Avoid a Board Disaster! Have a Succession Plan

Your board of directors operates at an optimal level – it’s a model of efficiency and good governance. Each meeting hums along as planned and the board provides great guidance for your member organization.

Or …

Your board of directors never seems to have quite enough members; at some meetings there are so few people it’s difficult to reach a quorum. Issues get tabled, everyone tries their best, but it’s an overworked group of people who struggle to support your member organization at its current capacity.

Which board of directors do you prefer be at the helm of your member organization?

If the first group sounds like your ideal board of directors, then succession planning can help keep it that way. If the second group sounds a bit more familiar, succession planning can immensely benefit the organization now and well into the future.

Why is board succession planning vital to member organizations?

  • An organization with a board succession plan will be prepared for any unforeseen circumstances.
  • Current and future employees, board members and organization members have peace of mind knowing there’s a plan in place.
  • A succession plan also helps members understand the bigger picture since most strategic, financial and marketing plans rely on key board leadership being in place.

But how do you tackle a succession plan?

First, identify the key board positions that will require successors down the road. Remember, a succession plan is not a replacement plan – any board member worth having a leadership role will understand the value of having a plan in place if s/he were no longer with the organization, for whatever reason. The last thing your organization wants is for a board member to leave or retire and not have any qualified candidates to run for the open position.

Next, evaluate what key board members currently bring to the table and create “job descriptions” for positions requiring a succession plan. Establish a line of succession for chosen positions.

Then it’s time to select people either within the organization or newcomers who can succeed key leaders. Be sure to keep in mind the changing needs of the board and the organization as well as the fact that the board should be representative of your organization’s membership. It’s also important to choose potential board leaders and members who can ensure your organization’s mission and vision will be carried out.

This can be done by bringing in “future leaders” to gain valuable knowledge and experience working with a board and be groomed into becoming candidates down the road. It’s also important to evaluate the plan on a regular basis, communicate clearly about the succession plan, and update it as necessary. With a succession plan in place, your member organization will have a strategic head start when board members depart. In the immortal words of Benjamin Franklin, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Be sure your member organization is prepared for anything – except failure.

Interested in learning more about effective board succession planning? Contact us today, we’re here to help.

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