We tend to go where our clients go. And for many of them, it’s only a matter of time before they are sought out to serve on a Board, or are seeking an opportunity to serve on boards of other organizations. As leadership peers who have served on Boards for years, we’re happy to share our expertise on the following Board of Directors topics.
Managing the successful transition of a Chief Executive Officer is one of the most important responsibilities of a Board of Directors. Our clients engage us to ensure the transition is done with best practices tailored to match the culture of the organization, the particular succession situation, and the needs of the CEO.
We strongly recommend that a transition plan be developed proactively so that shareholders experience an orderly change in leadership. However, we have had many clients who needed to make a CEO change under less than favorable conditions. Some refer to this as an emergency CEO transition. We are equally prepared and experienced to help a Board through such a challenging transition and have developed an approach that can be approved in advance and deployed immediately.
Of course a CEO transition is not complete until the new CEO is identified, secured and in place. Clients use us to help them define the characteristics
and competencies for their new CEO in partnership with HR and an external search firm. Our role also includes interviewing internal and external candidates, narrowing down to a short list, and helping to choose the new CEO. Clients appreciate our comprehensive, customized executive assessment work to help determine which candidates possess the leadership and professional experience required for success and who will best fit the culture. We’ve also serve as an advisor/coach to the Board and the new CEO to ensure that the onboarding process and the first 18 months meet desired expectations.
Each CEO transition is unique. We welcome the opportunity to discuss the best plan for your organization so that when the time comes, you are prepared.
In the past 10 years we’ve seen boards become less honorific, more engaged – and held more accountable. CEO succession was historically driven by the CEO and “rubber stamped” by the board. There has been recent investor backlash on succession issues directed at the board – not at CEO. There has also been a dramatic shift in the last 10 years towards a preference for internal vs. external CEO candidates which requires boards to:
- Start 3-5 years before an anticipated CEO transition event (retirement for example) to allow time for meaningful development of top candidates
- Get full board alignment on the selection criteria for the future CEO
- Gather data on internal candidates through multiple lenses, including formal executive assessments. This data will provide insights to the board and be
a compliment to the board’s ultimate judgment
Investors are increasingly concerned about succession risks.
Because of the impact succession risks can have on a company—and its share value—this is an area of growing concern for investors who are increasingly:
- Considering succession risk factors when analyzing the overall risk inherent
in any investment in an organization
- Including succession risk factors in analyst opinions and raising succession issues in analyst meetings, such as having a 62 year-old CEO
- Requesting information relative to succession planning processes in their dialogues with company management, particularly where this is an obvious risk area for the company, such as: Founder or other “iconic leader”, weak bench strength and no emergency plan for replacing the CEO
Major components of the CEO succession plan include:
- Create an Executive Succession Committee
- Develop a succession timetable
- Develop a communication strategy
- Conduct interviews with board members to surface key criteria for a future CEO
- Ensure criteria is approved by the Board
- Using new CEO criteria, identify future CEO candidates and conduct
- Conduct bench strength analysis
- Develop recommendations for executive development
- Implement development plans
- Facilitate/ present periodic reports to the full board
- Determine the desirability/need for an external search
- Design and implement transition phase between incoming and outgoing CEOs
- Implement final transition to new CEO
A key to board effectiveness is the orderly transition of board members. Clients hire us to help design their transition process and to advise/coach on the departures and onboarding of board members. This is highly customized work, based on the culture and dynamics of the board, and the unique qualities of individual board members. Clients appreciate our experience and skill in establishing clear criteria for board member selection, and for ensuring that each candidate is thoughtfully assessed for appropriate competencies and fit. We can help surface qualified Board candidates by drawing on our extensive executive network, assess candidates to generate a short list, and recommend candidates best suited for the role.
Boards are comprised of very senior, accomplished leaders. But we’ve learned that those same positive qualities can sometimes interfere with effective collaboration that is essential to high performance. So clients hire us to evaluate current board performance, identify and quantify performance gaps, and recommend changes. This increases accountability for individual board members and the full board to take the actions necessary to close the gaps and raise performance to the next level. We are peer-level advisors since we have held peer operating and board roles throughout our careers, and fully appreciate the challenges of being a board member in today’s highly complex environment. We help Boards appreciate the unique backgrounds and insight of individual board members, remain open to learning from each other, and to operate collaboratively to increase the overall effectiveness of the Board.
We welcome the opportunity to hear about your board performance, the opportunities you see for improvement, and to listen for ways we may be able to help.
Boards, like operating teams, can become dysfunctional as the result of a single board member, a subset of members, or the entire board. Board Chairs and Lead Directors hire us to resolve dysfunction and align the board on matters of corporate performance and shareholder value. They draw on our extensive experience in board member talent management which includes recruiting, selecting, managing and exiting board members. And they appreciate our peer perspective that comes from serving as C-suite leaders and Board members. We know that each board and each situation is unique. We welcome the opportunity to hear about your board’s goals and challenges.
Shareholders and regulators expect Boards to evaluate their performance – individually and collectively. Some Board Chairs hire us to perform an objective evaluation of individual members, committees, and the full board. Others hire us to coach them on the design and execution of best practices in Board self-evaluation. Either approach ensures that Board members receive constructive, straight-talk feedback that is necessary for improving overall performance. Since each board is unique, we first listen to understand your goals for such an evaluation. From there, we work together on evaluation criteria, sensitivities, process and timing. We welcome the opportunity to discuss a customized Board evaluation process with you.
Some clients have asked our help to address a severe rift in their senior operating team, or between the CEO and members of the board. After attempting to resolve these problems internally, they recognized the need to engage an objective outside firm to provide a professional assessment and recommend solutions. We break through the impasse, facilitate difficult discussions, and coach the Board and the Leadership team on ways to avoid a new breakdown in understanding. If you are experiencing or anticipating this situation with your senior team, we’d like to listen and determine what we can offer to help.