What Nonprofit Boards Look For When Hiring Great Leaders

Pat O’Donnell, Managing Partner, Principal Connections – The Irish Office of Agilium Worldwide Executive Search Group, discusses what nonprofit recruitment committees and boards look for when seeking to recruit great leaders.

According to Benefacts’ Nonprofit Sector Analysis 2020, Ireland’s nonprofit sector has at least 32,841 Organisations, 165,075 Employees, 86,481 Directors/Trustees, €14.2bn Turnover and receives €5.9bn in State Funding. Nonprofit organisations which include NGOs, Social Enterprises, Clubs, Societies, Associations and Religious Bodies play a crucial role in society. Such entities are to be found in every part of the country, transcending major sectors such as Health, Education, Housing, Social Services, the Environment, Religion, the Arts and Politics, to name but a small number.

In partnering with such organisations in the recruitment of Senior Management and CEO’s, our dedicated nonprofit executive search practice at Principal Connections frequently observes organisations prioritising the following as essential skills, competencies and qualities when hiring:

PASSION FOR THE MISSION.

Passion for the organisations mission is a crucial quality sought out by most nonprofit recruitment committees and boards. Nonprofit leaders are frequently motivated by their desire to make a difference to a mission that they truly believe in. Such passion fuels the demanding time, energy and resilience required, often in lieu of reflective financial reward, and can also inspire longevity of tenure.

IMPACTFUL LEADERSHIP.

To be an impactful nonprofit leader demands an appropriate balance of strategic and ‘hands on’ leadership which is most likely to be defined by the size, scale and the challenges before the organisation. Spending money wisely and using sound data to demonstrate impact are also key attributes boards and recruitment committees underscore. Nonprofit leaders must listen, be inclusive and in some instances be at ease when navigating political pathways. Holding staff, volunteers and of course each other accountable, and yet maintaining high morale and inspiring all stakeholders to be motivated in achieving a shared vision is no easy feat.

PARTNERSHIPS & ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT.

Grappling with the best way to develop, expand or do more for an increasing number of clients with less, requires entrepreneurial spirit, creativity and innovation in today’s environment. Standing out from the crowd is the intention of most organisations, but doing what is best for clients must always be the prerogative. This may mean leveraging and forging strategic partnerships with other nonprofits or corporate entities, and even sometimes accepting that they may be better positioned to serve in the first instance.

INCOME GENERATION.

Raising income is no longer an activity that can be solely assigned to a fundraising, membership or development department, but one which the CEO and Senior Management must play an active role in. Shrinking government funding, high-levels of competition for public and private funds, together with rising costs, regularly culminate in unrealistic fundraising targets for under-resourced departments tasked with income generation. Therefore, nonprofit leaders who have the skills to help identify and secure new sources of income or perhaps scale revenues through existing methods are in high demand.

BRAND IDENTITY.

The concept of building positive brand identity is of the utmost importance for most if not all nonprofit bodies. Therefore, boards and recruitment committees presiding over talent acquisition processes frequently look for leaders who know how to build a brand and possess the public relations skills to engender ties for the future. Engaging supporters and other stakeholders requires compelling presentation and communication, and delivering information and content in new and more creative ways. Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all, but today’s nonprofit leader certainly must know how to appeal to a target audience in a way in which they will positively respond and share the organisation’s story with others.

SECTORAL UNDERSTANDING. 

With today’s increased competition for private, public and state funding, knowledge of the sector is on most organisation’s priority lists. A commitment to best practice in all aspects of corporate governance is a direct driver of funding and investment into the sector. Boards and recruitment committees are searching for leaders who understand the nuances of the sector as well as know the key stakeholders. In certain circumstances, organisations may see benefit in transitioning individuals from the corporate world. Like all such transitions, this in itself may come with a heightened sense of risk; and transferability of skills, and lead in times, must to be carefully considered.

CONFIDENCE AND CREDIBILITY.

Non-profit organisations search for new leaders who will take the time to learn and understand the history and culture of the entity. Nonetheless, a new leader must promptly ascertain what can and should be done, and be considered but decisive in action. Procrastination can conceive doubt among staff and the board. Adopting a bulldozer approach is certainly by no means the appropriate pathway, but subtle early changes during a new leader’s initial tenure can corroborate that the right appointment was made and instill confidence.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pat O’Donnell is Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Principal Connections, the Irish office of top global executive search group, Agilium Worldwide. Mr O’Donnell is known as a leading authority and trusted advisor to domestic and international organisations in all phases of development and change and is also noted for his exceptional understanding of board room dynamics. A graduate of the National University of Ireland Galway, Mr O’Donnell holds a Master’s Degree in Commercial Law from University College Dublin’s School of Law.

To learn more about Principal Connections please visit www.principalconnecions.ie or e-mail pat@principalconnections.ie       

Follow Principal Connections on LinkedIn and Twitter 

The above information does not purport to be professional advice. Readers are advised to seek independent professional advice before acting on anything contained in these materials.

CEO Succession – ‘Finding a new CEO’

CEO Succession: ‘Finding a new CEO who’s ready to deal with tomorrow’s challenges.’

Perhaps no single decision has a more substantial impact on the future of a company than the selection of a new Chief Executive. Choosing a CEO is possibly the most significant decision a board can make. While certain circumstances may deem the appointment of an external successor to be more appropriate, appointing an internal known quantity can often be the most solid platform from which to move a company forward. In either instance, appointing the individual, internal or external, most likely to shine brightest must be the priority. So how can a board go about identifying a new CEO who’s ready to deal with tomorrow’s challenges?

Below Pat O’Donnell, Co-founder and Managing Partner of retained executive search consultants, Principal Connections – part of global top 20 executive search group, Agilium Worldwide, reveals some of the core facets commonly found to be at the heart of a successful succession planning process.

Strategic Allignment

Managing the CEO succession process is a board’s ultimate responsibility. The board should therefore engage in a strategic alignment process and agree on future CEO benchmark profiles. It will be important that such profiles reflect the future strategic priorities set out in the business strategy. And in turn, these objectives should link to the person specification of the next CEO. This process supports the development of a clear evaluation mechanism to consider internal as well as external candidates.

CEO Assessment

Candidates should be measured using independent methods of assessing CEO potential and the agreed upon CEO success profiles. The objective must be to form an unbiased, multi-dimensional view which should include quantitative assessment of candidate experiences, competencies, skills and personality traits to inform succession thinking.

Board Review

CEO succession should be at least a bi-annual topic on the board agenda. The process may commence even as early as the second board meeting following the commencement of a new CEO. As the process matures, the succession theme should filter through all levels of the company in order to identify next generation CEO potentials at multiple levels. The board must stay close to the development practices of the company so it is assured that the future leadership talent requirements of the organisation are met.

Next Generation CEOs

Companies should develop next generation CEO successors through a blend of mentoring, coaching, education, rotations, secondments, key initiatives and specific developmental assignments. Once a board has gone beyond finding not just near ready CEO contenders, but generations of successors with the potential to serve as future CEOs one day, it must help that potential to prosper. Usually this will take the form of individually customised development programs aligned to both individuals’ requirements and what the organisation will require in a future leader. When potential successors become CEO contenders, the attention should shift to ascertaining areas to increase growth and to bridging development gaps.

CEO Bench Strength

The internal bench strength of the C-suite must be regularly reviewed by the board. This should involve meaningful exposure to board members in formal as well as informal settings. Board members can therefore form their own informed impressions of CEO potential. Once individuals are considered to be future CEO material, the board will then need to peel back the layers and commence stress testing core competencies while also looking more closely at personality derailers. At this stage, the board may decide that it must recruit external leaders to increase the calibre of its bench.

Review Talent Frameworks

It is crucial to regularly review talent management and development frameworks against the longer-term business strategy. This will enable the organisation to modify talent development activities in accordance with shifts in business strategy. Since there may be several possible futures to plan for, leadership profiles reflecting such differences should also be planned for.

CEO Transition

Once a successor CEO has been selected, it will be crucial that a comprehensive transition plan is developed to ensure that the incoming CEO gets off to a good start. At this time, it may also be necessary for the board to agree the post transition role of the outgoing CEO. A sound transition process can take six to twelve months depending on the circumstance. It will typically consist of a number of important phases tailored to the circumstances of the transition required.

Succession Benefits 

Developing an ecosystem that can identify and incubate future CEO talent demands a consistent commitment. It requires patience, but more importantly, it requires belief in the process for companies and their board members to go the journey. However, this is an investment that will pay high dividends through delivering leaders who can successfully navigate the nuances of tomorrow’s business landscape.

Not alone does this type of approach mitigate the risk of a board being caught off-guard, it encourages a culture of personal development aligned to career growth and extends to entice external interest. It is also noteworthy that just about nothing is more closely aligned with safeguarding shareholder value than the assurance that the right leaders will be in place to deliver tomorrow’s success. For this reason, shareholder advocates view solid succession planning as a reflection of the quality of the board itself.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pat O’Donnell is Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Principal Connections, the Irish member firm of global top 20 executive search group, Agilium Worldwide. Mr O’Donnell is known as a leading authority and trusted advisor to domestic and international organisations in all phases of development and change and is also noted for his exceptional understanding of board room dynamics. A graduate of the National University of Ireland Galway, Mr O’Donnell holds a Master’s Degree in Commercial Law from University College Dublin’s School of Law.

The above article first appeared on Business & Finance in November 2019.

To learn more about Principal Connections please visit www.principalconnecions.ie or e-mail pat@principalconnections.ie       

Follow Principal Connections on LinkedIn and Twitter 

The above information does not purport to be professional advice. Readers are advised to seek independent professional advice before acting on anything contained in these materials.

Meet John McPhillips, Bon Secours, HR Leader for November

John McPhillips, Group HR Director, Bon Secours Health System is Principal Connections’ HR Leader of the Month for November 2018.

Following a very impressive academic career, John has held some of the most significant HR roles within the Irish Health System over the past 30 years. John’s early career was spent working in the Health Service Executive. He then went on to assume the post of HR Director with Inland Fisheries Ireland and subsequently the post of HR Director with St. Vincent’s Healthcare Group. Today John is the Group HR Director for the Bons Secours Health System.

This month we spoke with John, read what he had to say. 

Read more
Meet Mark Redmond, Three Ireland, HR Leader for October ’18

Mark Redmond, People & Property Director for Three Ireland, is Principal Connections’ HR Leader of the Month for October.

Mark has worked across a number of sectors including Telecommunications, Financial Services, FinTech and Medical Technology with organisations including Bank of Ireland, Becton Dickinson, A..O. Smith Electrical Products Company, PayPal International and for the last 10+ years, Three Ireland.

This month we spoke with Mark, read what he had to say. 

Read more

//www.principalconnections.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/principal-connections-white.png

Principal Connections is Ireland’s leading Executive Search Firm and the Irish Office of Agilium Worldwide LLC.

Senior, Executive and Board Appointments Newsletter

Sign me up for the newsletter!