Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Reflections on Leadership Transition in an Economic Downturn

In mid-June, I co-facilitated a conference call for about 20 consultants who provide support to nonprofit organizations going through some type of executive transition – could be retirement, firing, or routine turnover for a better position. These consultants were from across the country and many have been doing this work for years. There were several comments that caught my interest that I thought other nonprofit leaders in Central IN and SW Ohio might be interested in:

· Retiring Executive Directors are commonly looking to continue their work in the sector through serving as Interim EDs, Board consulting, or as part-time program advisors to nonprofits or foundations.

· A coach can be a great idea to assist an Executive Director who is beginning to think about retirement.

· The value of using an Interim executive director in a transition from a long-time leader or when an organization is struggling is finally beginning to gain acceptance. Funders generally “get it” but many nonprofit boards perceive it as a sign of weakness to not immediately hire a permanent replacement.

· The departure of a long-term executive is one of the few “windows of opportunity” where boards are more likely to consider merging with a similar or complementary organization.

· Some Executive Directors have delayed retirement, sometimes to the detriment of their organizations. This can put boards in a tough situation and force them to make some hard decisions about what is best for the organization. Some organizations are making special arrangements to supplement income or insurance as they ease out a leader.

· Executive Directors who retired 2-3 years ago are coming back into the workplace and looking for new work opportunities.

· Some consultants are seeing more demand for organization closedown services and are even being trained in grieving and loss to better support staff and supporters.

· Consultants are offering a wide range of support services to nonprofits who are preparing for or going through leadership transition. Ranging from full service preparation, assessment, search, and on-boarding to ala carte or training the organization to do each segment of the process themselves.

If your organization is anticipating the transition of a long-term executive, seeking an interim until you hire a new executive, or looking for a coach, please contact Ruthie Purcell-Jones at Leadership Ventures at 317-636-5323 or Bryan Orander at 317-752-7153. Watch for more reflections on Executive Transition in the months ahead.

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