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The Challenges…and Importance of a Good CEO Transition

ECVO recently underwent a leadership transition, with a new Executive Director taking the position at the beginning of 2020. We understand that such an initiative can be a challenging and overwhelming for organizations. In this series, we will explore the ins and outs of leadership transition, sharing some insight from our collaborators and lessons we learned along the way. 

In our second guest post, Domenic Gallace of Pathfind gives an overview of a quality recruitment process, from establishing a hiring committee to successfully onboarding your new leader.

So, your CEO or Executive Director has resigned, decided to retire, or perhaps not working out as you thought… what now? This is an important consideration for any organization, and even more important for a not-for-profit organization that is dependent upon funding and service deliverables  that impact the community. 

There are key steps to ensure a smooth transition: 

  1. Appoint a Hiring Committee 
  2. Develop a Recruitment Plan (with the potential of choosing a Search Firm) 
  3. Assess the Need 
  4. Conduct an Effective Search 
  5. Onboard Your New CEO 

But it isn’t enough just to know these steps… it is important to carry them through effectively! 

Appoint a Hiring Committee

Once you have decided, or are forced, to replace your CEO it is key to establish a good Hiring Committee. And choose strategically… feelings will heal! Avoid “death by committee” by having too many players involved in the decision making … this will only slow down the process.

The Committee should include about 5-6 people and an individual who understands Human Resources, first and foremost. The other members should be those who understand the needs of the organization, can think strategically, and be decisive. Once the committee is set up, make sure to establish the rules of engagement (or terms of reference) and set reasonable and attainable timelines for the recruitment.

Develop a Recruitment Plan 

Developing an effective recruitment plan involves deciding who will do what. Hiring a Search Firm, if fiscally possible, can be an excellent way to support the organization. When looking for a Search Firm consider the following: 

  • Research the firm – Do they meet your specific requirements (i.e. not for profit experience)? Does the recruitment team have the right background and experience? Will they be able to meet your timelines and budget? 
  • Obtain proposals from the firms identified.
  • Choose the firm that best fits your needs. 

Remember: engaging a Search Firm is not inexpensive, but a bad hire will cost much more in the long run. If engaging a Search Firm is not possible then ensure you have the right expertise on the Hiring Committee to carry out the recruitment. 

“Avoid ‘death by committee’ by having too many players involved in the decision making … this will only slow down the process.”

Assess the Need

Assessing the needs and requirements for the position is critical! How do you go about recruiting the right candidate when you are unsure what skills, background and behaviours you are looking for? Excellent question, right? It is important that the Hiring Committee and Search Firm, if you have engaged one, determines the critical competencies and behaviours you are seeking. Divide the competencies into: A) must demonstrate; B) desirable competencies; and C) nice to haves. 

Conduct An Effective Search 

I have unfortunately seen many recruitment processes go wrong, and, along with a bad hiring, this can be a very costly mistake as well.  

  1. Allow ample time for sourcing – at the end of it all, it’s getting the right candidate that matters, right? So, ensure you have left a proper amount of time to find that perfect person!
  2. Assess candidates against originally set criteria – you did the work to determine the right competencies and behaviours for the position – use them!
  3. Determine the interview process – every organization is different and so choose the process that is right for yours. How will you include the staff’s input in the interview process? How about the Board, or will it just be the Hiring Committee doing the interviews? What questions and process will best satisfy the results of the needs assessment?
  4. Consider the use of a behavioural assessment – eligibility of the candidate is critical of course, and this can be tested by determining whether the candidate has the right mix of skills and background for the position. But how about behaviours? The suitability of the candidate’s behaviours are just as important, and maybe even more so to the corporate culture.
  5. Getting to the offer stage and beyond – avoid surprises late in the process! Ensure you know in advance what it is going to take for your “A” candidate to accept any potential future offer. 

Now that you have your PERFECT candidate, congratulations! But keep in mind that proper onboarding and continual retention and engagement strategies are necessary too… and then you will have a happy and engaged employee for many years to come! 

Recruitment Steps - blog (1)

As the CEO/Managing Partner of Pathfind, Domenic focuses on the lives of others while they are in their career journey, whether it be by assisting in finding employment, seeking out leadership coaching or enabling an individual during career transition. He has a personal vision of always supporting his clients by being responsive, by providing an excellent customer focus and by demonstrating the utmost integrity. Domenic is a CPA and a member of the Chartered Professional Accountants Association of Alberta.

We hope you enjoyed Part 2 in our Leadership Transition blog series. Don’t forget to catch up with the rest of the series:

Part 1 – Leadership Transition: Start From Where You Are

Part 2 – The Challenges … and Importance of a Good CEO Transition

Part 3 – Leadership Transition: The Board’s Perspective

Part 4 – Leadership Transition: The Candidate’s Perspective

Part 5 – Emergency Leadership Change