Identifying & Hiring an Interim Leader Takes Diligence, Care, Time
By Andrea Shapiro
Whether the need for an interim leader is sudden, due perhaps to health or performance issues, or part of a planned transition, leadership changes are times of instability and risk, but they are also times of tremendous opportunity. Transitions provide a chance to evaluate where the organization fits in its field and what leadership structures will create the most sustainable and effective future.
Transitions can require a lot of work on the part of the board and staff. The work you do during this period will position the organization for success. Whether the future holds significant changes or just the hiring of a new leader, it is crucial that the organizations board and staff stay engaged during the transition and encourage one another to be involved during this time of significant opportunity.
The following tips should help:
Conducting the Search for an Interim Leader:
If the board has hired an executive director or CEO recently, it will have some helpful experience and precedents. Since this position will report to the board, the board should be highly engaged in the hiring process. A transition committee or executive committee, possibly including staff, can serve as the working group responsible for hiring and onboarding the interim leader.
Identifying a Potential Interim Leader:
Identify candidates by talking with your work and personal networks about their experiences with nonprofit interim management. Check national, regional, and local nonprofit and for-profit organizations that place interim leaders as well as membership organizations that maintain databases of nonprofit consultants by specialty. Search LinkedIn for people in your area with experience as an interim executive director, interim CEO, or interim leader in a nonprofit organization.
Create a position description that includes your goals for the transition, key issues the organization is facing, skills desired, timeframe, salary or salary range. When your conversations with candidates get to the final stage, confidentially share any information that will be helpful to the candidate so that you both can assess whether he/she is a good fit for this particular engagement (or not). Handle this process like any other hiring: check references, both formal and informal, make an offer, and then work with your final candidate on a contract and scope of services, which functions like a hiring letter.
Onboarding Interim Leaders:
Onboarding an interim leader will require some quality time and the collaboration of board and staff. Select one board member, generally the chair or president, for the interim leader to report to and check in with regularly. Early in the engagement, the interim leader will collaborate with the board president or transition committee to assess the organization and prioritize goals and activities for the interim period.