Executive Coaching: Executive Presence When Hiring From Within

Nonprofit executive leadersNonprofits often promote from within which is commendable in many ways.   With hopes that the candidate will grow into the position, weaknesses are overlooked to enable quicker transition time, relationship retention and improved morale.  But when things settle, many of these newly promoted executives have similar shortcomings.

As executive coaches, we know there can be a variety of issues (click here to see a list of some specific areas of focus) but this article will focus on one common hurdle – executive presence.

Executive Presence

When it comes to executive presence, perception is reality.  And staff and volunteers will create their perception soon after the transition.  New executives who are aware of this phenomenon often overreact – either suddenly becoming controlling and dominant or nervous and unsure how to react. So how should a person ensure a smooth transition while creating support from staff and volunteer leadership?

  • Exhibit confidence in yourself and your abilities.  Do not underestimate self-perception as it relates to public perception.  You can move into a new office with the air of an executive or the air of a staffer testing out a new chair for a day – unsure whether it will work out.
  • Admit what you know, what you don’t know and what you would like to learn.  If you looked at the job description and checked off the aspects of the position in which you could excel, those you probably could do and those areas you know nothing about consider the latter two areas as potential for growth.  Talk to the board or administrative people about potential classes, training and coaching.   You will learn some things on the job, but often the areas that you know nothing about get ignored in a busy schedule.  And just because you are not strong in those areas, doesn’t mean those areas are not essential to the success of the organization (and your success as its executive).
  • Choose one or two people on the hiring team as confidants and ask them what concerns came up in the hiring process.  Consider how you can strengthen your skills in those areas so you get up to speed.
  • Rely on others.  You do not want to ask anyone to do your job but delegation and open communication with staff can provide you with the support that will be necessary for your success.
  • Be prepared for a little anger or bitterness.  If you were promoted from within, there is a chance that you were not the only one being considered for the position.  There may be someone else who thought they should have obtained the job instead of you.  You can ignore this, but it will never truly go away without an open discussion.

Whether you are the new hire or the hiring officer, this outlines some of the potential issues you will encounter and should spark some ideas about areas requiring attention. Perhaps, you can now help ease some of the transition issues that arise when hiring from within.  For additional help, contact David Mersky.