Removing the Awkwardness From CEO Transitions
Don't give discomfort an environment in which to flourish
When Kristine Hillmer, CAE, was hired to be chief executive officer (CEO) of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association late last year, she had four months to prepare for day one—the day of the previous CEO’s retirement. The good news is that those months gave her plenty of time to understand WRA’s operations. But that long runway also created some awkwardness. As she prepared for her start date, she would work in the office one day a week, stationed in a corner of the outgoing CEO’s office while he was still there.
“I sat a table, he sat at the desk,” she says. “We certainly made it work, and it really wasn’t a big deal. But to be relegated to a table in his office was a little uncomfortable.”
Hillmer’s experience is a concrete manifestation of a common question at associations: How do you best navigate the transition between CEOs? Especially, as was the case at WRA, when the outgoing CEO has been long-tenured, with more than three decades or routines and relationships with members, staff, and stakeholders?
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