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Gail BowerThis blog will help you and your organization flourish.

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How to make your organization more attractive to your next CEO

In my work with clients — focusing on revenue, visibility, and overall mission or organizational strategy — a common thread for nearly all my clients is their desire to leave a legacy. While some element of personal pride is involved in that desire, what compels these leaders more urgently is their long-term visions to be excellent stewards of their organizations. 

They want to turn their organizations over to the next leader in sparkling condition. 

As I described in a recent blog post, sometimes my clients’ predecessors have not been similarly motivated. When these clients got to their organizations, they had big messes on their hands, consuming time, intellect, resources, and considerable emotional energy wading in, making difficult decisions, and righting their ships.

Before they arrived, who knows how many more months the executive searches took for these organizations, with other great leaders repelled by the organizations’ poor reputations or disclosures of weaknesses?

If you are similarly motivated to make your organization more attractive to its future leader — whether you (or your CEO, if you are a board member) are planning an exit within the year or the decade — here are four key areas to prioritize.

Does your organization have repeatable and reliable unrestricted revenue sources that not only allow your organization to break even but also build a reserve? Does your organization have the capacity to generate its own revenue sources, initiating and building the right relationships to grow and expand, gaining momentum through creativity?

Sustainability is in part about revenue. It’s also about having a framework for sound decision-making about programs, services, and initiatives. For example, do you know which programs both propel your mission and are profitable? If you don’t, you may have a ball and chain around your ankle, weighing you down, and not realize it.

The transitional period between one leader’s departure and the new one’s arrival can be disruptive for both leaders, the staff, and board — not to mention customers and constituents. Do everyone a favor by making sure strategic and tactical plans are in place to carry the team forward for at least 6 to 12 months.

The new leader may have a different vision and want to shift priorities, and that’s fine. But allowing him or her to do so from a place of calm, rather than chaos, will yield stronger results.

Do you have the right operational systems, procedures, and policies in place? Are your by-laws updated? Do you have the right compliance and legal practices in operation?

What about other areas of your organization?


  • Are your marketing and communications, including social media, designed to yield a particular outcome?
  • Are your fundraising and business development efforts generating the right results?
  • Are your programs actually contributing to mission impact?
  • Are your financial and data processes sound and useful?
  • Are your operations consistent with your organizational and branding strategies?

Having streamlined, effective, and efficient systems in place not only creates a smoother operation but contributes positively to your organization’s sustainability and reputation.

Staff & Board Performance
That leads to one final area of focus — staff and board performance.

Do you have the right organizational structure? Is everyone in the role best suited for them? Do you have a high-performing team — enthusiastic, autonomous, and contributing? Got any low performers who drag things down? 

You can look at two organizations with comparable roles and find very different levels of energy, participation, commitment, and results.

Why are you holding on to the clunkers? What are they costing your organization? 

Same with board members. Nonperforming or uncommitted board members should resign and make room for someone with more enthusiasm and availability. The governance committee should be recruiting actively the right board members — with the needed skills, commitment, and ample passion — to keep the board fresh, functioning, and leading the organization, alongside the CEO.

No matter where you (or your CEO) is in your tenure, take a look at these areas and begin addressing each today. Spare your organization and the future incoming CEO the time, energy, and cost of fixing failure work. Leave your legacy.


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