Well…yes and no. Yes, you should feel good about the hire, and you should take a pause, but not for too long because the next phase of the transition is only beginning. “What!? Only beginning?” you say. Yes, hiring the new ED is just the first step of the transition journey. The next important move for the Board is to ensure your new leader settles confidently into the role for a long tenure.
So, release that breath and let’s chat about this next phase.
The article below from Liz Swanson expands on that topic, drawing from a workshop she recently led to help provide a framework on how to leave your leadership role. Get ready to enjoy her insights!
A question for you: Imagine tomorrow you go into the office and announce you are retiring in 4 weeks. What is the biggest issue your board must consider?
Or the decision may be entirely personal in nature – illness, changing family needs, or retirement. Some reasons for leaving will allow for more notice than others. Some will be on better terms than others. Some leaders will have more to give than others by the time they choose to leave. Obviously, it’s impossible to account for the specific details around each situation, but there are some clear steps that you will need to take regardless of why you are leaving.
This should be a collaborative discussion that starts from a place of mutual respect and concern. It should also not come as a surprise. Board members should be sharing concerns in an annual review process with the leader, informed by the organizations and the leaders performance. Board leadership should create an open dialogue over a series of conversations, asking the Executive Director questions like “How are you feeling about the organization, where it is heading, and how you are doing as Executive Director?”
Cinematically, it is poignant and stirring, but we soon find out that he has not made proper preparations for his departure, including finding a safe place for the iconic ring of power.
Unlike Bilbo, I often think about how to “leave well” because of my role as an Interim Executive Director. But regardless of whether you are an entry-level or executive hobbit, leaving well is a valuable skill to develop.
The most shocking part about that excerpt is that the article was written in January of 2020. This goes to show that rapid change in the nonprofit space was happening long before the pandemic hit. And in today’s post-COVID world, change has only accelerated further.
In fact, recent research from Ernst & Young in collaboration with Oxford University indicates that 85% of senior leaders have been involved in two or more major organizational transformations over the last 5 years, with 67% of those surveyed indicating that at least one of the transformations they have been a part of has underperformed relative to expectations.
There are many questions facing an Executive Director when considering departing their organization, such as:
COVID-19 and the all the stress that surrounds it has made for a very uncertain time for many social service organizations. Lockdowns kept us from connecting with the people who count on our services. Many offices had to move to remote work plans. Fundraisers had to be reinvented as “virtual” or cancelled all together. We all know these and many more unsettling realities about our world since March of 2020.
In the beginning of all this, we prided ourselves on “pivoting” to be able to bridge and adapt to changing realities. Now we are sick and tired of pivoting. In reality, many of us are just…sick and tired.
Like our mothers always told us though (or at least mine did), there can be a silver lining if you are open to finding it.
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