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10 Tips for Success for Incoming CEOs

10 Tips for Success for Incoming CEOs

By Katherine Wayne

Transitioning to a new role as a CEO or executive director (ED) of an association can be challenging. What steps should you take to prepare for your new role and how do you ensure success from Day 1 and beyond?

That鈥檚 the question answered by 3 911爆料网 senior executives who also are CEOs/EDs of several of our healthcare association clients: 

  • Wendy-Jo Toyama, CEO of AAHPM
  • Bruce Hammond, Executive Director of ACAAM, ABAM, and HMDCB
  • Molly Anderson, Interim Executive Director of NANN.

Here are 10 tips for success from association CEOs/EDs for incoming association CEOs/EDs.

1. Prepare for the role as soon as you accept the offer.

As a new CEO/ED, your job begins when you formally accept your new position, not when you walk through the door (or log in remotely) on your official first day.

鈥淭here can be a tendency to want to focus extra time and energy to accomplishing as much as you can for the organization you鈥檙e leaving in your last weeks,鈥 said Wendy-Jo Toyama, MBA FASAE CAE.

鈥淲hile it鈥檚 important to leave your current organization in the best position possible, you also need to reserve time for preparing for your new role. Begin by reading the trades, putting together a 90-day plan, and learning about the key issues being discussed within the field.鈥

2. Learn to talk the talk.

Use the time before you officially start to learn more about the language used in the field and by your new organization. This is especially important if you鈥檙e transitioning from one specialty area in healthcare association management to another.

How does your new organization talk about itself?

What language do they use?

What issues are on the forefront for them?

Read through the organization鈥檚 journal or magazine, review the website, and scroll through their social media to gather valuable insights.

3. Build your own CEO/ED Council.

If you鈥檙e taking the role of a CEO/ED at a stand-alone association (one that isn鈥檛 managed by a management company), start cultivating your own CEO/ED network. 

 鈥淏eing the CEO of a stand-alone association can be a lonely job because you鈥檙e the only one in that role,鈥 said Wendy-Jo Toyama. 鈥淔or CEOs and EDs whose organizations are part of a management company, you have a built-in group of senior leaders who you can easily reach out to for counsel and support.鈥

Try connecting with senior leaders from other organizations in a related field to build your peer circle.

4. Take a deep dive into the organization鈥檚 bylaws, policies, and financials.

Make sure you have a full understanding of the foundational basics of your organization. Review the bylaws, policies, and financial state.

Lean into staff and the board as needed so you have an accurate picture of the organization before diving into more advanced areas or making significant changes.

5. Invest time in developing relationships with board members and staff.

Your board and staff are significant sources of information about what is working well in the organization, areas that will need attention soon, and those that are critical to address swiftly.

鈥淚nvesting time to meet with every board member and staff within the first 60 days as executive director was invaluable,鈥 said Bruce Hammond, CAE. 鈥淚 wanted to create an open forum for communication and change that would better serve each organization, so I framed our conversations around the following questions:

  • What makes you excited about the organization鈥檚 future?
  • How has your board service positively impacted you?
  • What are the landmines I need to be aware of?
  • What do you think the organization should be doing differently?
  • What opportunities do you see to enhance value in the organization?
  • What would you like to see from me in the first year? 鈥

6. Be intentional about the type of culture you want to create.

Assessing the culture of the organization you鈥檙e walking into is just the first step. Think about the culture you want to create, identify where the current culture isn鈥檛 aligning with your vision, and create a plan for transforming your intentions into action.

Above all, be sure you鈥檙e modeling the culture you want to create to your board, members, and staff.

7. Ask for and act on feedback.

Great leadership doesn鈥檛 operate in a vacuum. It鈥檚 a collaborative effort that requires the input of multiple voices. Actively seek input from your board, members, staff, and professional network to broaden your scope.

鈥淣ANN is in the process of introducing a significant bylaws change, and when I consulted with our director of governance, she suggested convening town halls with past leaders and members to test the waters of the change,鈥 said Molly Anderson.

鈥淭he insight we gathered from the initial town halls has been invaluable and has enabled us to shape future changes in a way that is truly meaningful to our members and the organization.鈥

8. Communicate.

Communicate clearly and communicate regularly. Be sure those who should know have the information they need along with the context to understand and act on it.

鈥淚 send out a 鈥楲eadership Update鈥 to board members between meetings to ensure they are up to speed on what the organization is doing, but any regular communication vehicle will go a long way toward keeping boards informed and connected to the organization,鈥 said Bruce Hammond.

9. Buy your own shoes.

There will be legacies that remain from the previous CEO/ED. But when you step into your new role, you need to lead authentically, courageously, and with humility.

鈥淲hen my predecessor left, I felt I had big shoes to fill,鈥 said Molly Anderson. 鈥淏ut, she reminded me I just needed to buy my own shoes鈥攁nd she was right. I鈥檝e learned that I can be myself, approach things differently, and experience my own victories and lessons along the way. I鈥檓 loving my new kicks and this next season of my career.鈥

10. Prioritize something that鈥檚 important to you outside of work.

The work of a CEO/ED rarely fits neatly into a 40-hour work week. There will be times when you鈥檙e confronted with situations that test the strength and capacity of your leadership. As much as you give to the organization you lead, you must also give to yourself.

Prioritize something that brings you joy outside of work.

Whether it鈥檚 cheering on your favorite sports team, working out, or game night with friends and family, no matter your passion, nurture that part of your life as well.

You鈥檒l be a better leader for it.

Katherine Wayne is senior manager of corporate communications at 911爆料网.

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