Three Hats

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What happens when the CEO leaves, voluntarily or not? Everyone panics!

But what if you could turn to a seasoned executive who knew just what to do to keep things chugging along while building a more sustainable organization at the same time?

That’s what I do – I’m an Interim Executive Director and CEO for nonprofit organizations. I have served the nonprofit community for 30 years and I now give back in a different sort of way to ensure the sector gets stronger.

No, I’m not a hero, but as an experienced consultant, I shift quickly into the role of Interim Executive Director or CEO when the nonprofit loses its top leader due to resignation, retirement or termination. For 6-12 months, I provide the board with the time and space required to step back from their concerns about the leadership change and carefully search for the new permanent successor. While the search is going on, I’m the Management Consultant, doing what I can to help the organization thrive and build sustainability. My 30 plus years as a nonprofit executive gets put to work to make improvements and share best practices while working closely with staff to ensure everything gets done and that no opportunities are missed. I have a keen sense of strategy and apply my knowledge at this critical juncture of leadership change. I take a deep look at the fundraising, grants, community relations, earned revenue, financials, staffing structures, technology needs, and more. Within 6-8 weeks I have a pretty good assessment and set of critical tasks to present to the board. Once we agree, then, voilà, there is my workplan for the next 30-120 days or more.

It’s not easy. Often there are many snags, some inherited and some revealed. But I stay calm, and reassure the staff and board, and keep going. Sometimes I serve as a Change Agent if the issues are intractable and merger might be in order. Sometimes the organization might have to close. But overall, I am able to provide some high quality transition leadership and change techniques throughout the entire time. As a Transition Consultant, I talk about transition a lot to anyone who will listen – for example, what it means and feels like to be in this unknown territory. I talk about the future and what a new beginning might look like. I talk about what we can do together as a staff and board to achieve a positive outcome. I make sure everyone counts and each person is participating.

I also have a special trick up my sleeve. I belong to a community of practice of other consultants serving the nonprofit community in the same way I do. We meet regularly, share resources, seek advice, and solve problems together. I might even bring one in to help co-lead at a critical juncture. Our group, the Bay Area Interim Executive Directors Network, or BAIED, supports our Bay Area nonprofit community during its critical transition times so the shift from previous Executive, to Interim Executive, to new Executive can be successful.

My advice to the nonprofit community: Leadership transitions can be difficult, but you can avoid the chaos by hiring an EXPERIENCED and TRAINED Interim Executive Director/CEO to be your transition coach, management consultant and change agent during this critical time.  It’s an approach to nonprofit change that really works!

Contact me to find out more about Interim Executive Director work and the Bay Area Interim Executive Directors Network.

Download a PDF of this blog post here.

Written by

I am an independent consultant specializing in organizational change, transition management, Executive Transitions and serving as a nonprofit Interim Executive Director. I believe in building board and staff capacity by providing information and tools for informed choices and decisive action. My areas of work include program planning and design, leadership transitions and onboarding, board development, community organizing, organizational restructuring, and creating earned income strategies.