The Long Serving Leader Retires
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This 125 year-old institution is a 501c3 nonprofit organization with an annual operating budget of just over $12 million dollars. It employs 120 full and part-time staff, operates a number of facilities and delivers programming state-wide. The organization is governed by a 20 member board.
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The Chief Executive Officer for over 25 years announced her retirement. This well-respected leader had shepherded the organization through a variety of significant transitions and capitalized on many opportunities. However, in recent years the organization has lost momentum and it would be an understatement to say there was a momentous amount of change anticipated in the future!
The economic climate is booming, however this organization is not achieving the anticipated fundraising results. It is hard to hire and retain talent. New or redefined relationships with the government officials at the local, state and national levels, as well as new inroads into the donor community and other key constituencies would be required to address the challenges and opportunities of the future.
Before proceeding with a search for a new CEO, the Board
and staff addressed the following questions:
- What are the most critical opportunities and challenges that we are facing?
- How will the Board measure its effectiveness in assisting our organization through this leadership transition?
- What are the Board’s expectations regarding the pace of leadership transition with regard to the needed organizational changes?
- Who is responsible for external communications (donor, shareholders, collaborative partners, elected officials)? What information regarding the search and transition processes will be shared and on what schedule?
- Is there alignment between the Board and staff regarding
the organization’s strategic direction?
- How do you quantify the job of the CEO over the next three,
six, twelve and twenty-four months?
- How will our staff work differently a year from now? How
might their job responsibilities change? How might results
- Who is responsible for internal communication (staff,
volunteer, Board)? What information regarding the search
and leadership transition processes will be shared and on
Using the responses to these questions and other institutional information, the Board decided to delay the search, and first invest time in developing a strategic framework to guide the organization’s future direction. The time invested in Board and staff dialog resulted, not only in alignment, it also accelerated progress on achieving important organizational goals and outcomes.
After this strategic thinking process was completed, a CEO position description was developed in concert with a plan for identifying the most qualified candidates. Armed with specific questions, tailored to the organization’s current and future needs, the Search Committee quickly reached a decision. The new CEO was hired, and leadership transition coaching was provided to smooth the transition. At 120 days after the new chief executive’s employment, selected Board members and all staff direct reports were interviewed to determine how the organization, as a whole, had changed and the reactions of constituencies to those changes.
Involve the individuals who will do the work!
- Learning together during the planning process strengthens teamwork across the company.
- The Board and Staff need to be excited about the future they are creating together.