• Don’t try to hire a clone of your outgoing director.
      Boards often hire people who feel familiar—so it may be the person looks like the old director, has a similar background, or reminds them of the other person in some way.  These hires typically last a year or less and are unhappy experiences for everyone.  This is why it is so important to look at where your organization is and what qualities you need for a leader today.
      see Interview Questions (PDF), Interview Assessment (PDF), Sample Confidentiality Agreement (PDF) and Sample Executive Director Contract (PDF)


    • Don’t settle on someone just to get a leader in place.
      The search committee may feel like they came up empty, sometimes after a couple of rounds of looking.  It is a long and exhaustive process, so after a while it seems that hiring someone is better than extending the time without a leader.  These hires typically last a year or less and are unhappy experiences for everyone.


    • Don’t settle on a staff member just to get a leader in place.
      If the search committee rejected a staff member who was interested in the position initially, it is usually a mistake to tap them later for the job out of exhaustion.  Stepping into the role of leader in an organization is hard enough; walking into a staff that knows you were chosen out of desperation is a recipe for trouble.


    • Overall, the next director’s chances of a long tenure are small.
      Usually, when a long-term beloved leader leaves, the next person the board hires will only last a year or less.  This is even more common when the next leader is the same gender as the outgoing director.  It usually takes an interim person to detach the board from the ways of the past director, and to prime them for the possibilities of new ways under a new leader.  The opposite is true when the outgoing leader has overstayed their welcome.


  • Avoid telling the new director “we’ve always done it this way.”
    This is a common box to place the new director in.  It does not allow for change.  Usually, the board and staff are guilty of repeating this phrase to the new director over and over in their early days of orientation.  Remember you hired this person to affect change, improve things, and take your organization somewhere new.  So, if you catch yourself saying it, at least follow it up with, “but we are open to trying new approaches.”  And mean it.