Thursday, December 12, 2013

When Your CEO Retires

You are a Board member for a nonprofit and, at a regularly scheduled Board meeting, your CEO gives her two week notice.  Even though she is 68 years old, you and other Board members are somehow shocked.

I hope this does not happen to you or your organization, but it could.  One reason is that many Boards and staff alike are in denial about leadership succession.  They don’t even want to talk about it.  “I just hope I retire from the Board before we have to deal with it,” I have heard some say.

How do you begin to prepare for the inevitable departure of a CEO?

My recommendation is that you encourage your organization to create an “Emergency Succession Plan” of what you would do in the event that your CEO has an unplanned illness that keeps them away from work for ninety days.

The components of that plan would be:

*A list of the key functions of the CEO

*A designation of who on the staff would temporarily take over each of those functions, including who the Interim CEO would be

*A plan to provide those people with the training/education/information so they can carry out these responsibilities

*A clear statement of which staff members will have authority for what

*A list of the most important organization stakeholders, how they will be communicated with regarding the “emergency” situation, and who will maintain relationships with them

It is simply “good business” to be prepared for a possible emergency situation with your CEO.  Actually the same is true for other senior staff positions.  Completing these plans will open the door for more expanded conversations about leadership succession.  What will we do when the CEO ultimately retires?  How would we handle that?

Seamlessly handling leadership transitions is a key to organization resilience and making a long term Mission Impact.

*For excellent resources on leadership succession, check out the Transition Guides web site.

For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site at   You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.

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