When the dog dies
Bob and Alison have been friends of ours for years. Recently, Bob decided to retire and they put on a BBQ to mark the event. While Bob tended the steak in his inimitable fashion, I asked Alison about their plans for the next chapter in their lives. Without hesitation she reeled off a list of trips, lengthy visits with extended family members and maybe a house swap with people they know in Canada. But then she put this caveat on these wonderful adventures:
"Of course that's WTDD"
"What's WTDD?", I asked.
Sheepishly Alison glanced at Max their Cattle Dog, who was sitting by the BBQ willing Bob to drop a sausage, and whispered ...
"When the dog dies".
As an animal owner I understood exactly what she meant. While certainly not wishing anything untoward to happen to a beloved pet, their exit from the scene can often be regarded as a pivotal point in the history of our lives. Upsetting, yes, but when we no longer have the responsibility of a four-legged friend a vista of opportunities can open up.
Later I got to thinking that the exit of a CEO from a Not For Profit is, in a sense, a WTDD moment. Hold the outrage and stay with me, I am not comparing CEOs to animals! But both events can be pivotal moments in time.
Using Alison's example, she was implying that when Max goes, after probably shedding buckets of tears, one of the first things she and Bob will do is sit down and explore their options - maybe they will checkout some latest travel deals, talk to family friends to see what they are up to, see how their Canadian friends are placed and make plans accordingly. What they wont do is hot foot it to the nearest animal shelter and get another dog!
When a CEO announces their intention to leave, Board's need to adopt the same approach. While the occasion is potentially upsetting and disruptive, a Board needs to take a breath and examine the unique opportunities for renewal and fresh thinking that arise at this time. They don't need to urgently dust off the CEOs PD, cobble together an advertisement and wrangle a replacement ASAP. This knee-jerk reaction can often snuff out these great opportunities and do little to better position the organisation for the challenges ahead.
To help at this critical time, we have developed our Janus Leadership Transition Program which has been specifically designed to help NFP Boards recognise that new leadership also provides a pivotal chance for change and growth. If your NFP, or one you know, is going through a leadership transition lets talk about the options available to better place your organisation for the future - they go well beyond placing an advertisement on a Job Board.
By the way, looking at Max run around their pool, Bob and Alison will have plenty of time to save for their trips!
By Chris Gandy - Chris is the Founder and Principal of Cause & Effective. We specialise in assisting cause-based organisations to maximise the opportunities that arise during leadership transitions.