Good Reads You Might Have Missed: CEO Transitions

Do you have a new CEO joining your association? Move carefully and thoughtfully—and borrow some insights along the way from this link roundup.

CEO transitions can be complicated to juggle because a lot is on the line—including the future of the organization and the trust of your membership.

There’s a lot for departing CEOs to impart on a person replacing them in the role. What should your association know? Read on for some insights from the Associations Now and ASAE archives:

Navigate Your Next CEO Departure. This 2016 piece makes the case for building a strong succession plan to help ease the process of moving to a new CEO. The best way to start? Don’t wait until later, especially if a transition announcement is already out there. “From the very beginning of announcing it is when you should be thinking about the key messages you want to be sending about your organization—externally, internally with the staff, and with the members,” said Christine McEntee, who served as the American Geophysical Union’s CEO before announcing her own transition in 2019.

‌How Boards and Staff Can Support an Effective Executive Transition. It’s not just the leader who has to navigate succession in the C-suite; boards and staff members alike have to navigate it as well, wrote Jenny Nelson, ASAE’s director of content and knowledge resources, in a piece highlighting a study by the ASAE Research Foundation. “Whatever role is required, the research recommends that the board make those expectations clear to prospective interims,” Nelson wrote. “That understanding provides the foundation for a productive relationship between the board and the interim.”

Taking the Awkwardness Out of CEO Transitions. Moving from one leader to another is destined to come with a little awkwardness—and if not handled correctly, there might even be a lot. How can that weirdness be managed? Consultant Cynthia Mills, FASAE, CAE, suggested that building a transition document is key to helping normalize the process. “It’s a critical exercise for all departing CEOs,” she said. “The transition document literally outlines everything that’s in your head that you just know, and that you’ve forgotten you just know.”

Four Ethics Guidelines for Leadership Transitions. How do ethics come into play when we discuss transitions around leadership? Katherine M. Finley, CAE, a retired association executive who previously served with the Organization of American Historians, wrote that the replacement process should remain transparent. “If your organization is using a search firm to recruit a new executive, the association’s search committee or board should ensure that the chosen firm is highly ethical,” she wrote. “This means that the firm doesn’t simply pull from past contacts and candidates to whom the firm owes a favor. Although a good search firm will have strong candidates to recommend, it should be willing to do an open search to find the best candidate for the job.”

Should an Exiting CEO Stick Around? This piece discusses the considerations that can emerge if an organization has a transition but chooses to keep the former executive within the organization in some role. There can be benefits, but it can be a lot to navigate, noted Tad Parker of Printing Industries of New England, who went through the process himself. “The downside was that as time moved on, he and I had the inevitable—‘power struggle’ is not the right term, but exchange of authority,” Parker said of the arrangement. “I had the authority from day one but didn’t want to offend him as we were moving through it.”

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!