I quit!


By Rachel Muir

This post originally appeared at connection cafe and rachelmuir.com on January 20, 2012. We thank Rachel for agreeing to slight changes for our Cause and Effective audience.

Two words a board chair never wants to hear from their CEO. Few things can be as disruptive to an organisations success as a Chief Executive transition. The staff may be crushed. Your board chair will likely feel horrible this happened on their watch. Mine did three years ago when I told my board chair that after 12 years at the helm I was leaving the organisation.

I’m not alone. According to the 2011 Daring to Lead report, 34% of nonprofit executives in this country will depart within 2 years. You might be surprised to learn that their for-profit leadership peers were pegged at lower attrition, only 25% according to the Corporate Executive Board. What’s really shocking is only 17% of organisations have a documented succession plan.

Winston Churchill said, “I am always ready to learn but I do not always like being taught.” Leadership transitions are painful but they can teach us a lot. People change jobs; it’s a fact of life. How can you be prepared?

5 simple steps to take now:

  1. Keep up to date job descriptions.
  2. Make sure key internal process are accurately documented: passwords, signing authority, key documentation  and procedures, etc.
  3. Have an airtight communications plan to thoughtfully communicate your change to the appropriate groups, moving from your inner circle of closest supporters outward. Leverage this important time to show gratitude to your outgoing leader, your positive outlook on your future and confidence in your temporary or incoming leadership.
  4. Develop an Emergency Succession Plan that addresses your temporary staffing structure in case of emergency, including authority and restrictions of the CEO.
  5. Considering hiring an Interim CEO. Times of transition are critical opportunities for reflection and growth. With the expertise of a seasoned external leader to come in and provide leadership and assess the organisations health, priorities sand opportunities the staff and board can get an unbiased impartial look crucial for making decisions about what kind of leadership and direction are needed. Even better? It’s already budgeted!

About the author: At 26 Rachel Muir launched Girlstart, a non-profit to empower girls in math, science, engineering and technology in the living room with $500 and a credit card. Several years later she had raised over $10m and was featured on Oprah, CNN, and the Today show.  A winner of Oprah’s Use Your Life award, Rachel is a three time finalist for Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award, was named “Outstanding Fundraising Executive of the Year” by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and one of Fast Company Magazines “Fast 50″ Champions of Innovation.  Rachel is a recognized subject matter expert on moves management, major gift fundraising and has authored numerous white papers on these topics.  Rachel is Director of Client Strategy at the Veritus Group, a major donor consulting firm.

Cause and Effective’s Executive Transition Program to assist cause-based organisations to deal with the issues identified by Rachel. Call us today on 0448240551 if you have just heard those dreaded words “I quit!”

About B-Cause

B-Cause is published by Cause and Effective. We help good causes find and attract effective leaders.

1 Response

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