5 tips for onboarding a new CEO

Onboarding a new chief executive officer is a critical task for nonprofit boards. Yet, nearly half of the 214 CEOs responding to a recent Bridgespan Group survey reported getting little or no help from their boards when first taking on the position.

Board members should follow these six tips to boost their performance when onboarding a new CEO.

  • Lay the groundwork for the new leader: The board needs to be clear about where the organization is headed before recruiting begins so they know what kind of leader for which they are looking.
  • Collectively set the new leadership agenda: The board and the incoming CEO must agree on what their accomplishments should be or risk forming clashing assumptions about what is expected and when.
  • Get clear on roles: Boards and new CEOs need to get clear about how they are going to work together. How frequently will the CEO and board chair communicate? What decisions will the board participate in?
  • Go slow in orientation to go fast on the job: The first few months on the job are the time for the new leader to listen and learn. To facilitate this, the board should keep some day-to-day duties off the new leader’s plate at the outset.
  • Make performance management routine: The board should establish clear performance expectations and a cadence for ongoing performance reviews. But no leader is perfect. The board should proactively support CEO in identifying development needs and getting and paying for support, such as an executive coach.

For more information, see The Nonprofit Board’s Role in Onboarding and Supporting a New CEO.