A Message from our President
Ask any child who has just gone back to school "what happens
next?", and they can name a litany of upcoming fall and winter holidays.
If you focus on the classroom, they can generally respond with the task
next on their assignment list, the book or group for the next reading
level, or even the name of the teacher they hope to have next year.
For adults at work, they may be able to identify their next project or goal in the annual strategic plan, but can they talk about their next career objective or the path they will take to get there with confidence? Can the board describe what happens next when these changes impact their key staff positions? For some, it is a scary proposition, leaving them
frozen in place without a plan. But, for those organizations with an
outline, "what's next?" Is not only free of anxiety, it is seen as a
normal part of growth. In her article below, Chandra Storrusten
discusses steps you can take to lead your organization toward the better
scenario with positive succession planning.
And, part of good succession planning is being informed. So, share with us
upcoming training events and conferences that may help others progress
to their "next step" and searches in need of our support as part of an
organization's succession plan. We are here for you.
Onward and upward!
President, Capability Company
Good business comes from good referrals. If you like the work we do, please remember to pass our name along to those in need of
our services. Thank you.
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Article of the Month
Word count: 859
Approximate Reading Time: 5 Minutes
Succession Planning: Fostering Long-Term Success and Sustainability
"Control your own destiny or someone else will."
- Jack Welch
of the size or mission of the non-profit organization, those wise words apply
across the board. The success of
most non-profits is built on the passion, motivation, and deep commitment to
the organization's mission and leadership by its staff and leaders. Changes in leadership are one of the
most difficult and distracting challenges
a non-profit will face and, although they are inevitable, organizations and
their boards often ignore planning for these changes.
are five steps to increase the success of your succession planning efforts and
foster long-term success and sustainability:
planning is generally ignored or delayed due to the fact that it takes uncomfortable
conversations to address issues that often create anxiety, fear, and doubt. If an Executive Director raises the
need for a succession plan, boards may jump to the conclusion that the
Executive Director is getting ready to leave and they need to start planning
for it. On the other hand, when a
board raises the need, the Executive Director may assume that the board doesn't
feel he/she is meeting their goals and he/she should begin to look for a new
position. This raises the clear
need for trust between both parties and the understanding of the importance of
succession planning prior to beginning the process. Anxiety, fear, and uncomfortable feelings are minimalized
helping everyone buy-in to the process when succession planning is framed as a way to ensure the long-term success and
sustainability of the organization to continue to fulfill its mission. This should align with the inherent reason each leader and board member
is there (or they shouldn't be there)…be the leaders.
Assemble a Succession Planning Committee.
The Executive Director and Board Chair
should recruit a few additional board members and/or staff that have interest
and/or experience in succession planning to form a committee. The committee will determine and review
resources, guide the process, champion specific goals, assign tasks, and hold
everyone accountable to the process and timeline.
Define Objectives, Roles and Timeline.
The most effective succession plans are
tied to an organization's strategic plan, mission and vision. Revisiting these items is a critical part
of the process to help define the objectives desired during the process and the
leadership requirements of those involved. Organizations should develop an Emergency Succession Plan (in the event of an
unexpected executive departure - either permanently or for greater than three
months) and a Defined Departure
Succession Plan (for planned future retirements or permanent
departures of executives). For the
process to be efficient, collaboration is necessary between the Executive
Director, board members, and key staff members. Defining roles and responsibilities and communicating them
prior to the planning process will further help to alleviate anxiety across the
organization. Lastly, define a
reasonable timeline for development of the plans based on other initiatives and
commitments. Consider using an
Annual Board Retreat as the date to present the plan to the Board of Directors
to keep momentum.
Formulate a Leadership Development Plan.
Developing a culture that cultivates
leaders and talent at all levels of the organization is vital for non-profits
to increase their service capacity and program effectiveness as well as talent
attraction and retention, and ensure long-term stability and sustainability. Leaders that are developed internally
also guarantee continuous execution of necessary operational, programmatic and administrative
responsibilities. A leadership
development plan formulated in conjunction with succession planning efforts
promotes lower uncertainty and anxiety because each staff member knows the
criteria they need to achieve in order to advance and there is confidence in
the plan and the organization's commitment to developing leaders.
for Successful Implementation.
to all stakeholders is key during implementation and a communication plan
should be developed that encourages two-way communication and reduces concerns
about the future. The
communication plan is vital in fostering an environment that encourages input
from stakeholders, including staff, to help identify challenges, as well as
successes. The succession and leadership
development plans should be reinforced, assessed and updated during an
organization's annual strategic planning process.
Although succession planning can seem
like a daunting task, it is becoming common for funders and donors to ask to
review an organization's succession plan when considering grant applications
and large donations. In addition,
when succession planning is framed as noted above, it becomes part of an
organization's continual strategic planning and talent management and
development processes, fostering employee engagement and retention and
organizational culture, as well as promoting an environment for leadership
Bottom Line: Succession planning is
vital to ensure the long-term success and sustainability for your organization.
Chandra Storrusten is Co-Founder & Chief Value Creation Officer of Visible Value,
as well as Chair of a Vistage International Chief Executive Peer Group. For more than 15 years she led succession-planning engagements for numerous organizations, fostering sustainable value creation and agility to allow organizations to capitalize on
pivotal opportunities, increase capacity through the integration of best
practices, and ensure they achieve their mission and the goals of their
internal and external stakeholders.
Chandra can be reached at
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In This Issue
Article of the Month
The Bottom Line
A Client's Perspective
"What an insightful article, straight to the point but with a lot of clarity.”
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