Non-Profit Executive Transitions
Nothing is more critical in the life of a non-profit than a transition of leadership. Whether the transition is well anticipated, or brought about by unexpected circumstances, there is both great risk and great opportunity. To maximize the chances of a successful transition, organizations should consider the following:
A formal, written, Board-approved transition plan should be in place at all times. The plan may not be implemented for years, or it might suddenly be required tomorrow. Thinking about the key steps required for a transition, well before the fact, provides a solid foundation for success.
When a transition is imminent, the Board should step back to assess what sort of leadership is needed for the future. Leadership transition frequently leads to a reassessment of strategy, current programs and projects, organizational structure, finances and more. Hire a leader not just for the present state of the organization, but to drive the future as well.
Consider bringing in an interim leader to allow time for careful assessment of long-term needs. An experienced interim executive can maintain ongoing operations, deal with problematic issues (clearing the way for a new permanent executive) and provide new perspectives to the Board. The skills required of a leader in the short term may be very different from those required over the longer term. The right interim executive can help bridge that gap.
Hiring the new leader is only the mid-point of the transition process. A well planned onboarding process will help the Board, the new executive, and staff coalesce as a team. Often overlooked is Board level training – clearly defining the roles of the Board, how the Board and executive can best work together, and crafting Board level goals to fully utilize the expertise and experience available.
Open and honest communications are always critical, but no more so than during the first year of an executive transition. The Board, the new executive, and staff should all have forums to identify and discuss concerns, resolve conflicts, and ensure a consistency of vision. Key to success in this regard is the role of the Board chair – who needs to be well prepared for this task.
Contact us to find out how we can guide your organization through executive transition, minimizing risks and positioning you to make the most of future opportunities.