Leading Edge just released a new short video lifting up the voices of amazing leaders in our community that provides an overview of our work, why we do what we do, and what programs we are focused on. Please check it out, then share the link with people in your life who also care about workplace culture and the future of Jewish nonprofits.
What would happen if your CEO resigned tomorrow?
If your organization is like most others, you likely don’t have a succession plan in place, let alone a capable replacement in the pipeline.
Fortunately, organizations typically receive more than 24 hours’ notice. But regardless of how much time they have, the point still holds: nonprofit boards are generally ill-prepared for their CEO’s departure. In fact, in a 2015 survey of nonprofits, researchers at Stanford University found that over two–thirds (69 percent) lack succession plans, a shockingly high figure given that every CEO inevitably leaves office.
The challenge is even more acute in the Jewish world. Over the next few years, the vast majority of Jewish nonprofits will need to hire new CEOs. These leaders, in turn, will set the direction of their organizations for the next decade or more. It is not an exaggeration to say that the future of the Jewish community depends on our ability to ensure that the best candidates are placed in these vitally important roles, and then both enabled and empowered to succeed.
Leading Edge, an organization focused on building a robust leadership pipeline for Jewish nonprofits, has just released a CEO Search Committee Guide that lays out best practices for CEO searches and applies them to the Jewish nonprofit sector. It was prepared for Leading Edge by Eben Harrell, a senior editor at Harvard Business Review, a publication dedicated to using best-in-class research to improve the practice of management and leadership. The guide distills the most important elements of a search and presents them in a practical and accessible way, serving as a foundation from which boards can conduct searches with the greatest chances of success.
Over the years, I have been involved in executive searches for many important Jewish organizations and almost always found the process quite challenging. The Leading Edge guide contains a number of suggestions and recommendations that I wish my search committees had known—and followed—at the time:
- Most organizations employ an unstructured, conversation-style interview process. While that may allow for organic discussions, research shows that unstructured interviews are essentially useless and lead to unwitting discrimination since interviewers tend to have more favorable impressions of candidates who they resemble. On the other hand, a structured process that requires the assessors to score each answer has numerous benefits, most notably the ability to compare a range of candidates using the same criteria. Unfortunately, structured interviews are rare in the Jewish nonprofit sector.
- It takes time to perform a search process well. In fact, most experts recommend that boards plan for a CEO hiring process to take four to six months. That will give the board sufficient time to surface qualified candidates, perform proper due diligence, and make an informed choice. The search committees responsible for the process should be comprised of five to eight people and ideally should not include the current board chair, staff, or the incumbent CEO.
- Most Jewish nonprofits prefer to hire external candidates. But in the for-profit realm, the majority of companies fill CEO vacancies with candidates from their own ranks. Research shows that internal CEOs generally perform better and remain longer than outsiders. This underscores the need to do more to develop our internal leadership teams so that organizations have an existing pipeline of talent to consider when the time comes.
- A common pitfall when crafting the position description is to dump every desirable quality into a job profile—leading to job postings that one search consultant described as the “Messiah section of the classified pages.” Search committees should do evaluative work before crafting the job description to determine the specific skills they believe the new CEO must possess, what can be assigned to others on the executive team, and what can be developed over time.
Leadership transitions are a time of great opportunity and great risk for organizations; a successful search can catapult the group to the next level and a bad hire can set it back for years. That is why even the most seasoned boards should seek support with their searches, and make sure their processes are as strategic and objective as possible.
By adhering to the principles outlined in the guide, boards will give themselves the best chance to conduct successful searches. They will emerge from the process stronger and led by able executives who, with proper oversight and support, will shape the Jewish community in a positive direction for years to come.
To download the CEO Search Committee Guide, visit: https://leadingedge.org/lay-leadership-initiative/
This article was originally published in E-Jewish Philanthropy on October 25, 2018.
Please join us in giving a warm Leading Edge welcome to our new Operations Associate, Marisa Diehl.
Marisa – can you tell us a little bit about your last job?
I was the Executive Assistant at Henry Kaufmann Campgrounds, working with JCCs and Jewish day camps throughout the Tri-state area.
What drew you to Leading Edge?
I really connect with the mission of Leading Edge and the work it’s done so far. I’ve been working in the Jewish nonprofit sector for most of my career and the work that Leading Edge does is so crucial.
What does a “great place to work” mean to you?
A place that motivates you to do your best work; a place with lots of support and lots of laughter.
What’s your favorite part about operations?
I love being able to jump into different roles and do so many different types of projects.
Rumor has it you’re a trained pastry chef…
It’s true. I love to bake and it’s an amazing hobby. But when I turned this hobby into a job, it lost all of its fun. So now I keep it as a hobby, making amazing birthday cake for my friends.
How about your colleagues?
Yes – my colleagues too 🙂
What’s the best movie you’ve seen in the last year?
Without a doubt, Get Out
Where is your favorite place to travel?
London. It’s an amazing combination of history and cutting-edge.
How do you spend your subway commute?
I listen to podcasts and audiobooks. I know everyone complains about the MTA, but I’m related to two MTA employees so I have a lot of appreciation for the system.
Anything else you want to share?
I’m excited to officially join the Leading Edge team!
“I spent time on the first few days of my job cleaning out my desk from the person who was there before me. I actually had to bring in cleaning supplies from home. I didn’t stay long at that place.”
~ Jewish Nonprofit Professional
During the past two years, Leading Edge has worked with nearly 100 Jewish nonprofits, helping them identify both strengths and opportunities around workplace culture. Through our Employee Engagement Survey, Leading Edge has provided organizations with critical insights into how their employees experience workplace culture and how they can become even better places to work.
After hearing directly from leaders, managers, and individual contributors, Leading Edge identified a sector-wide need for accessible and quality resources that will help organizations ensure their employees are set up for success, both at the outset and throughout their careers.
To that end, Leading Edge has launched a series of “best practices” guides.
The first guide is focused on Onboarding New Employees.
This guide provides templates and tools for effective onboarding that can be modified to meet the needs of any organization. It focuses on three stages of onboarding:
- What needs to happen before the employee begins
- That crucial first day
- The first week and beyond
It also includes a sample evaluation for employees to take about the onboarding process itself. This provides organizations with ongoing feedback about the onboarding process.
Why onboarding matters
According to research, 22 percent of staff turnover occurs in the first 45 days of employment and 4 percent of employees leave a new job after a disastrous first day. This kind of rapid staff turnover represents a significant cost — both financial and cultural — to the organization. On the flip side, according to a 2010 Society for Human Resource Management study, “employees in a well-structured onboarding program are 69 percent more likely to remain at the company after three years.”
Onboarding is not the same as orientation. Orientation might occur on the first day or during the first week, to introduce new hires to policies and procedures as well as the fundamentals of their job. Onboarding is a process that socializes new employees to the organization and ensures they have the necessary skills, relationships, and knowledge to become effective members of the organization.
Effective onboarding is the first step in retaining great talent, but it does not end after day one, or even week one. Most experts agree that onboarding a new hire takes three to six months. While this may sound like a heavy lift, with some thoughtful planning and with buy-in from a few key players, your organization can lay the groundwork for a welcoming and nurturing onboarding process. When done well, onboarding will become a seamless part of your organization and positively impact your entire workplace culture. Investing in onboarding your new employees pays off in their work and the work of those around them.
Stay tuned in the coming months for Leading Edge’s next two guides in our initial Best Practices series.
Click here to stay in touch with Leading Edge.
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