Is There Value in Employing an Interim Association CEO?

Is There Value in Employing an Interim Association CEO?

An interim CEO can be a valuable tool in ensuring continuity of operations and effective change management when an association loses their CEO. This crucial role within the management team requires an experienced and skilful person, and the Board should not rush the recruitment of a new CEO. Instead, an interim CEO can be used to handle operations and maintain the association’s objectives.


Role of the Association CEO


The Chief Executive Officer is the most important figure within an association. They are responsible for all operational decision making and action, taking the vision of the association as defined by the Board and implementing it. 

CEOs are typically full-time employees who devote all their time and energy to the day-to-day running of the association. As such, they are normally the most informed person when it comes to operations, performance, staff and more. They have a wide range of duties and hold an enormous amount of key information.


Why Hire An Interim CEO?


A volunteer Board manages most associations. Their primary focus is on governance matters, policy and strategy. The Board should leave the organisation's operations to the CEO or Executive Officer.

This means that if a CEO decides to depart at short notice, there is often a gap left in knowledge and expertise. Often, the Board may hire someone quickly to keep everything going. However, when the decision to hire is rushed, associations can end up hiring the wrong person who is not appropriately equipped for the role of CEO.

Due to this, there is a new trend in associations to take more time in the CEO recruitment process and hire an interim CEO in the meantime. Association Executive Services offer an Interim CEO service to assist associations in this position.

There are a several reasons why an association may require an interim CEO. One of the most common is a situation where the CEO has resigned, and there is a need for someone to lead the association so that the new CEO can be recruited and begin working on critical essential action items.

Additionally, some associations will use these services to guide them through periods of change. They may require a short-term CEO to deal with change issues that the Board wanted to implement. Or the association may not usually have a full-time CEO, but they want someone temporarily in the role to implement their strategic plan on a part-time basis.

Big projects and significant pieces of work are another impetus for associations to bring in an interim CEO for assistance. The interim CEO can work on a significant project for the association and represent the association with funders' meetings.

In most cases, experienced interim CEOs oversee board changeover issues, a significant initiative like a merger or organising government funding.


Skills and Attributes of the Ideal Interim CEO


All CEOs of associations need to be highly competent individuals that bring a breadth of understanding and experience to the role. 

The interim CEO needs to embody of all these attributes, while also possessing a range of specific skills that make them ideal for managing an organisation for a short period of time.


Experience as a CEO in several associations or organisations

Interim CEOs should be highly experienced and understand the workings of associations and organisations from many different perspectives. This diverse experience helps them come into a new association and act quickly.

Skilled in implementing change in a short time 

Typically, interim CEOs will spend only a few months in the role. It is vital that they are able to hit the ground running and make meaningful change from the outset.


Ability to build a close working relationship with the Board and President 

It is vital that management works well with the Board. A close working relationship ensures that the vision and mission of the association can be realised through daily operations.


Build trust with key staff and stakeholders 

A good interim CEO will be able to build relationships quickly and manage many competing interests and ideas to achieve the best outcome for the association. Working well with key people is vital to this success. 


Be able to identify areas for immediate improvement and act on them 

Because they are working in a tight timeframe, interim CEOs need to be able to quickly see any growth opportunities within the association. They use their strong influencing and change management skills to implement improvements quickly. 


High-level communication skills 

All CEOS require excellent communication skills to ensure they can efficiently convey information and bring their team along on the journey.


Develop a handover plan for the new CEO so they can quickly move into their new role 

One of the key roles of the interim CEO is preparing the association for its new leader. They should develop a comprehensive handover plan for a smooth transition. 

If you need help with an interim CEO, call the friendly team at AES on +61 3 8393 9382.

About the Author: Nick Koerbin (Executive Director, AES)

With over 30 years of management expertise, Executive Director and Founder of AES, Nick Koerbin is one of the most experienced NFP leaders in Australia. He has held positions as the CEO of Materials Australia, the National Parts Code, as well as senior positions in the Institute of Insurance, Australian Quality Council, the Financial Planning Association, the Australian Human Resources Institute, and the Furniture Industry Association of Australia. Nick created AES with a vision of creating a set of management practices that could be consistently followed to ensure success. Over his 30 years in the industry, he noticed that inconsistent management practices often impeded delivery of services to members, which in turn created issues with membership renewal. By establishing AES and creating the NFP Association Best Practice Self-Assessment, Nick has been able to assist leaders in becoming more confident and informed decision makers so that they can create more effective strategies and implementation plans.

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