Senior management options LO28521

Date: 05/16/02

Replying to LO28481 --

>The "boss" of this not-for-profit is soon to retire and all four of the
>next level of managers intend to apply for his job. It is a pretty
>collaboratively run organisation, so this spins a potential series of
>actions and consequences, which my colleague (who is one of the four)
>would like to know how to promote and handle.

Greetings Bob!

In addition to what others have contributed, I would urge for your

 1) Try very hard to get the "boss" to become your client. Your friend can
recommend you, but the other three need to feel that you are working for
their boss and for the greater good of the organisation - and that you are
not advocating for your friend to get the boss position. You may need to
"distance" yourself from your friend in the eyes of the other three.

 2) The current context and needs of the organisation need to be the
starting point. Engage the boss in a discussion about where the
organisation has been, but more importantly, where it needs to go. A
useful framework may be that of "grand strategy" - i.e., in a broad sense,
most organisations follow one of these: growth, retrenchment,
diversification, integration, turnabout, combination. (I think these come
from HRD Press workshop materials on Strategic Planning, but I am not
sure.) This conversation is for your orientation to the client
organisation, and to get the boss thinking in these terms too.

 3) Propose to the boss a collaborative exercise for all five people, with
you facilitating, and the boss trying to remain mostly in an observer
role, in which the organisational leaders discuss the organisation's
current context, strategic direction, grand strategy, etc. Sort of a
mini-strategic planning session, over, I would think, at least a half day,
possibly up to two days. I put a template for creating a strategic plan on
my website not too long ago, perhaps you can adapt some of that: <A

 4) At the conclusion of this collaborative effort, spend time focusing on
the particular leadership skills the new boss/leader will need. Have
participants look at where the organisation is now, where it needs to go,
and what skills are needed to get it there. There may be a tendency for
each person to project his or her strengths onto the situation, so you
need to do some kind of sanity check. Perhaps the "boss" - if he/she is
self-aware and humble enough, would be capable of reflecting on the past
and saying/seeing that "I gave the organisation A, B, and C when it needed
those skills, but now the organisation needs X, Y and Z." Or you could do
some sort of rank ordering or voting on attributes.

 5) Have the four (and the boss, for comparison sake) take a leadership
assessment / profile such as the one available at <A
I like this one (developed by Mary Lippitt, Ph.D.), because it
acknowledges that leadership strengths relate to changing priorities at
different times in the organisational life cycle.

 6) Hold a feedback session in which the four learn about each other's
leadership strengths/styles. See what emerges in terms of alignment
between the four and the future boss profile. One outcome may be that the
organisation needs to look elsewhere for a new leader. Other outcomes
could include a re-assessment of the current placement of the four. This
session could also include reflection by the four on how their different
strengths (and hopefully collaboration) have been demonstrated in this
whole process - adding (again, hopefully) validity to the feedback
received on the instrument and to the congruence between the selected
candidate's leadership strengths and those needed in the new position.

I hope this "hybrid design" helps!

Jim Wolford Ulrich, Ph.D.

Consulting website:
Photography website:
More photography: Jim Ulrich : dGallery :
Earn an M.A. in Whole Systems Design from Antioch University -
now in Chicago ( and Seattle (OSRnorthwest)


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