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.

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.

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 Barriers Between You and Your Life’s Next Chapter

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s been impossible to avoid the media stories about the massive wave of baby boomers heading towards retirement. But underlying these stories are some striking facts that signal a major change in leadership in enterprises and institutions throughout the country. The median age for an S&P 500 CEO is 55. Three-fifths of senior federal executives are, or shortly will be, eligible for retirement. And, it’s estimated that two-thirds of our nation’s nonprofit leaders are age 60 or older.

As these leaders head towards the traditional retirement threshold, the situations and opportunities they face are dramatically different than those faced by any previous generation. For a host of reasons, traditional retirement is not the choice of many Boomers, nonprofit leaders included. Here are a few of those reasons:

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Review – The Sustainability Mindset

tsm-cvrI pre-ordered this book as soon as I heard about it. I was expecting a sequel to Zimmerman and Bell’s earlier book, Nonprofit Sustainability. But The Sustainability Mindset is actually a successor to that important, earlier work.

My first impression is awe at the authors’ ability to pack so many rich ideas and useful tools into just 200 pages. Beyond the sage advice, I counted no less than 43 figures, 7 tables, 4 sample exhibits, 3 case studies and 23 templates.

The book walks you through a six-step sustainability planning process. As in their earlier work, the central tool of this book is the “matrix map,” a 2-axis, 4-quadrant table that plots the dual bottom-line of a nonprofit: mission impact and financial viability. The idea is that the leadership team assesses the organization’s programs and determines each program’s “profitability” and mission impact. The results are plotted on the matrix map, using circles that are scaled according to each program’s expenses. The composite map provides a comprehensive picture of the organization’s business model. See the example below.

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6 Signs That It’s Time to Move On

Deciding when to move on – that it’s time to retire, shift into an encore career, or otherwise leave your leadership role – and head toward life’s next chapter may be the most challenging decision of your career. Some leaders make this decision easily and move forward gracefully. Others delay, postpone, and defer until circumstances take over. They hang on too long until the “it’s time to leave” signals become so blindingly obvious that they can no longer be avoided. Still other executives never seem to get the message and have to be subtly, or sometimes not so subtly, forced out of their positions. This article covers six classic signs that it might be time to prepare your exit plan.

Leading well includes leaving well, and that means taking charge of your exit and leaving on a high note. Choosing how to exit your role may be the ultimate act of leadership. The first step is determining when it’s time to move on.

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7 Factors that Predict Healthy Aging

(and 6 Factors that Don’t)

We are bombarded by contradictory information about what it means to grow old, is how psychiatrist and Harvard Medical School professor George Vaillant begins Aging Well, his landmark book (Vaillant 2002). He goes on to give us the facts, drawing from three separate longevity studies that tracked the lives of 824 individuals for more than 50 years, beginning in their teens. (The subjects included male Harvard graduates from the 1940s, a group of women from diverse backgrounds who were identified as “gifted” as children, and a group of inner-city male dropouts.)

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Review – Portfolio Life: The New Path to Work, Purpose, and Passion After 50

Portfolio LifePortfolio Life: The New Path to Work, Purpose, and Passion After 50
by David Corbett (Jossey-Bass, 2006. Available in hardcover and Kindle editions from Amazon.com.)

Portfolio Life offers a refreshing, positive view and an action-oriented framework for creating a meaningful life in what we typically think of (or perhaps used to think of) as the “retirement years.” David Corbett is founder of New Directions Inc. in Boston, which offers “planning in career and post-career fulfillment to accomplished individuals.”

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What’s Standing Between You and What’s Next?

The median age for an S&P 500 CEO is 55. Nearly two thirds (59.3%) of our nation’s nonprofit leaders are age 60 or older. In just three short years, a staggering three in five senior executive federal employees will be eligible for retirement (Rein, 2013). They’re part of the massive baby boom cohort that will be moving into their next act over the next two decades. What retirement barriers will these folks face? What are the barriers to moving on?

Barriers Image

We used to call that next act retirement, but, for a variety of reasons, retirement is not the choice of many Boomers. Why?

  • Americans are living longer, and living in better health for longer.
  • The recent financial crisis is forcing some to delay retirement.
  • Many love their work and don’t want to leave it.

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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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Time.com Post on Redefining the “Ideal” Retirement

Dan Kadlec has an interesting post on  Redefining the “Ideal” Retirement.

What is the ideal retirement? It’s different for everyone, of course. But with insufficient nest eggs and failing pensions it almost certainly will include some kind of employment. Here’s how the Great Recession helped redefine retirement yet again. Here’s the link:  http://business.time.com/2013/08/29/redefining-the-ideal-retirement/