Three Phases of the CEO Succession Timeline

Executive successions vary widely in their circumstances, but they share a common driver of success: readiness. This includes the executive’s readiness and that of the organization.

Succession Timeline

Timing and readiness are different but related things. Timing has to do with the sequencing of events, processes, or changes. Readiness is about the willingness to make the changes and the level of preparation necessary to successfully navigate the change process. For leadership succession, readiness first involves the willingness of the executive to initiate the succession process – to recognize that it’s time to move on and to take charge of his/her own exit. Readiness also involves how prepared the organization and the executive are to move through the succession. Finally, in the case of a retiring executive, readiness involves his/her willingness to let go and step into the next chapter of life – to move on and not have one foot in and one foot out of the organization. What drives readiness is preparation.

Continue Reading »

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.

Continue Reading »

Exits From the Top Episode #9 – Helping Your Successor Succeed

Welcome to Episode #9 of Exits From The Top. We willl be talking with Tom Adams of Raffa, PC in Washington, DC about how a departing executive can help pave the way for their successor to thrive in the role. We explore what a departing executive can do before, during and after a leadership transition to help ensure that their successor succeeds.

This is one wisdom-packed interview. Here are just a few highlights:

  • The importance of the departing executive gaining clarity about their departure.
  • The window of opportunity for organizational sustainability planning ahead of the transition.
  • The roles that leadership, strategy, business model, resources and culture play in organizational sustainability.
  • The importance of looking at the organization’s bench strength and how to do it.
  • The fact that leadership succession sometimes requires us to have courageous conversations.
  • The impact of executive sabbaticals.
  • The importance of getting beyond the hero model of leadership.
  • Striking a balance between encouraging leadership around you to step up, but still staying engaged.

Watch the Video

Tom is one of the foremost thought leaders on nonprofit leadership succession and transition. In addition to several decades of direct experience leading CEO transition projects, Tom spearheaded two national research and development projects on nonprofit leadership transitions. First, in the 1990s a project funded by the Kellogg Foundation, and in the early 2000s, a project supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The Casey project resulted in a number of research reports and a series of monographs on leadership transitions (links below).

Through these projects Tom has had a central role in training a generation of transition and succession consultants. He is the author of The Nonprofit Leadership Transition and Development Guide: Proven Paths for Leaders and Organizations, which was published by Jossey Bass. He has also authored a number of articles published in the Nonprofit Quarterly, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, and other publications.

None of us are here forever. How do we make sure that our important mission work is going to be sustained over time?

Continue Reading »

Exits From the Top Episode #7 – Getting Started with Succession Planning

Welcome to Episode #7 of Exits From The Top. This is a brief how-to episode on the essentials of executive succession planning. Here’s what we will cover:

  • Two simple to implement but powerful tools called “Succession Essentials” that can get you started with succession planning.
  • How Succession Essentials can help you build the transition competency of your board and executive team. (AND, you don’t have to disclose that you’re leaving or even thinking about leaving.)
  • A step-by-step process for putting Succession Essentials in place.

This week’s topic is getting started with executive succession planning and how it links up with your exit strategy. Perhaps you created a New Year’s resolution for yourself to start planning your exit strategy from your current role. What we’re going to cover in this episode will go a long way to helping you fulfill that resolution.

For many executives it can be a challenge to figure out how to start preparing your organization for your eventual transition out of the CEO role. And it’s especially challenging if you aren’t ready to disclose your departure plans to your board of directors or your staff team just yet. In this week’s episode we’re going to talk about two simple succession planning tools that not only will help you get the planning process started, but will help you begin to build the transition competency of your board and your senior management team. AND do it in a way that doesn’t force you to disclose your departure timetable. In fact, you can put these tools in place without even having a specific departure date in mind.

A lot of what we will be talking about today is focused on two planning documents that will be
useful for you to have at hand as you watch or listen to this episode. You can grab copies of
those documents – for free – by clicking on the “Guides & Templates” link farther down on this page.

Watch the Video

Continue Reading »

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

Continue Reading »

Exits From the Top Episode #5 – Will Your Organization Thrive, Survive or Dive after CEO Succession?

Welcome to Episode #5 of Exits From the Top, which covers how to use organizational sustainability planning as an executive succession planning tool. A tool to add to your exit strategy to ensure that your nonprofit thrives after CEO succession.

What’s covered in this episode:

  • 6 building blocks of sustainability
  • 5 steps to a more sustainable future
  • Key sustainability questions to ask
  • Resources to help assess and plan

When this episode airs it will be early 2015. Perhaps you created a New Year’s resolution for yourself to start planning your exit strategy from your current role. What we’re going to cover  will go a long way to helping you fulfill that resolution.

For many executives it can be a challenge to figure out how to start preparing your organization for your eventual transition out of the CEO role. And it’s especially challenging if you aren’t ready to disclose your departure plans to your board of directors or your staff team just yet. We’re going to talk about two simple succession planning tools that not only will help you get the planning process started, but will help you begin to build the transition competency of your board and your senior management team. AND do it in a way that doesn’t force you to disclose your departure timetable. In fact, you can put these tools in place without even having a specific departure date in mind.

A lot of what we will be talking about today is focused on two planning documents that will be useful for you to have at hand as you watch or listen to this episode. You can grab copies of those documents – for free – by clicking on the “Guide and Templates” found later on this page.

Watch the Video

Continue Reading »

Exits From the Top Episode #4 – Preparing the Nonprofit Board for its Critical Roles in Succession Planning and CEO Transition

Welcome to Episode #4 of Exits From the Top. We will be talking with Vernetta Walker, Vice President and Chief Governance Officer at BoardSource, about preparing the board of directors for their critical roles in leadership succession planning and CEO transition. This interview is part of a mini-series focused on organizational sustainability and strengthening the organization ahead of the CEO transition.

What We Cover

  • How to broach the topic of succession planning.
  • Constructive partnership as the foundation for all planning – trust, communication and mutual respect.
  • How early should executives announce  their departure intentions?
  • How to prepare the board well ahead of a planned CEO transition.
  • Importance of unpacking the CEO’s job, and how to do it.
  • How succession planning can build the board’s transition competency and comfort with transition.
  • Importance of the board developing a comprehensive understanding of the organization and the transition context before mounting a CEO search.
  • Importance of getting the board to see the CEO transition as more than just an executive search.
  • Importance of having a “leadership agenda” with the new CEO — mutually agreed-on priorities that paint a shared picture of success.
  • Using interim executives in situations where there’s been an abrupt transition, and as a means of detaching and reattaching with CEOs, particularly transitions involving a charismatic departing CEO.

Watch the Video

Continue Reading »

Exits From the Top Episode #3 – Strategies to Ensure Your Executive Team is Ready for CEO Succession and Transition

Welcome to Episode #3 of Exits From the Top. This week we’ll be talking with Lisa Brown Morton, CEO of NonprofitHR about your executive leadership team and how to involve them in succession planning and prepare them for the CEO transition process. We’ll also touch on succession planning for other C-suite executives. This episode continues our series of conversations with thought leaders and subject matter experts about how to strengthen the organization before, during and after an executive transition.

What We Cover

  • Preparing the senior management team well ahead of the transition.
  • Engaging the senior management team in the transition process.
  • Wisdom of the departing CEO taking another role within their current organization.
  • The importance of starting the succession planning as early as possible.
  • The importance of staying competitive on salaries along the way, not just at a time of transition.
  • The critical roles of communications and trust-building in the transition process.

Watch the Video

Continue Reading »

Exits From the Top Episode #2 – The Driving Role Strategy & Strategic Direction Play in Nonprofit CEO Transitions

Welcome to Episode #2 of Exits From the Top. We are continuing our series of conversations about the key elements of organizational sustainability and how to strengthen your organization ahead of your CEO transition. This week’s topic is strategy and strategic direction, and the driving role that they play in CEO succession planning and CEO transition. We will be talking with David La Piana, managing partner at La Piana Consulting, a nonprofit consulting firm based in Emeryville, California.

In addition to leading one of the most respected consulting firms in the country, David is one of the most prolific, clear and consistent thought leaders in the nonprofit sector today, especially when it comes to an organization’s business strategy, strategic direction and strategic challenges. David is the author of a number of books including, The Nonprofit Strategy Revolution: Real-Time Strategic Planning in a Rapid Response World. He’s also a co-author of The Nonprofit Business Plan: the Leader’s Guide to Creating a Successful Business Model. David is also widely recognized for his thought leadership on nonprofit mergers and strategic restructuring and has authored a number of articles and publications on this topic. Here’s a link to David’s bio and a link to La Piana Consulting.

Watch the Video

Continue Reading »