Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tips for CEO transitions

By Bryan Orander, president, Charitable Advisors

Over the past five years, Charitable Advisors has guided and advised more than 25 nonprofit organizations’ boards as they replaced staff leaders. Nearly half of these searches resulted from retirements of long-term leaders or founders.
While hiring an organization’s executive leader to fill a vacancy caused by retirement or any reason is one of a board’s most important responsibilities, over time in this support role, a number of lessons have become clear, as we provided support.
 Boards must step up: Organizations that have made successful transitions began early. Several years before a leader may retire, a board executive team should identify the board leaders as the organization moves through the transition and searches for a replacement.
A board must be prepared to suddenly be assertive even if its past engagement and participation were low because it had developed a level of trust with a capable long-term leader.

Boards should engage the outgoing leader: While I would never suggest that the retiring executive be a part of the search committee, he or she should absolutely play a part in planning for the transition and offering insight through the process. Often, he or she is more anxious about making the transition successful than anyone else and clearly defining his or her role during the transition is important. 

Boards must understand emotion is part of the equation: Many people have strong emotional responses to the retirement of a long-term leader and friend that need to be acknowledged. Staff, in particular, should not be ignored in the process and providing a channel to listen to and address their concerns is key.   

Boards must communicate: In the case of a retirement, people on the outside are not usually surprised about the announcement, but they do expect their relationship with the organization to be taken into account. Most of the time, at the same time staff is notified, funders and major donors should be contacted directly and quietly. This should be followed by an announcement to all donors/volunteers before a public announcement.
While certain topics such as candidate names are obviously confidential, it is helpful to be as open as possible with stakeholders about the progress of the search process, and include it in monthly staff newsletters and donor updates.

No comments: