphold, it’s critical to know we are selecting the right candidate for the position. To do this, we can look at job history, recommendations, and gauge personality/professional traits in an interview – but are we really getting the full picture of how well the candidate matches the specific job demands needed for success in the ED role?


In order to truly understand how to hire high performing Executive Directors, we first need to understand the unique competencies associated with the position itself. Then, and only then, will we have the information we need to identify those similar characteristics in candidates and confidently select top talent matches who will thrive within the role.


With that, let’s further analyze the data from work validation studies of EDs and discover the key insights found by our industrial psychologists that determine person-job fit and show us how to select top talent matches for the position.


The 7 Key Competencies Possessed by Superstar Executive Directors


To determine the strength of any match, we first need to understand the specific performance demands required by the Executive Director role. We go about this by analyzing the position at a number of different senior care organizations and then compile performance metrics from all participating EDs, not just top performers. Here is what we’ve found are key predictors of success in the Executive Director role:


1. Engaging Communication


Being the face of the community, an Executive Director needs to be a trusting and comfortable figure for the rest of the workforce. The way in which they engage and inspire action through their communication should resonate with others, as this will positively benefit not only employees, but the residents and family members of the community who interact with them each day.


Behavioral Insights:
  • Will it be difficult or natural for the candidate to adapt their communication style to suit the message, audience, and context?
  • Is the candidate likely to balance the need to lead and direct conversations with listening to others and understanding their perspectives?
  • Is the candidate naturally skeptical of others, or do they trust people while communicating optimism?


2. Decisive Judgment


Every day, an ED is faced with many different challenges that relate to people, finances, marketing, and other essential business functions. It’s important to know in advance if a candidate can naturally evaluate situations and make high quality, timely decisions before they are selected for the role – as this combination of high responsibility and time stress can cause burnout quickly in poor fits, or conversely, motivate the right individual to thrive.


Behavioral Insights:
  • Is the candidate an impulsive decision maker, or are they likely to weigh risks and options appropriately when making decisions?
  • Will the candidate follow-through with key executive decision makers to ensure alignment when making decisions?
  • Is the candidate likely to balance creative possibilities with practical considerations when making decisions?
  • Does the candidate anticipate the long-term consequences of a decision by investing the time necessary to fully understand the issues?


3. Developing Leaders


What is the health of a community if its top leader does not value building up a system of leaders behind them? A superstar ED will not only value a strong network of leaders within the community, but also they will actively develop them through daily coaching and intentional growth opportunities. High performing Executive Directors understand the importance and responsibility of building a strong bench of leaders around them.


Behavioral Insights:
  • Does the candidate focus too much on setbacks when providing feedback, or do they emphasize the lessons learned to provide solutions for growth?
  • Would the candidate struggle to find the time to coach and develop others due to a natural slower work pace?
  • Is the candidate prone to setting unrealistic or overly challenging development goals for others?


4. Leading Leaders


It’s one thing to be good at developing leaders when they look up to you. It’s another to empower growing and existing leaders to achieve clear, ambitious organizational goals alongside you. An Executive Director who understands how to lead leaders in a selfless way, without feelings of insecurity and jealousy, can provide sustainable success to the operations of their community and foster an environment of personal growth and retention.


Behavioral Insights:
  • Is the candidate comfortable challenging others in a way that does not come across as uncaring or overly competitive?
  • Is the candidate likely to be confident in a leadership role and establish the direction for the team?
  • Would the candidate be likely to take the lead and provide direction without much support from others?
  • Does the candidate find it difficult or stressful to lead multiple projects simultaneously?


5. Operational Planning & Prioritization


While the “people” side of the community is extremely important, an ED must also be someone who can develop action plans that implement the strategic goals of the business. In prioritizing areas of operational focus – alongside valuing people focus – a well-rounded ED actually can take pressure off other key areas of the organization by having a bottom-line financial AND human-centric approach.


Behavioral Insights:
  • Is the candidate prone to overlooking details when putting plans in place?
  • Does the candidate struggle to close out tasks during the planning and prioritization process?
  • Can the candidate manage project initiatives without becoming too immersed in the planning process?
  • Does the candidate focus on how things “could be” or “should be” rather than on practical considerations during the planning process?


6. Relationship Management


As a main community liaison, the ED will have relationships with the organizational executive team, their community’s workforce, the residents and families whom they serve, vendors and many others. Knowing how to manage these relationships and build meaningful, positive connections with others inside or outside of the organization is not only a critical trait for interpersonal communication, but also a reflection on the organization’s brand as a whole.


Behavioral Insights:
  • Although somewhat focused on personal goals, is the candidate generally able to collaborate and consider the ideas and needs of others?
  • Is the candidate likely to personalize issues and become overly defensive, hindering the ability to build and maintain relationships with others?
  • Is the candidate prone to avoid social situations, which will likely inhibit building relationships?


7. Resilience


The Executive Director position is one of the most demanding roles in a senior care organization. With the responsibilities and pressures they face, it’s important to know how well a candidate responds to challenges with composure, optimism, and hardiness. If they can persevere and exhibit healthy stress management strategies in the face of uncertain situations, their workforces will be likely to follow.


Behavioral Insights:
  • Does the candidate tend to take feedback personally, causing them to slowly recover from criticism?
  • Is the candidate comfortable letting others know when they are overloaded, ensuring they are unlikely to overcommit to deadlines?
  • Do challenging situations overwhelm the candidate and cause them to worry unnecessarily?
  • Is the candidate likely to express frustration appropriately and vent it in a healthy manner?


The Right Tools in the Right Hands Have the Ability to Change Everything


Most informational posts seem to only highlight problems without giving practical solutions on how to solve them – that’s not our goal. Understanding the key competencies that make a high performing Executive Director provides great insight and awareness during the selection process, but leaves important questions left to be answered.


How can I practically use this information going forward to find the candidate who would be the best fit? 

When going through my own hiring process, how will I confidently be able to use this information without unnecessary steps and wasted time?


The answers to both of these questions can be found within the selection resource itself. We provide our tools to eliminate the misconception that finding the right person requires more time, steps, and energy from both the organization and candidate. In fact, they were created with the express purpose of directly fitting into your existing hiring process – immediately analyzing all candidates to provide you with the best talent match for the job, without any extra research or time spent by you.


If you’d like to further explore how our tools can identify the best candidate for the Executive Director position FOR you, we’d be happy to discuss your needs with you and provide you with a sample candidate selection report. Just Contact Us and we will get it sent right over.

Currently looking to select the right talent matches at other positions? Comment on this post or get in touch with me over LinkedIn, send me an email at twest@vantagepointcpi.com, or visit vantagepointcpi.com/connectsc and I will send you information for the exact position you’re looking to match.

Remember – When we seek talent, rather than focusing on filling open positions, we begin to concentrate on identifying individuals whose character matches the organization, whose competencies match the role, and whose chemistry matches the team.



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