Q: We are about to appoint a new chief executive. The existing boss wants to be closely involved in the process and take part in the final selection panel. Is this appropriate?
A: Choosing a chief executive for a third-sector organisation is one of the most crucial decisions that the trustees will ever make. Getting it right is vital.
There must be a professional approach to whole process. Organisations will differ in how far they will involve the outgoing chief executive.
You hope that in most cases the chief executive is moving on to greater glory rather than being edged out. But I know from my Acevo experience that this isn't always the case.
Let's assume that your chief executive is moving to a better job and that you've been very happy with their leadership. In these circumstances it would be foolish not to take the advice and assistance of the outgoing person. While it must be clear that this is the trustees' decision, it would be sensible to get advice on the process from the existing chief executive. You will want to look at the advertising process, the question of whether to involve head-hunters ,and the interview and selection arrangements.
I think that good practice is to allow the short-listed candidates to talk with the current chief executive and for him to write a report on impressions from those discussions.
However it is a different matter as to whether you have the chief executive taking part in the final selection interview.
There can be no hard and fast rules and it will partly depend on the view the trustees take on continuity or change. Perhaps your organisation has developed and you wish to take a slightly different direction. In this case you may be seeking a person with different skills and competencies from the current chief executive. If you want continuity, however, you may want a more active role for the current chief executive.
One important consideration must be the potential candidates. How will they feel if the existing chief executive is present? Trustees certainly would not want to inhibit any discussions that take place at the final interview panel and the presence of the current chief executive could be problematic.
However your current boss has a wealth of experience on how the place is run, don't ignore his or her advice.
One tip I would offer is that you involve an outside observer or assessor.
For all public sector appointments these days, panels have an "independent assessor
who is often a HR professional.
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