There’s No Future in Looking Back When Recruiting NFP Executives

We need to focus on the road ahead and not the rear vision mirror when recruiting executives
We need to focus on the road ahead and not the rear vision mirror when recruiting executives


Typically when a not for profit CEO, or perhaps a member of the Leadership Team, announces their intention to leave we rush to……

  • Dust off the latest position description for the role – which could be anything from years to months old.
  • Tweak the PD based on the perceived strengths and weaknesses of the dear departing – Must have someone with the same entrepreneurial flair; would be good if we could find someone who is a wiz on Rolling Forecasts etc.
  • Based on this information, cobble a job advertisement together and get it onto a Job Board as soon as possible.
  • Maybe engage an external Recruiter to help with the search and selection. But hey, we have a HR person or a board member who recruits for her own company, they can handle the nuts and bolts.
  • Keep our fingers crossed that we can find someone half-decent who can fill the role preferably before the incumbent leaves or a matter of days after.

What possibly could go wrong?

Well, plenty, I am afraid!

The issue with this all too common routine lies in the often held belief that Executive Recruitment is simply a TRANSACTION. This is what we want and these are the steps we must take to find the right person. A tried and true process to follow to solve a particular problem.

Unfortunately, the success of this process is predicated on the big assumption that our starting point is correct. And here is where things often fall down.

You see, a PD that is rooted in the past and amended only to deal with today’s problems will result in the organisation hiring someone who can fix what has been broken. It is a big ask to expect that same person to also steer the ship to where it needs to be in five years’ time.

This type of thinking will, at best maintain the status quo and not take the organisation forward.

Clearly, what is urgently required is a change in how we view executive recruitment in the sector. Rather than seeing it as a difficult process to be endured, the departure of a senior executive must be viewed as a pivotal moment in an organisation’s history. A time that can unleash transformational opportunities. A time for the Board or a CEO to recognise that it will only know the kind of person it needs after it knows where it is going. And the more stakeholders it consults – staff, departing executive, clients, advisors, community – the more accurate its roadmap for the future will be.

Only when we have a firm handle on the organisation’s strategic direction and a sense of what the immediate future will look like, can we determine the skills and attributes of leaders to guide us there.

The departure of a Senior Executive, for whatever reason, is an organisational development opportunity, take advantage!

By Chris Gandy – Founder of Cause & Effective. We link exceptional subject matter experts with cause-based organisations that are making a positive social, cultural and environmental difference.

About B-Cause

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

Thats our take on things. Over to you, please add to the discussion.

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