Leadership Change: Here's How to Make It as Painless as Possible
However, that does not mean a nonprofit should neglect potential CEOs outside the organization. The ideal candidate very well may not be right underneath the board’s nose.
“The search for a new CEO should always start with culture and strategy, in that order,” Nardizzi says. “In my view, the two critical components to organizational culture are mission and core values. Ideal candidates will be both dedicated to the organization’s mission and aligned with its core values.
“If they’re not, they will struggle to gain the buy-in and commitment they need for their team to realize their vision and may make decisions that are not in line with the organization’s purpose,” he adds.
If your organization has the budget, both Nardizzi and Tandon suggest using an outside search firm to help with an executive search. In fact, if you can use two independent resources to help the board — a search firm and an internal search committee or third-party background firm — it’s even better. And don’t forget to include senior staff members in the search process. They can offer valuable insights.
Ultimately, however, the decision is the board’s to make, and the board must hold itself accountable to land the most qualified candidate. The board must choose someone whose passion and priorities match the ideals and mission of the nonprofit, and it must take into consideration what it envisions for the organization in the future. Then the board must make sure the people it interviews meet the needs of today and tomorrow … and it should never rush into making a decision.
Onboarding … and offboarding
Once a new CEO is identified and hired, only half the battle has been won.
The most painless leadership transitions occur with a strong onboarding plan for the new CEO. Often, the most important step in the onboarding process is making sure there is an offboarding plan in place for the outgoing CEO. In an ideal scenario, there is overlap so the new CEO can sit down and learn the lay of the land from the outgoing leader. That way, the new CEO can get firsthand advice to ease the burden.