On my first day as an Executive Director, I was greeted at the door by the Board Chair. He handed me the keys, showed me the bathroom, and introduced me to a handful of my new colleagues. Then he shook my hand, wished me luck, and left.
If this is the orientation you are planning for your next Executive Director – Stop. Right. There.
Let’s take a few steps back and think through how this orientation is going to play out.
If it’s anything like mine, your new Executive Director will wander into their new office (after probably having to ask someone for directions); poke through drawers that the last executive left stuffed with documents, ketchup packages, and sticky notes; and wonder:
“What should I do first? Call a staff meeting to introduce myself? Call and schedule meetings with Board members? Figure out who our major donors and grant funders are and reach out to them? Clean out these desk drawers?”
And the Executive Director that you and the Board devoted so much time, energy, and money into finding will not gain traction quickly or easily. For many executives, a rough first few months is the start of a very short tenure as Executive Director. Leaving you and the rest of the Board to scratch your heads and wonder why such a strong candidate became such a weak Executive Director.
If your new Executive Director “fails to launch” and leaves in the first 12-months, your organization’s staff will feel drained, burned out, and anxious by this constant change at the top. And your Board will have to go through the whole search process again. Plus, this time you’ll have to explain to candidates why the last Executive Director left after an extremely short tenure.
We don’t need to tell you how draining this will be for you, your Board, and your organization – you already know.
The vast majority of Boards expect new Executive Directors to create and implement their own onboarding plan. But the fact of the matter is that even the most experienced new executive director benefits from a structured, planned onboarding plan.
So, to set them up for success (and yourself and your Board and your nonprofit and your clients), YOU and the board need to create and implement a phenomenal onboarding plan.
Yes, it does take time and energy. But, hey, think about all the time and energy (and stress and drama) you are going to save in the years to come if you do it all right the first time.
I served as a permanent Executive Director for more than 10 years and served as an interim Executive Director many times. I’ve also coached Executives and Boards for the last six years. So I have seen onboarding done well, as well as done poorly. Thankfully, I have learned from each of these experiences. And you can learn from them, too, when you join me on Wednesday, May 26 at 2pm EDT for a webinar on this very subject.
By the end of the webinar, you will:
- Understand the 3 biggest onboarding mistakes that boards make
- Receive a table of contents for a new Executive Director’s playbook
- Know about additional resources to guide your onboarding process (books, websites, etc)