Transition Planning

Helping boards successfully navigate leadership succession and transitions

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Transitions don’t have to be traumatic

Leadership turnover is inevitable in any organization, but it is not inevitable that it has to be traumatic or debilitating. At Starboard Leadership Consulting, we believe well-managed leadership transitions serve as opportunities for organizations to change direction, build momentum, and strengthen capacity.

Ideally, transitions in leadership should not come as a surprise. The best case is a leadership departure that comes with plenty of notice and time to develop a succession plan that sets the stage for an orderly transition and a successful search for new leadership. Organizations that have engaged in succession planning rarely ask, “What do we do now?” Instead, when faced with a leadership transition, they say, “We have a plan.”

While not all leadership departures happen in a planned manner, your goal remains the same: to ensure an orderly and successful transition of leadership while still advancing your organization’s mission and strategic priorities.

Whether you are executing a carefully developed succession plan or reacting to a sudden leadership departure, we are able to offer a full array of services to support your organization through a leadership transition.

Succession planning is not “one-size fits all”

“Succession planning” is not synonymous with “executive search.” Succession planning anticipates the departure of a leader or leaders, whether at some point in the distant future or over the next few months, and engages the organization in a planning process that ensures an orderly transition of leadership.

Most succession planning can be categorized and defined as follows:

  • Strategic leadership development is defined as an organizational commitment to ensuring that the right staff and the right volunteers are in place (with the essential skill-sets) to successfully advance the organization’s vision and be ready for any opportunity or eventuality. So rather than planning in anticipation of a specific leadership departure, “strategic leadership development” focuses on identifying the leadership and managerial skills your organization needs now and in the future and maintaining talented individuals who have or who can develop those skills.
  • Emergency succession planning is just like it sounds. Here the organization is putting in place plans and defining roles and responsibilities in order to ensure that the organization can continue to operate without disruption in the event of a sudden, unplanned absence or the departure of a key leader or administrator.
  • Departure-defined succession planning happens when a leader announces that he or she plans to leave or retire, for example, in 18-24 months. Here the board takes an active role in preparing the organization for a leadership transition—agreeing upon organizational priorities, building board and staff capacity, and taking the essential steps to prepare the organization for an executive search that will attract the very best candidates.

No matter what kind of leadership transition you are preparing for—one with plenty of lead time or a sudden and unexpected loss of a leader, we can help you develop a succession plan that will make the very best of this moment in time, gain clarity about direction, build staff and board leadership skills, manage the communications and essential relationships, and set the stage for a successful transition.

When a transition results in the need for an executive search

Whether your leader has given you sufficient notice and plenty of time to conduct a search and manage an orderly transition, or you are facing an immediate need to start a search as soon as possible (perhaps even yesterday), we can help.

At Starboard we have more than a decade of executive search experience with a wide-range of nonprofit clients in Maine. While every search we do includes a national pool of candidates, our clients appreciate our unique ability to draw upon an extensive and growing list of contacts and relationships here in Maine. It is our ability to reach beyond those who are searching for work to target emerging leaders and those individuals who may be ready for the next challenge that our clients value most.

Unlike most search firms, we do not confine our work to only the search process. Rather, we help you manage the transition from start to finish and beyond—including the development of a plan for helping the new hire get off to a successful start.

We know that ensuring a successful search and transition takes more than running ads and asking the right interview questions, and we work with clients who expect more than that. A more detailed description of our executive search process and a list of our clients can be found here: executive search.

Begin here

We have developed a variety of resources and written extensively about leadership transitions, and you will find several articles and blog posts on leadership transition in the Starboard Blog section of our web site. Included there is guidance for the Board Chair regarding both succession planning and executive searches.

Let’s talk (free consultations)

Our Maine clients can count on us to begin every project with a conversation—a conversation that helps us to understand your unique needs and consider how best to assist you. Call now—(207) 992-4400—to begin the conversation with Starboard’s president, Jeff Wahlstrom.

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