Just hired a new CEO at your nonprofit? Now, the real Board work begins.
Finding a new executive leader is always challenging for a nonprofit board. In fact, it may be the hardest task any nonprofit board must face. To start, the board faces the daunting task of managing the organization until a new leader can be found, which is then compounded by the additional stress and worrying of trying to find the “right” candidate. And the hard work doesn’t end there. The most critical period for a nonprofit’s success comes after the new CEO starts the job as the entire organization acclimates to its new leadership.
One third to one-half of new CEOs, whether they’re hired from outside or from within, fail within their first 18 months, according to some estimates.
At Spokes, we’re constantly talking about how critical the role of a nonprofit board’s continuing support and guidance is in helping a new CEO be successful. The topic is really nothing new. What is new, however, is an article from Harvard Business Review, “After the Handshake“ by Dan Ciampa, which offers some fresh tips and insights.
- Nonprofit boards must find and maintain an appropriate balance between being un-involed and over-involved. CEOs routinely report that they don’t get enough transition support from their directors. Boards cannot micromanage, but there is also a danger in being too remote.
- Nonprofit boards must set clear expectations about how much communication they expect between board meetings or in which decisions or changes they want to play a larger role. Ciampa recommends that board members can start defining clear and appropriate expectations with the new CEO by asking the following questions:
- “What information do you need from the board to be able to do the best job you can?”
- “What behavior on the board’s part would best enable us to have a trusting relationship at board meetings, between them and in one-on-one conversations?”
- “From your experience during the search process and in your first meeting or two as CEO, what one thing about how the board operates would you change to make our relationship all it must be?”
- Nonprofit boards must help a new CEO build his/her relationships with key organizational stakeholders – including each of the individual board members. Every new CEO will need some help navigating the new culture of your organization.