On Executives Stepping Down


In the article, “Organizations’ Planning for Succession Planning Seen Lacking”  (May 25), Helen Chernikoff highlighted a critically important, looming challenge for the Jewish community. However, the two words “succession planning” are clearly highly emotive for both executives and boards, so it may be advisable to call it what it really is: leadership continuity and sustainability.

On an upbeat note, these transition challenges are increasingly being acknowledged as evidenced by my report’s broad-based funding. Twenty-three funders provided support including six prominent Jewish foundations, 12 large city Jewish federations as well Advancing Professional Women in the Jewish Community.

Another encouraging sign is that North American “umbrella” associations that represent organizations in the Jewish communal service field are providing enhanced programming and consultations to help executives and boards better prepare for the inevitable, yet often dreaded “stepping down” stages. Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Community Centers Association and Association of Jewish Family and Children’s Agencies are increasingly engaged in proactive initiatives.

The full report, to be released June 5 at the Jewish Communal Service Association conference in Baltimore, also underscores that this is not just a warning bell for better executive transitioning; the challenges ahead have untold implications for better upward movement within the talent pipeline, especially for strong Number 2s (a large majority who are women) and, as well, for high-potential young talent needing to be accelerated — before these people exit the field prematurely, out of frustration at not seeing viable, upward career trajectories.

That said, this research was launched principally because too many long-tenured, effective and dedicated executives, delay far too long (or maybe they’re in denial?) their own thinking/planning for next or “encore careers” after stepping down. Most will live another two decades or more and hope to continue making societal contributions. (Note the word “retire” is purposefully avoided since just playing golf, schmoozing with fellow old-timers, babysitting for grandchildren, etc. are much more the realm of our parents’ generations.)

Final note: I would be remiss not to acknowledge the support of Jeffrey Solomon of Andrea & Charles Bronfman Philanthropies as the initial “encourager”; Jacob Solomon, CEO of Miami Jewish Federation and president of the JCSA, and Brenda Gevertz, JCSA executive director.

Managing Director/Executive Coach, Noble Consulting Associates, Inc.

Brookline, Mass.