New at This

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I just got promoted from within to the executive directorship of a mid-
size regional non-profit I have worked here for seven years, first in a
midline capacity, then in senior management to the twenty-year
director. I was one of several dozen applicants including other internal
candidates, but the only internal one who survived the various
elimination rounds and who became a finalist. One criterion was the
ability to implement our new strategic plan. I was the unanimous first
choice of the board of directors, but the second choice of the staff. I
genuinely don’t know id there’s a personal reason why some of them
did not want me, or if the idea of any insider didn’t feel good to them.
I know the “new shiny penny” can always be attractive and also that
there is at least one senior staff person who is a rabble-rouser against
me. What can I say in my formal announcement to the troops that will
inspire them and get their backing?

New at This

Dear New at This:

Don’t be in too much of a rush to feel like you have to “win” their
support. These kinds of transitions take time. Some organizations that
have had a long-term leader intentionally choose an interim one, with
the proviso that that person NOT be a candidate for the long-run job,
just so people can get over their attachments to the outgoing boss and
begin to adjust to someone new.

Here’s a draft for your opening remarks that you can tailor for your
organization: I’m pleased to accept the position as the next Executive
Director of the [orgname]. As you know I’ve worked here for x years in
my capacities as y and z. I have a profound respect for our mission
and for the strong, talented, and committed professional staff with
whom I’ve had the pleasure of working. Though this phrase is often
said as a cliché, I do not mean it to be one. I want to have an open
door policy and to always be available to listen to each of you. We
have a strategic plan and a board of directors who have asked me to
implement it. I will need your help. I’m making a commitment to meet
individually with each of you over the next few weeks. I will listen to
any and every thing you want me to hear. I won’t be making
commitments about specific actions. In fact, I anticipate that for
every strongly held view there may be an equally strongly held
opposite view. But these very issues will help us identify priorities, so
we can all work for solutions. But I do want to understand everything
that you think I should know, from the state of our funding to the
changes we need in our computer system. This is a chance to educate
me about how our organization runs, from your point of view. Please
help us all serve the greater good. I’m very much looking forward to
these conversations and to a strong and thriving future together.