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Mayes Wilson & Associates

The risks of not planning for board succession

Sara Wilson, CPCC, ACC |

What does board succession have to do with gardening? Just like your garden in spring, you need to evaluate what parts of your board are thriving, what is failing, and what just needs to go away.

Everything needs renewing, even the board. Admittedly, it can be easy to stay with what you know; long-serving board members and good leaders. Change is hard!

Board succession is one of the most frequent concerns my clients raise when evaluating their organization’s risks. So why don’t organizations do more leadership succession advance planning? I’ve heard these reasons from clients:

  • We’ll just wait until their term is up
  • We don’t have term limits
  • They are doing a good job, let’s just renew them
  • They have been on the board forever and know so much; how do we ask them to leave?
  • They are a major donor

This lack of planning might be exposing the organization to risks, such as:

  • The community could perceive your board is a clique and wonder if any shenanigans are going on because it is a “closed group”
  • The organization may be losing potential leaders because existing board members don’t see an opportunity for leadership advancement
  • A lack of new perspectives could be leading to stagnation
  • Power dynamics may become ingrained
  • No room for new board members with new connections, energy and ideas

In part three of this series I’ll discuss approaches to address these risks.

[This the second of three blogs on succession planning. Here is the link to the first in the series.]

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