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Beyond the Myths about “Founder’s Syndrome” Panel Discussion NAIS Annual Conference February 24, 2011.

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Presentation on theme: "Beyond the Myths about “Founder’s Syndrome” Panel Discussion NAIS Annual Conference February 24, 2011."— Presentation transcript:

1 Beyond the Myths about “Founder’s Syndrome” Panel Discussion NAIS Annual Conference February 24, 2011

2 Premise: One of the demographic realities facing broad swath independent schools in the next several years is the retirement of a vast cohort of school heads, presidents, and executive directors who have either founded or who have served for many years as the schools’ leader. “When the constellation of circumstances known as Founder’s Syndrome arises, the Board must assume a leadership role. Often it is unprepared to so.” (BoardSource, Moving Beyond Founder’s Syndrome to Nonprofit Success)

3 ‘Founder’s Syndrome’ “The imbalance of power in a nonprofit organization in favor of the founding executive that occurs because of the unique advantage of assembling the board and staff of the organization.” “Beyond the Myths of ‘Founder’s Syndrome”

4 Advice to the Board if you’re not aware of the dynamics of during the transition of long- time or founding head, you’re likely to end up with an interim whether you know it or not” “to honor the contributions of the outgoing leader and to ensure a healthy beginning for the new head, the role of the outgoing head is carefully considered and delineated by the board.” (Principles of Good Practice for Leadership Transitions in Episcopal Schools. )

5 Panel Richard K. Jung- Partner Education Access Strategies, Moderator Lee Quinby-Executive Director for the Association of Colorado Independent Schools Insights from experience and interactions with founders and founding boards in transition Dick Barbieri- Interim Head Insights from being an interim in several founder transitions Kevin Smith- Head of School at Denver Academy A fascinating case study…if you think you have an interesting founder’s transition, just listen to this one…..and it has a happy ending. Mary Kesler- The Education Group “The Essentials”…What you should know….based on 27 years of Head search experience

6 Successful transition from a long-time head, especially a founder, requires effective attention to three areasPlanningAcknowledgementSeverance

7 PLANNING: Clarify strategic goals. Plan financial elements. Design hiring process. Prepare school community.

8 ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: Prepare for letting go. Mark boundary. Accept new leadership.

9 SEVERANCE: Shift leadership responsibility. Implement financial elements. Arrange head consultation. Make symbolic changes.

10 Bibliography Moving Beyond Founder’s Syndrome to Nonprofit Success by Thomas A. McLaughlin and Addie Nelson Backlund, BoardSource, 2008 Leadership Transition: Some Thoughts on the Process by Mimi Baer, NAES Newsletter, May 2007 NAES brochure on head of school transitions NAIS Head Search Handbook

11 Dick Barbieri Radical difference between non-profits and businesses in leadership succession ❑ Business CEOs groom successors ❑ Successful CEOs often remain on boards after stepping down Of course there are differences and dangers ❑ Business CEOs usually have a continuing financial stake ❑ Occasional horror stories of interference by former heads But boards have realized the foolishness of losing memory and talent through too-rapid turnover ❑ Why should we surrender intellectual/experiential capital, especially as a huge pool of leaders now are retiring?

12 Barbieri The norm in fact is too little transition, not too much ❑ My experience: 8 predecessors, 8 successors ❑ Average length of face-to-face transition: 1 to 2 days ❑ Number of successors who have sought any advice or contact: 1. Frequency: 1 phone call ❑ New heads too often feel they must appear “omni-competent” ❑ Disappearance of former head leaves space for rumors – a ghostly presence may be worse than a real presence

13 How Not to Transition ❑ active role for former head ❑ frequent presence on campus ❑ involvement of former head with numerous staff or trustees How To Transition ❑ clear expectation of ongoing head-to-head contact ❑ initiated by current head consisting of three possible elements: history information advice

14 Conclusion: schools live by stories; don't lose the narrative thread

15 Brief History of Leadership at DA: Founding Head had a tumultuous ouster in still in institutional memory I succeeded second Head, 36 years at DA, 16 as the Head Senior Administration School groomed its senior leaders- 5 of 7 began as teaching assistants at DA Founded in 1972 Mission: Lead as a center of excellence for the education of students with learning differences

16 Disagreement and Discord Between the Board and Head

17 Search: Board identified it was looking for CEO qualities and preferred an external candidate and an experienced Head Two internal candidates, neither chosen as finalists, much concern on staff

18 Board Decision: Search Committee invited an emeritus trustees to join At 11 th hour, he proposed “encouraging the retiring head to stay on until he could train a successor” and suggested a large gift if the board would agree Board chose to hire their preferred candidate that matched the strategic needs of DA

19 4 transition visits Listening- groups of staff telling the story of DA- from when first arrived and contemporary stories (January 2008)- I wrote 100 day and 3 year plans on the plane after Meeting with outgoing Head (skiing) and key administrators- begin to transition and to build the senior team, continue to meet with other staff (February) Meeting with board chair (skiing), meeting with parent groups and continue to meet with staff (April) Attend the board’s annual meeting, outline transition with senior administrators and planned a retreat (May)

20 Administrative Retreat, Summer of 2008 “We’ve been Talking about this for 5 Years”

21 Top 20 for DA since July 2008: 1Re-organized Literacy Specialists Program 2New curricula: elementary math and writing, MS Writing 3New elementary formative reading assessment (DRA) 4Re-organization of department chairs 5Comprehensive Employee Evaluation Process 6Improved Communication on Campus through multiple venues 7Management Training, particularly mid- level managers 8Effectively networked within DA community and external agencies- Significantly increased the profile of our school locally 9Produced a substantial surplus through closer fiscal management 10Closed a Capital Campaign, renovated one building 11Completed the scope and sequence of the DA Program 1Completed a comprehensive system of formal assessment/evaluation for students. 2Complete planning for a new high school model and implemented it in DA Parents Association- helping to transition the organization from a mini fundraising group to a wider community asset in order to increase parent participation on campus and support for DA programs and initiatives. 4Completed the Strategic Plan- Data driven with a Balanced Scorecard of KPIs 5Raised funds to equip each room with a SMART Board 6Moved internal data systems and website to Blackbaud systems in Raised funds to begin a 1:1 assistive technology program for Board moved from 10 – 5 meetings! “A show of support for the strength of our senior administration” 9Smooth transition

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23 Keys to the successful Head transition at Denver Academy: Learn the culture and integrate- easier to work from within Take advantage of the “low hanging fruit” and other opportunities to make fast change Build a strong partnership with the Board chair and outgoing Head Create common vision based on values- 5 Dysfunctions of a Team Retreat Be yourself Don’t be afraid to move assertively to do what is right for the school- take the opportunity in a new direction

24 The founder’s perspective Two major events for the founder shaping the departure – Retirement – Leaving the school

25 Retirement – facing the unknowns – Financial – Relocating – Loss of support – What to do with time

26 Knowing when to retire

27 Always wondered how you know its time to retire/leave your school – Health issues – – Lack of excitement for what you’re doing – Sense of ownership Actually developed the top 10 list of -- won’t bore you with entire list but these were among my favorites

28 Now might be the time You’re on your 5 strategic plan Your great grandchild is entering as a new student this coming fall Faculty turnover is so complete that there is no one there to say, “But we’ve always done it that way.” For the first time in an admissions interview you think it’s probably OK to accept the unqualified child since she comes with a $100,000 check Quality of life becomes more important than time and money

29 The deep-seated concerns for the long- tenured head Change culture Loss of historical perspective Unfinished projects Financial implications to the school for change Accepting that someone else can do the job

30 The search and transition Watching internal candidates vie for your job Wanting to help and not being called upon Lack of sensitivity for the outgoing head – Combined celebrations On campus visits while you are still there Lack of communication about changes and happenings Out of the loop Goodbye

31 Some random ideas Consider the HOS when candidates are on campus Take time to get input from head on their interaction with the candidates Invest in heightened level of retirement planning for your head (an your faculty) Make plans to take the candidate away as new person arrives Understand that no matter how ready the head is to leave, it is still a very emotional time

32 Contact Information for the Panel Richard K. Jung- Partner Education Access Strategies Lee Quinby-Executive Director, Association of Colorado Independent Schools Dick Barbieri- Interim Head Kevin Smith- Head of School at Denver Academy Mary Kesler- The Education Group


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