Sometimes, perhaps more often than we know, an association fires its CEO (and perhaps other key management staff).
The reasons vary:
- It may not have been a good fit.
- It may have been some “rogue board members.”
- It may have been a “political struggle.”
- It may have been for cause.
A Wall Street Journal article on the fight of the American Apparel CEO rekindled memories of when my boss and I were fired as CEO and Deputy CEO of a large national association.
Even though the board had become contentious, we were shocked at being fired ... mainly because of the association’s success and its reputation as “the model” association within our industry.
When you are fired with no reason given (we worked in an “at will” state), you need to look at what you do next. And, your emotions can distract you from what you should be doing next.
At about the time we were fired, I read (or heard) a message from (if I remember correctly) Home Depot co-founder Bernard "Bernie" Marcus. His first thoughts: I’ll sue them. His advice: Don’t fight it. It wastes your energy and resources. Devote that time and money to finding a new job or starting a business.
So what should a fired association executive do?
- Ensure that the termination terms of management contract have been fulfilled. (You do have an employment contract right?!)
- Physically remove yourself. This means removing your personal “stuff” from your former office.
- Mentally remove yourself. This is harder ... for you and your former staff. The old job is in your past. Quit looking back and asking why. You are “in between successes.” So, look forward to what’s next! You’ll feel like your former staff are “shunning” you. I did. Until one of my former staff and friends told me, “Steve, we don’t know what to say. So most of us say nothing.”
- Tell everyone you are in the job market. Get over the embarrassment. Your next opportunity could well come not from who you know but from someone who knows you. Mine did. A colleague called me to offer me a management project. It lead to a company I started, grew and owned for 19 years. (And, I didn’t even know I wanted to own a company!)
- Take advantage of the outplacement office provided in your contract. (Your contract does provide for outplacement services, doesn’t it?!)
- Ramp up your personal content management and social media networks. (You do have a personal social engagement strategy, right?!) You’ve been given a gift of time. Keep/get engaged.
- Make sure you attend professional meetings such as the ASAE annual conference. This is for both networking and knowledge. I didn’t think I could afford the cost. But, ASAE provided a “in between successes” scholarship (free registration). I used frequent flier miles and hotel points. The cost became manageable.
What have I forgotten?
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