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Interim Executive Leadership – A Powerful Resource in Lead New Jersey’s Executive Transition

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“Working with [the Support Center’s interim placement] Richmond [Rabinowitz] was truly a gift. What a great opportunity to have such an experienced professional serve as the interim executive director for our organization. She is smart, focused, full of energy, has great communication skills and best of all a wonderful sense of humor.” 

– Phil Salerno, Lead New Jersey, Chairman, Board of Trustees [during the transition]

When Lead New Jersey (LNJ) needed a new leader they came to the Support Center for Executive Search. After undertaking a thorough organizational assessment, it was clear that an Interim Executive Director (IED) would be key to bridging the leadership gap while the search was conducted. The IED’s goals were clear—strengthen management practices, undertake a review of fundraising and communications and recruit a new class of Fellows and organize a seminar series.

Lead New Jersey’s board looked to the Support Center’s unique pool of highly experienced IEDs for a solution.  All professionals in this talented group have extensive nonprofit management experience with most having been Executive Directors themselves for many years. And equally important, they all have gone through the Support Center’s IED training program which is focused on the special challenges IEDs face. With the help of Julia Lu, the Center’s Director of Consulting, the LNJ Board found the perfect fit for their unique needs–Richmond Rabinowitz. Richmond successfully led LNJ’s operations until the hire of Mark Murphy, the current President.

To learn more about our Executive Search and  IED services contact Julia. And if you are an Executive Director interested in joining our pool of Interims, learn more about our upcoming IED training program

JOIN Our 2012 Executive Leadership Group Now!

If you are an Executive Director with big goals, join the second cohort of our Trajectory Leadership Group.  The Trajectory Leadership Group (TLG) is a small group of CEOs and Executive Directors of small to mid-sized organizations who meet monthly to support, advise, and inspire each other to find creative solutions to management, operations, and sustainability challenges.  Trajectory Leaders are individuals in various stages of their professional lives.  Their common bond is that they aspire to reach higher plateaus within their careers, have had ideas that could transform their professional workspaces, and have additional ideas for their fields that would be invigorated by the networking and feedback from peers.  Participants in the first year focused on achieving big goals such as significantly changing a board, taking the helm at an organization after being led by the founder, starting out as a new executive director, refreshing mission and focus, managing rapid growth and managing change.

The 2012 TLG cohort will launch in September.  Monthly meetings will include peer coaching sessions around individual challenges, issues-based discussions, case studies, presentations from the field, and site visits.  Individual coaching sessions are also available to participants as well as discounts for staff members on Support Center workshops.  For more information, click here .

Former participants praise the unique group atmosphere:
“It was great having continual interaction in an open environment 
with other executive directors.”  
 “I learned a lot about myself that I could not have done without
the group.”

Change at the Top – Risks and Opportunities: What Does the Research Say?

September 19, 2011 Leave a comment

The findings from the latest Daring to Lead study from CompassPoint Nonprofit Services and the Meyer Foundation are sobering. Why sobering?  Because while we work with many engaged boards and funders who are helping to strengthen the executive leadership of the sector, there are many others who do not realize the extent of the issues or are not aware of potential solutions.  This national study reflects the trends we see here in the tri-state area, and their recommendations also mirror best practices we have found to work.

Several aspects of nonprofit leadership are explored, but here we focus on highlights relating to Executive Transitions, a growing part of our work:

  • As reported in previous Daring to Lead studies, the large majority of executive directors –67 % in 2011– report that they will be leaving their jobs within the next five years. And an additional 7% have already given notice.  Executive and boards are still reluctant to talk proactively about succession and just 17% of organizations have a documented succession plan.
  • 33% percent of current executives followed a leader who was fired or forced to resign, indicating the frequency of mis-hires and unclear expectations between boards and executives across the sector.
  • Many boards see executive transition ending with a successful hire. And many new leaders in the study were challenged by establishing effective partnerships with their boards. These executives were confounded by the lack of strategy, resources, and personal support they got from their boards.

The author’s “Calls to Action” include strategies that will help prepare for these executive departures, and ensure healthy transitions and productive, effective, and satisfied new leaders:

  • Creation of emergency succession and transition plans to ensure continuity in the event of an unexpected departure
  • Recognition by funders of the importance of successful leadership transition to the strength and stability of grantees and, where possible, stepped up support during the transition
  • Ongoing board involvement and support for new executives beyond the hire

From our own experience with executive transition clients, we would add:

  • Board engagement in a comprehensive executive search and transition plan  helps to assure a successful hire and makes the most of the opportunities in transition. Our approach includes three phases: 1- an organizational assessment to determine the organization’s current needs and the qualities necessary for a new executive to succeed, 2- a thorough search for a new leader involving all stakeholders, and 3- “on-boarding” coaching  for the new leader to aid integration into the organization and to foster productive relationships with the board and staff.   In addition, transition to a new leader is often aided by the placement of an interim executive director who manages the day to day operations.

A chief executive transition also provides the opportunity for boards to explore organizational restructuring including administrative outsourcing, strategic alliances, and mergers.

There are, indeed, opportunities available during “Change at the Top.”  Following the recommendations of the researchers provides opportunities for nonprofit organizations to both explore – openly – opportunities for the future of the organization and find the right next leader to help them build that future.

Tell us what your experience has been in the executive transition process as an executive director, board member or funder.  What works and what could be better?

Don Crocker, CEO

A Short Menu for Leadership Sanity

April 12, 2011 3 comments

One of our most recognizable nonprofit leaders recently told me that he was “fed up’ and that the changing nonprofit landscape was leading him to “insanity”.   Later that day I began to ponder his dilemma and I decided to ask a group of other successful nonprofit CEOs how they keep themselves sane.  The result –this short “five item menu” for leadership sanity:

1)  Share the work of setting direction –The CEOs said that they discovered that it was the burden of carrying “direction setting” on their own shoulders that weighed them down.  Regular staff and board “strategic discussion” helps relieve the pressure.

2)  Identify and feed the renegades – Nonprofit leaders find they need to support those employees who have a keen sense of the evolving community needs – those with their ears to the ground.  They are supporting those whose emotional energy is invested in the future and who are willing to gently let go of the past.

3)  Release the notion of “heroic” leadership – No longer riding in on the white horse to save the day, successful nonprofit leaders are focusing on creating collaborative systems and making space for innovation.

4)  Nurture employee autonomy – New ideas and new approaches need to be “seeded” at all levels.  Successful leaders are creating mechanisms to encourage grassroots experimentation and reward thoughtful ideas and new approaches to service.

5) Foster increased commitment to organization values – Our new world requires us to wrestle with the “discipline versus freedom” model of supervision.  Successful leaders spend more time securing commitment to core organizational values that are at the heart of the work we do in our communities and with our clients.

What are you doing to keep yourself sane?  Leave a comment and let me know!