Transitioning Toward Retirement: The Board/Exec Partnership

retirementBy Charles E. Simon

I have been in the process of planning for retirement or, shall we say, achieving Emeritus status within in the next two-three years. Upon making this decision I realized at the outset that the learning curve for a replacement was a long and complicated road. As a professional committed to the values of the organization I had been leading and shaping for several decades, I realized that in order for a smooth transition to occur there were several steps which need to be in place before the search process begins.

While I realized I would have at best limited input into the selection of my successor, I needed to insure a sufficient period of overlap, particularly since the first person selected might not be successful and that a second person might need to be found. In other words, my volunteer leaders and I needed to create a plan that included “time.”

The culture of the organization I have been guiding is built upon trust and compassion and challenge. My leadership has developed a language of inclusion that emphasizes these values. Consequently, I needed to insure that my leadership looked for an individual who could embody these values and, over time, be able to convey those values to those he works with and hopes to engage.

Too often when a new professional assumes a position of leadership or is being interviewed for that position those interviewing look for an articulated vision. I need to lay the groundwork between those being interviewed and those who interview so that the new employee can adopt that vision that has been taught to the Board over a number of years. It will take a long time for the new professional to assimilate the vision and then to learn how it should be fine-tuned. Groundwork should include a documented organizational history compiled by both lay and professional, which illustrates a continuously revised organizational structure, the re-affirmation of espoused values coupled with strategies of implementation. Having a history of these items is crucial.

Finally, if I wish my organization to effect this transition smoothly, I need to be able to transition gracefully from a decision maker to an advisor. Too often organizations, when planning to replace a senior professional, fail to take this item into account and as a result leave the newly elected or appointed person floundering, inappropriately prepared and in a position where the organization stumbles as it attempts to re-orient itself to the new director.

Charles Simon has served as the Ex. Director of the FJMC (Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs, Inc. since 1983.