Danger Ahead!!! Beware the three dangerous traps in finding new leaders

The hole that is created when a key leader leaves an organization is often frightening, to say the least – and the desire to fill that hole can lead to high anxiety and knee-jerk reactions.  The impulse to move quickly can often lead to poor decisions, and poor decisions can lead to a downward spiral of problems for the leadership team and the organization.  Beware these traps:

The “Rush to Hire” trap – Fear of the “unmanaged” organization or program often leads to a quick hire – sometimes the most convenient hire – someone we know, someone on staff — without taking the time to get clear about the skills, background, and experience needed to guide the organization successfully into its next phase of life.

2)  The “Good Interview” trap – We are often attracted to good interviewees and may choose based on emotion rather than combining a “good energy” interview with an analysis of whether or not the candidate actually possesses the skills, experience, and demonstrated abilities necessary to deliver in the areas the organization will need in the coming months and years ahead.  The skills, experience, and abilities needed are not likely to be the same as those possessed by the last leader.

3)  The “Same or Different?” trap – If the last leader was well-liked and successful, the desire to hire someone similar will be the mode of operation.  If the leader was not well liked, was dismissed, or unsuccessful, the inclination might be to look for someone with the opposite or different skills or characteristics.  Neither approach is a safe strategy for finding the right next leader.

These traps of engaging a new leader often play out in subtle ways.  Here are some ways to avoid these traps and do a better job at finding the right next leader:

1)  Conduct a comprehensive organizational assessment.  No matter how engaged a Board of Directors is, it won’t have a full, objective picture of organizational needs and challenges.  Having an independent, objective view of the organization – both its core strengths and the challenges it faces in the current environment – can yield critical information to help the Board be clear about the skills, abilities, and demonstrated experience and success needed in the next leader.

2)  Get interview coaching and guidance.  Having an outside coach or consultant – an experienced, objective interviewer – can help the Board get the most critical information needed during the recruitment and interview processes in order to make an informed decision.  An experienced coach can help sift through the information to help Board’s get clear about the real skills, strengths, and commitment a candidate can bring to the job.

3) Secure interim leadership.  Many times the anxiety about the unfilled seat and the un-managed organization, leads to the rush to hire.  Securing an experienced, trained interim executive leader can provide the Board with the time it needs to work through a comprehensive search process and avoid the upheaval and negative results of a bad hire.

The Support Center can help. These same processes can be helpful, too, when an organization is hiring a COO, CFO, or CDO.  Taking the time and getting the assistance needed can help you avoid making bad choices and lead to better results over the long-term.

We are interested in hearing about and learning from your experiences – good or bad — in hiring – tell us about them here.

Here’s to strong organizations!  All the best,


Don Crocker
Executive Director/CEO

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