New leaders feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the positions they were moving into was a recurring theme at the Chapter Leadership event in Chicago last October. Some did not know what would be expected of them. Others lacked a sense of how they could be most effective. Even though most had been members of their chapters for some time, they did not have a sense of continuity or direction as they thought about taking over their new positions.
Too often we assume that because a new leader has been around for a while, he or she knows everything about the chapter’s operations, how the chapter got where it is, and what is planned for the future. In many instances, the new leader has only peripheral knowledge of chapter operations, history and plans. He or she may have attended meetings and worked on specific projects, but had little need to pay attention to all the other details of chapter business.
When the members of the Chapter Relations Committee heard so many new leaders expressing the need to be brought up to speed, they asked themselves what they’d want to know if they were in this position.
Their discussion resulted in a set of guidelines for outgoing and incoming presidents that also can be used by all chapter officers and committee chairpersons. The guidelines are offered to help chapters transfer leadership from one team to another by providing insight into the chapter’s operations during the past year in a way that will help prepare the new leaders for the forthcoming year.
Suggestions for the outgoing president
- Share your evaluation of how the chapter’s officers and directors performed during the past year.
- Outline what you see as the chapter’s major accomplishments.
- Report what items are still in progress and their status.
- Describe what you see as problem areas for the chapter.
- Give the incoming president a copy of all of the minutes for the board of directors meetings and chapter meetings for the previous year. This is important because it provides a history of the decision-making processes and of the operations for the chapter.
- Note what areas will require close attention right now.
- Share your vision for the chapter.
- Share your views on how best to be successful in this position.
- Review your observations on the items that required special attention or items that needed more time and effort than you thought they would.
- Let the incoming president know who you were able to count on the most during the year.
- Share what things you would do differently if you could do them over.
Suggestions for the incoming president
- Review the Chapter Bylaws and familiarize yourself with the responsibilities of all the officers and committee chairpersons
- Spend the first board meeting after election discussing the responsibilities of all the officers (including the president) and committee chairpersons.
- Develop a list of specific goals and objectives for the next year.
- Request that all officers and committee chairpersons develop a list of goals and objectives for their position, as well as for the entire chapter.
- Develop a schedule for accomplishing goals and objectives, and assign responsibility for each.
- Share with your new staff the items for which you will be holding them accountable (e.g., participation at all board of directors meetings, financial reports for all meetings, minutes of meetings, minutes distributed in a timely manner, committee reports, meeting goals and objectives on time, etc.)
One technique for transferring leadership is for all outgoing officers and committee chairpersons to meet simultaneously with all incoming officers and committee chairpersons. This can be scheduled for the first hour of the first Board meeting after the elections. They can pair off to discuss their respective areas of responsibility.
Because everyone is present in the same room, there is an incentive for all to participate. It also provides an opportunity to verify and assign responsibility for any items that may fall into two or more areas.
Members of the Chapter Relations Committee identified one relationship as key to a chapter running smoothly and effectively: the relationship between the president and the secretary. They believe these two officers have the greatest impact on chapter operations, and that it’s important for them to have an excellent working relationship. Because these two officers will carry most of the responsibility for developing meeting agendas, distributing minutes, and creating an atmosphere of communicative and responsive leadership within the chapter, it’s suggested they meet and talk at least twice a month.
The Chapter Relations Committee has recommended the guidelines for smooth transfer of leadership be provided to chapter presidents annually in July, be included in the Chapter Leadership event materials, and be added to the Chapter CD and the Chapter Development and Policy Manual.