Every executive’s departure has a style. What will be yours?

Will you be a monarch, general, ambassador, governor, or steward?

You have to get my successor in here at least six months before I leave so I can train him! That was how Alice Hendrix[1] responded to my question about how she saw the upcoming CEO transition going.

CEO Departure Styles

I had just been engaged by Alice’s board to help them recruit and hire her successor and to help the board manage the transition process. My initial response to her comment could have been, “no cause for alarm”; Alice was the departing CEO and an upcoming transition always produces some level of anxiety. Plus, many departing executives overestimate the amount of overlap necessary with their successor. But, it was how she said it — staccato while jabbing her index finger into her opposing palm to emphasize every word. Now, THAT was a little disconcerting. My thought was, “Is she a ‘general’ or a ‘monarch’ who’s being eased out by her board?” But what does that mean? “General”? “Monarch”?

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Six Nonprofit CEO Succession Readiness Questions

In preparing for nonprofit CEO succession, too often timing gets confused with readiness. A prior post (“Three Phases of the CEO Succession Timeline”) makes a distinction between timing and readiness, pointing out that they are different but related things. For succession purposes, timing has to do with the sequencing of events while readiness has to do with the willingness to change and the preparation to navigate change. If you are a nonprofit CEO planning to retire, succession readiness involves preparing yourself and your organization for the transition process leading up to your departure as well as preparing for what’s on the other side of the departure threshold — for both you and your organization.

Readiness involves the willingness and preparation to navigate change.

That earlier post also pointed out that, in planning for CEO succession, more time gives you more options. Beginning the groundwork several years ahead of your departure date, if possible, dramatically increases the possible range and depth of the preparations.

More time = more options

These two states of readiness — organizational and executive — are interrelated, as illustrated in the Readiness Grid (Figure 1 below). The ideal scenario is a high state of readiness on the part of both prime actors in CEO succession — the organization and the executive.

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Five Common CEO Succession Mistakes

(and How to Avoid Them)

In an earlier post, I proposed that every nonprofit CEO needs an exit strategy because every career and every job ends in a transition, eventually. It’s just a matter of when, how and how well-managed that transition will be when the time comes. I also proposed that departing CEOs face three jobs, two of them new. In addition to leading the organization, part of the CEO’s leave-taking process should involve helping ready their organization for the transition and preparing themselves for life’s next chapter. Building on that article, here are some common CEO succession mistakes that nonprofits frequently make and how you can avoid them.

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Every Nonprofit CEO Needs an Exit Strategy

Every career ends in a transition. It’s just a matter of when, how, and how well managed.

Smart leaders – whether they’re running a business or a nonprofit – know that they’ll leave their role at some point. They know that every job and every career ends in a transition eventually. It’s just a matter of when, how, and how well managed that transition is when the time comes.

The longer an executive has been in place,
the more challenges the successor will likely face.

When CEOs move on – especially if they’re a founder, a long-tenured executive, or a transformational leader – their organization needs to devote appropriate time and resources to managing the transition, ensuring that it’s more than just a search and hiring exercise. The longer an executive has been in place, or the more significant their impact on the organization, the harder they are to succeed and the more challenges the successor will likely face. An exit strategy can help pave the way for a smoother transition.

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Exits From the Top Episode #6 – Tapping the Power of Executive Coaching During a Leadership Transition

Welcome to Episode #6 of Exits From The Top. We will be talking with veteran executive coaches Viveka Chen and Brian Fraser about tapping the power of executive coaching during a leadership transition. Here’s what you’ll learn from these experts:

  • What executive coaching is and isn’t
  • How coaching works and what it costs
  • How coaching can help the departing executive have a better exit and set themselves up to thrive in life’s next chapter
  • How to find and pick the right executive coach
  • How to work effectively with a coach

Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Viveka’s consulting practice is focused on organizational development and executive coaching. She also facilitates retreats and organizational change processes as well as executive transitions and leadership development. Prior to starting her consulting practice in 2001, Viveka was Executive Director of the East Bay Conversion & Reinvestment Commission, and Associate Director of Urban Habitat. For twenty years she has worked with low-income communities of color and their allies to realize racial, social and environmental justice. Click to read more about Viveka and her work with Coaching for Justice.

Brian is the “lead provocateur” at JazzThink, a coaching and consulting firm based in North Vancouver, BC. Brian coaches leaders and teams, offers courses on coaching skills and what he calls SMARTer conversations. Prior to launching JazzThink in 2002, Brian taught and administered in postgraduate leadership programs in the theological colleges at the University of British Columbia. An ordained minister, he still ministers part time with Brentwood Presbyterian Church in Burnaby, BC. Click to read more about Brian and Jazz Think.

Watch the Video

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Caffeinating Your “What’s Next?” Exploration

When grappling with your retirement planning, some of us tackle the issue the way we would any robust challenge – with lots of caffeine. A post on Inc. magazine’s blog proposed that any time you’re in the process of making a major life decision, you should go on 50 coffees – informational meetings with friends, acquaintances, and former colleagues – to provide yourself with the opportunity to review your plans with a diverse audience (www.inc.com/peter-thomson/50-cups-of-coffee.html).

My initial reaction was, “Wow, 50 coffees? Who has that kind of time? 10 might be more realistic.” But at the essence of the article is a brilliant idea for anyone planning their exit from the top — folks grappling with the post-career “what’s next?” question.

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