Interim Leadership and Transition Support

Why should we use an interim director – can’t we just use existing staff or a board member?

There are two main problems associated with having existing staff or board members serve in the interim:

Capacity – Asking a staff member to take on the role of the Executive Director as well as their own duties mean that neither job will be done well — programming and leadership suffer.

Bias – Existing staff often bring existing relationships (good and bad) and may feel the need to protect their programs, promote their agenda, or use their time as interim Executive Director to position themselves for the permanent Executive Director position.

A skilled Interim Executive Director can add capacity to the organization by fulfilling the Executive Director duties and minimize internal power struggles by providing unbiased and thoughtful management.

How can someone who doesn’t know our business lead our organization?

A good Interim Executive Director will tap into the knowledge of the board, staff and volunteers to quickly learn the work of the organization, its strengths, weaknesses, processes and networks. The interim becomes someone who can use their previous experience and the wisdom of the staff to perform key functions such as board support, staff supervision, budgeting and resource allocation, fundraising, community relations, and program development.

Can we afford an Interim Executive Director?

Yes. Usually the consultant offering Interim Executive Director services will not cost the organization more than they had budgeted for the previous Executive Director’s salary and benefits.

What are other benefits?

In some cases, the reason for an Executive Director loss may be due to systemic issues — such as lack of mission focus, poor board/staff functioning, mismanagement, founders syndrome, loss of funding, etc.

Having an Interim Executive Director allows the organization the space and stability necessary to meaningfully address issues so that the new Executive Director inherits a stable organization. Some Interim Directors provide additional services such as strategic planning, search support and organizational development. If they don’t offer these services, they can identify and recommend other consultants that can work on issues that need to be addressed during the transition.

In addition, using an Interim Executive Director sends a signal of strength and continuity to your funders, community, volunteers, staff and other stakeholders.

Executive Search

Is this the same as a Headhunter?

No. Executive Search support does not include screening interviews or direct recruitment of candidates, because the organization’s leadership needs to be the ones who are making decisions regarding the future of the organization, not a search consultant. A good Executive Search will engage the networks and relationships of the organization, staff and board to spread the word and bring in good candidates.

Won’t it take too much of our time to do this much of the search ourselves?

No. Effective and efficient web-based systems are available for creating criteria and storing resumes for Search Committee members to review on their own time. With good facilitation and consensus building, a Search Committee can go from the total field of candidates down to the first interview list in one meeting. Using a consultant to draft interview questions, suggest processes and contact candidates maximizes the search committee’s time and energy on the issue at hand – finding the best candidate for the organization.

What are other benefits?

The organization is fully engaged in the search process and has not outsourced any of the essential consensus building and conversations that are so important to an effective search. Executive Search support generates the same results as you would get with a headhunter, but for much less money.

Project and Partnership Management

Why use an outside project manager – can’t we just use and effective meeting facilitator?

No. Besides providing facilitation for effective meetings, a project manager can coordinate projects and partnerships and take on additional tasks to help the project move forward. This can include:

  • Workplan development
  • Research and fact gathering
  • Reminders and follow-up to support stakeholders in accomplishing goals
  • Agenda development to make sure key issues are kept on the table
  • Resource management – including managing funds, other consultants, staff, and volunteers
  • Marketing and outreach
  • Link to other stakeholders
  • Contact point for the partnership

This coordination and management relieves staff and partnership members of the day-to-day tasks and allows them to utilize their time to reflect on the broader vision and implement their decisions in their home system.

Do we have to be a 501c3 or a joint powers to take advantage of this?

No. Often times informal partnerships are where the issues can effectively get addressed. Generally if a partnership is interested in working with a facilitator/coordinator they need to be cohesive enough to develop what they want to accomplish, and how they will oversee the consultant. Any partnership can set up a fiscal agency agreement to pay for contracted services, and a good facilitator/coordinator can walk the partnership through this simple process.

Shouldn’t a group be able to do this on its own?

By having a facilitator/coordinator you let all members of the group participate equally — no one has to be responsible for chairing the meeting, or feel slighted because they are continually doing all of the administrative work of the partnership. Often times stakeholders can spend more time talking about why something didn’t get done than figuring out solutions to the problems at hand. A facilitator/coordinator can support the partnership, infuse energy and keep them working on their goals.

How do we pay for this and is it worth it?

Partnerships can determine if any outside funds would be available for the project — often times the facilitator/coordinator can assist with identifying funding sources and approaching funders. In some cases, stakeholders can all contribute a small amount of funds in order to accomplish the work of the partnership.

Strategic Planning and Facilitation

Aren’t all facilitators the same?

No. Some facilitators have specialties in certain types of organizations while others provide services to any type of organization. Some are professionally certified and others rely more on experience and natural ability. The most important thing when selecting a facilitator may not be their written qualifications, but how they fit with your organization. A good facilitator will work up front to get a clear understanding of what the organization hopes to accomplish through the process, and will listen to the needs of the organization, not impose a standard agenda or set of ideas on the organization.

What is the mediation style of facilitating?

The mediation style of facilitation allows for guided conversation by all parties that ends in resolution. The facilitation allows for the exchange of ideas in a respectful way within guidelines set by the organization and managed by the facilitator. Once agreement is reached, all parties agree to actionable next steps, so that the idea doesn’t die in the facilitator’s report, instead it comes to life through the actions of those most interested in seeing it succeed.