Still Walking in Their Shoes

After take-off on the “Red-eye” from Perth to Sydney the other night, I decided to forego the in-flight entertainment and listen to my own music and hopefully get some shut-eye.

This was my last trip home after delivering our Janus CEO Transition Program in Ruah Community Services. The assignment took 9 months to complete and I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on the project while it was still fresh in my mind – what went right, what could be improved upon. The FIFO miner in the seat next to me was already snoring so there was not going to be any interruption from that quarter.

Call it random, call it a sign, call it what you want but the very first tune to come through my ear-phones was the 70’s classic “Walk a Mile in My Shoes” by Joe South. Couldn’t tell you what followed that because Joe’s lyrics kept reverberating in my head as I mused about the real power of our program.

To give you a quick recap, our unique Janus Program combines capacity building, organisational development and leadership coaching, with traditional executive search, to ensure that cause-based organisations and optimally placed for long-term success.

And the entire process is delivered by a Transition CEO who is actually continuing to walk in the CEOs shoes.

To me this is where the true power of the program lies.

The departing CEO hands over their “shoes” to a Transition CEO who immediately starts to run in them. This ensures no organisational momentum is lost; stakeholders are reassured that program delivery will not be disrupted; staff are ecstatic that decisions won’t be shelved till “the new person comes on board; and the board can breathe easy in knowledge that the business wont implode and they now have time to reflect on the past and thoroughly plan for the future.

And it the “shoes”, or responsibilities and accountabilities that come with them,  that provide the Transition CEO with an intimate understanding of the vulnerabilities and strengths of the organisation. This knowledge is gold to a board as it grapples with what the organisation will look like in 3-5 years’ time and the skills and attributes their new CEO will need to guide them there.

I may get an argument here, but I believe it is a level of insight the board cannot receive from a consultant, external recruiter or individual board members who may decide to take random dives into the organisation to determine the lay of the land.

When we come to the actual recruitment stage, the true beneficiaries are the candidates. In deciding whether to submit an application, potential candidates have an opportunity to discuss the role with the person actually doing it. No…

“Don’t know, we’ll check with our client and will get back you”

… candidates are able to quiz the person wearing the shoes. Based on this firsthand information, they are then able to make informed decisions about whether the role is right for them and if they have the experience, skills and attributes the organisation is looking for.

Last but not least comes the on-boarding process.

The new CEO “receives the shoes” from the person who has been wearing them for the past 6 months or so. As the Transition CEO does up the laces for the new CEO, they are able to fully brief them on what has been happening in the organisation; explain why certain decisions have been made; provide context around various events; alert the person to any unresolved risks etc. and remain in the background to provide ongoing support.

Through the whole process the shoes keep pounding on without missing a beat. And continue to provide the wearer with unique insights and learning experiences every step of the way.  

By Chris Gandy – Founder of Cause & Effective. We help cause-based organisations open the door to opportunities when their CEO departs.

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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