The CEO of a large nonprofit organization announced that she would be retiring. She had been at the helm for well over two decades and was beloved by the organization.
Perceptive had been engaged by the Board as an executive coach for the CEO. During this time the organization had completed a new three-year strategic plan and engaged in leadership succession planning for the organization.
Leadership transitions at the top done well support both leaders in a successful transition that pays dividends for the organization.
During the executive coaching process, the CEO had benefited from extensive 360-degree feedback from the Board, her senior team, and other key stakeholders.
Reflecting on her 360-degree feedback, and on her life and career, in combination with where the organization needed to go, she discerned that the organization would be best served by bringing in a new CEO. It was time for her to retire.
The Board perceived that this was a difficult decision for her and one not without risk for the organization. While they were concerned about the impact on their people, they also believed bringing in a new CEO could be the right thing for the future of the organization.
The Board wanted to support the CEO in her transition from the organization, as well as more personally, in her transition into retirement. They also wanted to support the new CEO in setting a strong foundation for success. They also wanted to ensure a smooth transition between the two CEOs.
Perceptive was asked to continue working with the exiting CEO, coach the incoming CEO, and work with the two leaders to achieve a smooth transition for the organization.
Transition Coaching for the Exiting CEO
Perceptive worked with the exiting CEO with a dual focus: her transition out of the organization and her transition into a retirement next chapter in her life. After over two decades with the organization and a long and successful career, she struggled with the prospect of leaving and uncertainty around what she would be moving to in her life.
As we talked about her leaving the organization, we helped her think about what a good ending would look like. She cared a lot about the organization and indeed had dedicated her life to its mission. These conversations proved enormously helpful to her in getting ready to leave the career and organization she loved.
As we began to explore what a post-career life might look like for her, we utilized MRG’s Personal Directions self-assessment instrument. This is a unique tool that, when used in coaching conversations with an experienced transitions coach, affords an opportunity to explore motivations and preferences in ways that helps people make wiser, more informed decisions and choices about where to go from here.
New Leader Integration Coaching for the Incoming CEO
Perceptive worked with the new CEO in her first nine months in the role. As in all New Leader Integration Coaching engagements, our focus was on helping the leader think about where they needed to focus in their first months in the role. We utilize The First 90 Days framework by Michael Watkins, in conjunction with resources we’ve created on building the key stakeholder relationships and networks of influence which are critically important for all leaders.
Supporting a new leader in successfully integrating into the organization, beyond initial onboarding, is a critical next step in creating a foundation for their success.
The Board wanted the CEO to honor the organizations culture while leading changes within the organization to support its strategic plan. The new CEO’s ability to achieve these in combination would be a critical measure of her success in the role.
Working in parallel with the CHRO, who had created an onboarding process for the CEO, a customized executive New Leader Integration Coaching program was created to take over where the onboarding left off. These two efforts worked hand in hand, and well, in creating strong support for the incoming Chief Executive.
Three months into the engagement, Perceptive conducted what we call an Early Perceptions Feedback process with the CEO and her new team. This would help the new leader in deepening a connection with her team, obtain valuable early feedback on what’s working well and identify any necessary course corrections.
The exiting CEO reported that the transition coaching helped her enormously in letting go of her leadership of the organization. She had been a part of the organization for over two decades and realized that her identity was heavily invested in her role as CEO. When she was able to imagine an equally exciting post-retirement life for herself, she was able to let go of the reigns and begin the transition in earnest.
The incoming CEO reported that the New Leader Integration Coaching helped her think about things she may not have thought of and focus her time and energies in the first six month in the role. This included coming to understand the challenges faced by the organization, forging a strong relationship with the Board and her senior team, and providing strong leadership for the senior team.
A year later, the Board reported that the incoming CEO was making good progress in achieving a balance in her leadership between honoring the culture and beginning to move it forward in key areas.
Creating a Transition Program for Valued Leaders
The Board, CEO and senior team felt so positively about the coaching support provided to the existing CEO in transitioning to her post-career life that they wanted to extend this to other valued leaders.
To read more about this Leader Transitions Group Program read the corresponding Case Study.
Note: To honor confidentiality and protect the privacy of our clients we do not use names and have altered possibly identifying details in this Case Study.
About Perceptive Leaders LLC
Perceptive is a boutique leadership development and professional transitions consulting firm based in Denver, Colorado serving clients in the US and Canada, since 2005. We have worked with over 1,000 senior organizational leaders and accomplished career professionals to help them recognize opportunities for impactful and substantive change and how to realize that transformational change. For more than 15 years, Perceptive has been helping leaders and their teams transform their leadership. For more information, visit perceptiveleaders.com.
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