Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Retiring Soon? When do you tell your association board?

If retirement is on your horizon, when do you inform your association’s board of directors.

Since Boomers represent a vast number of association CEOs, this is a major issue facing associations and nonprofits.

I've been on all sides of this issue:  as a volunteer when a CEO left; as a CEO who left; as a retiring Association Management Company (AMC) owner and most recently as a search consultant who helped a small, national association find a new executive team.

Recently, an association CEO raised the timing and transition question on ASAE’s Collaborate.  She began by telling us that she notified her board that she would be retiring in June 2019.  Thus a three-year notice.

What do you think?  Are you nearing retirement?  When do you plan to inform your board and staff?

Here are 5 suggestions for anyone looking at "giving notice" to retire:

1)  Don't give notice too soon.  
No matter what you do, you will be viewed as a lame duck by the board and staff.  In my most recent case, the Executive Director gave notice 2+ years early.  The board immediately moved into search mode and viewed the ED as no longer interested in the long-term issues of the organization.  They did not even ask him to participate in their strategic planning workshop!  In the end, he decided to terminate a year earlier; giving the Board and me only four months to conduct the search.

2) Do NOT permit a long "overlap" for transition. 
It is not healthy for all involved.  I've been in overlapping transition a couple of times; once for six months.  It was a difficult time.  I was ready to go but the "retiring exec" was still there. A friend of mine had a four month transition and the association put both CEOs in the same office.  It was a disaster. Staff remained loyal to the "old guy."  In the end, my friend did not make it through the transition period and both he and the association were searching again.  Two months is probably more than enough time for transition.

3) Be flexible regarding management options. 
I've helped two associations find new management where the association was open to both an individual and an association management company.  In one case, they interviewed two individuals and two AMCs.  

4) Be sure you build a "job inventory" that tracks your hours in various functions.  
This helps the board (and you) in developing a job description and/or Request for Proposals.  And, it helps the new CEO look at where you spent your time.

5) Consider at least six (6) months for the actual search process.  
Some start sooner.  Others start later.  Look at #2 regarding transition time.  I once assumed management of an association in just one day: hired on a Sunday and started on Monday.  And, as noted in #2, one group hired us six months before we started.  Beginning the search six months out permits four months for the search and selection process and two months for transition.

If you are contemplating retiring as a CEO, hope these ideas help.  What have I missed?

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