No one denies the importance of internal resources in appointing and looking after staff, generally called the ‘HR’ function.This does not mean that the Board cannot seek external assistance to fulfil its obligations when seeking to appoint to key critical leadership roles.
Indeed, to rely only on current staff and/or those who might see and respond to an advertisement, is likely to mean some potential excellent candidates will be overlooked. Further, whatever the range of skills and expertise that Board members possess, as a group they may have limited, or nil experience, in recruiting and appointing a CEO or a School Principal, for example.
Unfortunately, because certain people often rate their own people skills highly, and those of others more lowly, they assume that recruitment is easy, and that to save the organisation money, that the Board can tackle the recruitment of the CEO or School Principal on its own. This is certainly a case of false economy. (You may be surprised for how little you can acquire such expertise. Many executive search firms provide special fees for their not-for-profit clients.)
Why might external assistance from a specialised executive search firm be preferable to the Board undertaking the CEO recruitment itself? For a start, Board members are busy enough without taking on an additional workload in a specialist area. Perhaps even more fundamental is the question of group dynamics of the Board, something rarely discussed.
How well does your board work together? Will recruitment of a new CEO be handled by the whole Board or delegated to a committee? If the latter, will the committee be authorised to nominate one candidate to the Board for appointment, or will the Board expect to make a final decision between two or more candidates? As a Board, are you agreed on the quality and attributes of an ideal candidate?
There are many different types of assistance available to the Board, whether you are considering advertised recruitment or planning a more comprehensive executive search for your leadership roles, ut the first place to start would be with the Board itself. A facilitated discussion to set a course about the recruitment process and to articulate a shared vision that can be communicated to all candidates would provide a solid foundation for either advertised recruitment or executive search.
If you decide to engage some external expertise, as you would for any other business activity, obtain some proposals, but understand the difference between mass recruitment firms and specialised executive search firms, and even the difference within those. The lowest price won’t always represent the best arrangement, nor will a high price necessarily mean quality work. Can you compare one proposal with another? What services are offered in each proposal? What is included in the price, and what is extra? Is the person who talked to you about what the firm could do for you, the same person who will undertake the work, or will it be delegated to a junior or researcher? Are there people you could speak to who have used this expert before? Do you feel a rapport/an empathy with the potential expert? This is important because this expert will be representing you and needs to have not only your confidence, but be able to speak warmly and with authority about your organisation to a range of people.
An executive search expert engaged to assist the Board with specific leadership roles’ recruitment, should be someone who has no vested interest in the outcome, other than finding for you the best person for the role. Ideally, the executive search expert you engage will be someone who is working on one or two assignments only at a time, so that she/he will give your organisation and its needs, the attention it deserves. forde advisory would love to put into practice our expertise for your critical leadership executive roles. Please call me for a proposal, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.