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How to Ensure a Smooth Transition to a New Executive Director

The transition from one Executive Director to the next can be a stressful and challenging time for an association. Associations often have many moving pieces and complexities, and the knowledge of all of these parts must be seamlessly transitioned to new leadership. To make the process as painless as possible, here are a few tips to ensure a new Executive Director is set up for success.


Clarify Expectations

One of the biggest challenges for new Executive Directors is not having clear expectations set by the Board of Directors. It’s important for Executive Directors and Board members to work collaboratively to develop objectives that are mutually acceptable and in the best interest of the entire organization. Differentiate between the role and responsibilities of the Board and that of the Executive Director. Prioritize what objectives are desirable, but not essential to the success of the organization. Also, be sure to express any concerns or anticipated challenges right from the start so everyone is on the same page from the very beginning.


Address Any Red Flags Immediately

When organizations are undergoing leadership transitions, it can be common for problems to get lost in the shuffle and ignored. As a new leader, it is important to find out if there are any existing organizational issues that need to be addressed. It is important for these issues to be resolved sooner rather than later so the organization can move on to more important initiatives. Take time to have individual conversations with volunteers, staff, and board members who know the organization well and are aware of any issues that might prevent it from achieving its overall mission.


Don’t Immediately Start Making Changes

Oftentimes new leaders are eager to make changes to an organization before they ever take the time to learn why things are done the way they are. Making changes and breaking tradition before you develop an understanding of the “why” can lead to major mistakes and can risk the relationships with long-time supporters of the association. Once you have the full picture, you can orchestrate necessary changes more efficiently and collaboratively with all stakeholders.

Teamwork, Teamwork, Teamwork

A common mistake for rookie Executive Directors is to come in to a position thinking they are the only ones who know what is best for the organization. They forget that there are plenty of members, volunteers, and board members who already have plenty of experience working with the organization. As Executive Director, there are many demands placed on your time and it’s impossible to do everything alone. Having a good relationship with those around you is crucial to your success, so take advantage of their skills and talents and work as a team to advance the organization’s objectives. Not only will this help your association to operate more efficiently, but volunteers and others will feel valued and more satisfied with the association if they are able to contribute.

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