Exits From the Top Episode #8 – Organizational Assessment: Getting the Whole Picture

Welcome to Episode #8 of Exits From The Top, a conversation with Sara Brenner, President of Community Wealth Partners. We will be discussing how to use organizational assessment to prepare for and guide the CEO succession.

While organizational assessment certainly is the theme, Sara also shares with us their “Six Key Drivers of Sustainability” model that frames their social impact assessment and strategy development work. Those drivers are:

  1. Social Impact Articulation – defining the impact or change that the organization intends to make in the world.
  2. Social Impact Outcomes – the specific measures that tell you whether or not you’ve made that impact or change.
  3. Focused Business Strategy – a strategy or plan to achieve the intended impact.
  4. Economic Viability – the financial viability of the organization.
  5. Capacity to Deliver – the organization’s capacity to deliver services that achieve the social impact outcomes.
  6. Adaptability – the organizations’s ability to learn and adapt.

In their model, the process is informed by robust engagement with partners and stakeholders. The organization has ongoing engagement with  stakeholders and partners in defining the outcomes, measuring results and retargeting efforts. As Sara points out in the interview, their model is focused on sustaining social impact rather than sustaining organizations per se. Below you’ll find a link to a graphic that outlines their sustainability model.

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Community Wealth Partners is a Washington, DC-based consulting firm that helps leaders reimagine what’s possible, create imaginative new ways to address social problems, and accelerate the pace of change. For more than 15 years Community Wealth Partners has helped diverse, inspiring change agents make lasting progress in their organizations and communities.

I’ve long admired Community Wealth Partners and its parent organization, Share Our Strength, for the fresh thinking and bold action that they bring to key social challenges. What I especially respect is their emphasis on scaling up and meeting social problems on their own level rather than nipping around the edges.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Nonprofit Leadership Transition and Development Guide (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010)

ldr_guide_cvrThe Nonprofit Leadership Transition and Development Guide covers not just the mechanics of the transition process but important related topics such as the opportunity to ensure leadership diversity, addressing founders and founder transitions, dealing with emotions during the transition process, succession planning, and leader development. The concluding chapter – Many Paths to a Leaderful Organization – sums up the book nicely. 384 pages, 9 chapters, 5 appendices and 15 tools. Available from Amazon.

Managing Executive Transitions: A Guide for Nonprofits (Minneapolis, MN: Fieldstone Alliance, 2009)

met-cvrTim Wolfred is a long-time, key thought leader on the topic of nonprofit executive transitions. Organized around three phases – Prepare, Pivot, and Thrive – Tim provides practical advice on how to manage leadership turnover in ways that can heighten mission impact while avoiding potential downsides.

Prepare – board members, staff, volunteers, and funders engage in an efficient process for updating the agency’s strategic directions and crafting a profile of the skills needed in the next executive.

Pivot – a search ensues, conducted by a board reinvigorated and excited about the agency’s future impact.

Thrive – the board engages the newly hired executive as a leadership partner and gives him or her clear performance priorities derived from the strategic directions.

Managing Executive Transitions provides engaging case studies and hands-on tools such as planning agendas, timelines, sample letters, and communication tips will smooth the transition to new executive leadership. 165 pages, 6 chapters, 3 appendices and 28 tools. Available from Amazon.

Chief Executive Transitions: How to Hire and Support a Nonprofit CEO (Washington, DC: BoardSource, 2008)

cet_cvrmcadamChief Executive Transitions is a comprehensive guide to help boards navigate the hiring process and oversee a successful leadership transition. It includes checklists, key questions board members will need to answer as they go through the process, and practical real-life examples. 118 pages with an accompanying CD-ROM that includes 13 helpful documents, including a resume scoring sheet, sample timeline, sample interview questions, and a sample 90-day entry plan to help ensure the success of the newly hired chief executive. Winner of the 2009 Terry McAdam Book Award – best of the nonprofit management literature.  Available from Amazon.

The Community Action Partnership Sustainability Toolkit (Washington, DC: The Community Action Partnership, 2012)

The Community Action Partnership Sustainability Toolkit is a three-part series of succession and sustainability guides published by the Community Action Partnership, the national association for Community Action Agencies and their leaders. Although the guides were written with Community Action Agencies in mind, the principles apply to all nonprofits. They were designed to help leaders strengthen the capacity of their organizations, especially those organizations facing a CEO transition in the near future. Each of the guides can be used individually, but they can be used together to help leaders strengthen their organizations and manage leadership turnover.

Sustainability Guide CoverThe Organizational Sustainability Planning Guide is a tool for assessing and strengthening the areas critical to the organization’s long-term sustainability by conducting an organizational sustainability assessment and using the results to develop an organizational sustainability action plan. Click here for FREE download.


Executive Succession Planning Guide CoverThe Executive Succession Planning Guide provides an overview of three approaches to succession planning and presents a detailed approach for developing “succession essentials,” a board-adopted succession policy for the chief executive position and a companion emergency backup plan for the CEO position, but it can be adapted to other staff leadership positions as well. Click here for FREE download.


Executive Transition Management Guide CoverThe Executive Transition Management Guide presents a three-phase approach for managing turnover in a leadership position, especially the CEO position. Click here for FREE download.