transition consultant

"Even well-established organizations can falter during and after a leadership change."
Tom Adams
Capturing the Power

Transition Consultant
Transition Consultant (TC) is a relatively new role in the nonprofit world. With roots in the interim ministry of religious organizations, the transition consultant emerged in the 1990s as the advisor to nonprofit boards who not only wanted to manage the complexities of leadership change and search, but also wanted to use the transition period as a time to grow the capacity of the organization.

Working for the board of directors and with the staff, the TC brings an external, future-focused perspective to the transition process. Starting with an organizational assessment, the TC evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of the nonprofit and ensures there is a common vision among board members and staff of where they are going, before they start the search for someone to take them there. Based on the vision, the TC and board work together to develop a profile for a new executive that can implement the plan.

The TC introduces the board and staff to the executive transition management (ETM) model and develops a timeline and work plan for the entire ETM process. The transition consultant guides the organizations through the emotional and political issues that often accompany leadership change.

The TC designs a communications plan that will keep all key stakeholders, including staff and funders, informed of the board’s plan to manage the transition and addresses any issues that may impact the organization’s readiness to hire a new executive.

The search and selection plan is developed by the transition consultant and includes a position announcement, updated job description, advertising copy, and any needed compensation research. The TC stimulates the board and staff to use their respective networks to recruit and screen a strong and diverse candidate pool.

With the new executive on board, the TC helps develop an entry plan that includes performance objectives, monitoring, and builds consensus among board, staff, and ED regarding the priorities of the nonprofit.

Throughout the transition process, the TC relieves the stress and anxiety that can cause an organization to lose momentum, compromise the services it provides to clients, and jeopardize key relationships. The TC creates an environment that inspires creativity, sets the stage for organizational growth, and gives the new executive the best chance for success.

The collaborative roles of Transition Consultant and Interim Executive Director
Organizations going through a leadership change are faced with some significant challenges.

There is an immediate need to keep the organization running – providing services to clients, managing the finances, supporting the management team, and maintaining key relationships with funders, and volunteers. It is the responsibility of the Interim Executive Director to upgrade internal systems and make sure the nonprofit is in good working order when the new ED arrives.

So the interim ED, coordinating closely with the transition consultant, serves as capacity builder, communicator, and transition agent supporting the board and transition committee.

Leadership change also presents an opportunity for the board and staff to step back and look carefully at what is working well within the organization, and what needs to be improved. It is a moment to reflect on the mission and goals of the organization, and a chance to adjust the nonprofit’s vision in ways that will allow it to take advantage of new opportunities. It is the responsibility of the Transition Consultant to oversee the entire transition process, set the stage for organizational growth, and make sure the new executive has a solid track to run on when he or she arrives.

The IED deals with the NOW. The TC deals with the FUTURE. Working together, the IED and the TC work with the board to shape the organization’s infrastructure, vision, and programs to achieve the mission of the nonprofit, and create an environment in which the new executive director, and, therefore, the organization is likely to succeed.
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