Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How do you know when it’s time to go? Lessons from association executives.

The CEO of a national association abruptly resigned his position. The speed created speculation that he was fired. 

 When I met with him about his situation, he said, “I quit. The board hired an outside consultant and recommended the changes he recommended. It was a direction I did not support and I decided it was better to resign than try to implement what I didn’t support.”

His comments focused me back to my own experience of being fired when the association fired my CEO and said I could go with him. And, realizing that I had been so focused on my job that I missed the signals that would impact my career.

In fact, after learning of my job change, Charles Rumbarger said to me: “Steve, remember, it’s their organization not yours, but it’s your career not theirs.”

As I think about the CEO who left, it begs a key question for today’s association CEOs ... “when do you know it is time to go?”


Here are some of the signals I’ve seen ...

  1. Trust between you and the Board starts disappearing
  2. The Board increases its micro management 
  3. The Board holds more frequent executive sessions without you
  4. The association makes a major change in policy direction
  5. Board votes to go in a direction you strongly disagree with
  6. Those leaders or Board members who hired you are no longer on the board
  7. You struggle with enthusiasm about your job and your association
  8. When asked how you are doing, your standard response is “hanging in there”
  9. As you reflect on your association, you realize you’ve been doing the same things for the last three or four years 
Another piece of advice from Rumbarger:
  • “As your tenure increases, you find that your friends come and go but your enemies accumulate.”
My experience also taught me that “it’s easier to get a job when you have a job.”

So, the key is for you to watch for the signals and know when it is time to leave.

So, tell me, what signals should I add to me list?  Please comment and share your experience or ideas.

PS.  When looking for a graphic for this post, I discovered this Time to Leave article that offers more signals.  

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