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Mayes Wilson & Associates

A straightforward approach to board succession planning

Sara Wilson, CPCC, ACC |

In my last post I talked about a few organizational risks caused by avoiding board succession planning and promised to provide some approaches to mitigate those risks.

Succession planning isn’t an easy topic to broach, especially if there are long-term board members and no term limits. I recommend organizations plan for leadership change and build a culture where strategic, planned change is valued in the organization.

Planning for board succession is part of the board governance (or board development) committee’s responsibility. Begin the process by understanding how board change has occurred in the past and the potential for resistance to change. Engage the entire board in discussing succession planning and its role in the health and sustainability of the organization. As a board, come to agreement on how succession may impact the organization’s goals and if it aligns with organizational values.

The board governance committee should then follow this sequence of steps:

1. Review bylaws and other governance process documents that relate to succession planning. If none exist, draft a process that supports board development and succession including board composition analysis, recruitment, vetting and nominating, evaluation and term limits.

2. Ask board members to participate in a self evaluation on fulfilling their duties outlined in their job description. Talk with every board member about their service. If you need a board member job description, you can find one on the resources page of the MWA website.

3. Plan for the board’s future in the context of the organization’s strategic direction. Discuss transfer of leadership with current officers, exploring interest in leadership positions by other board members, and identifying how new leaders will be trained.

4. Communicate opportunities and planned board changes with staff, committee chairs and other key individuals; convey this positions the organization for the future.

5. Honor and celebrate the contributions of board members who leave the board.

6. Repeat. Having a board that advances the mission of the organization is an ongoing process.

“Few things are more important during a change event than communication from leaders who can paint a clear and confidence-inspiring vision of the future. “– Sarah Clayton

This is part three of a three-part series on succession planning.
Part 1: 6 ways leaders can prepare for staff changes
Part 2: The risks of not planning for board succession

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