Being promoted to acting executive director can be an honor but comes with its fair share of stress. You are suddenly taking on a new set of high-level responsibilities while still trying to maintain your existing work. There’s a huge advantage to the organization to temporarily fill a position internally. It is a fairly fast and simple process, but there are significant challenges to overcome.
Inevitably all employees are going to leave their position. You’ve prepared through good succession planning, but there’s still a huge advantage to talking with the departing person before they go and getting their input on the organization. Take time to do an exit interview and make use of the information you receive.
There are many advantages to conducting interviews. Besides the information you gather, it just helps the employee feel valued, even when they are leaving. And you know that a former employee can be an ambassador for the organization in the community, so it helps to end on a high note.
There are a few pitfalls to watch out for during exit interviews. If at all possible, the employee’s direct supervisor shouldn’t conduct the interview. If that’s your ED, can a board member with some HR experience do it? You’ll get more candid responses. You could also contract with an HR professional to conduct the interview. Also, make sure to prioritize the interview so it actually happens. Holding exit interviews consistently is key to gathering a better picture of how staff feel about the organizations. Finally, if the departing person doesn’t want to do it, don’t force the issue. Offer to let them give you written feedback instead.
You can even consider holding board exit interviews. There’s something about having a final conversation that helps people be more introspective and share information you might not have otherwise heard. Plus it just gives the board member a positive feeling to know someone cared enough to interview them at the end of their service.
Here are some useful questions to ask.
- Why are you leaving your current position?
- When did you start considering moving on?
- What prompted you to look for other positions?
- Were you given the resources you needed to do your job well?
- What did you like most about your job?
- What did you like least about your job?
- What are you most proud of from your time with the organization?
- What skills and qualities should we look for in your replacement?
- Do you have any recommendations for the organization for the future?
Exit interviews are a great way to get feedback on your organization. As part of a consistent evaluation process, they will help you see how you can improve.
A wide range of terms are used in succession planning and the type of plan you create varies depending on your current stage in the process. I covered the basic types of planning necessary for all organizations in my article on succession planning. In this article, I will provide an overview for those organizations that have a long-time executive director who is planning far in advance for a transition.