Most associations have an annual election process that addresses succession of the Board Chair/President role, including a president-elect or a chairman-elect position. The traditional approach is for the person elected to this role to advance at the end of their term, providing them with a full year of opportunity in advance of becoming Board Chair/President.
The question then is: What do incoming presidents do with all that time?
If you find yourself in this role and really want to be a cut above the rest, you can take a number of concrete steps as soon as today. To ensure a smooth transition into your role as Board Chair/President, consider taking a number of early preparations we’ve detailed here:
1. Prioritize planning.
Many Presidents have confessed to never having the time to plan ahead. As President-Elect, with several months to go before your official tenure, you can cultivate plans that will serve as your roadmap when you’re in office. This is a far better alternative than having to prepare with only a couple of weeks to go before holding office. You want to hit the ground running.
2. Prepare for your appointees.
On top of understanding the appointment process, you will need to have a look at the potential skill sets you think can help you achieve the association’s objectives later on. Make your evaluations early so that you can make adjustments if and when necessary. You will need to have an established set of appointees once the transition begins, which often means that you should know your picks on personnel well before your term begins.
3. Create your strategy.
Creating a strategy includes reviewing the state of the organization’s overall strategic plan. Perhaps there are elements of what the association is doing right now that are working really well. Some of them may need some tweaking, as opposed to having a major overhaul. You may create a totally new strategy altogether if that adapts to current market realities. In any case, you are prepared with a strategy that you can articulate with others in the association leadership and ensure a uniform and consensus-based position as soon as you take office.
4. Get more familiar with stakeholders.
Be in regular communication with the current president and staff leadership to accompany them during important meetings with chapters and other interest groups. This way, you will get first-hand experience of the issues and be able to form better relationships with valuable influencers and stakeholders. You might also want to consider attending national events related to your industry so that you can network with other leaders. Somewhere along with these engagements, you will encounter potential volunteer leaders and members of the board. Treat this as an opportunity for you to influence the would-be board composition since you have a stake in nominations anyway.
5. Learn as much as you can from the incumbent.
Just by shadowing your current president, you can learn a number of things that will be helpful in your term. It is especially important to learn the methods that they use and their communication style with other leaders and groups. Observe all processes during meetings and take note of how decisions are made. If there are any best practices that you can adopt or emulate, make sure to do so.
6. Get the other aspects of your life in order.
Your term as president will be a demanding one, so it is best to start preparing for it early on. If you have young children, talk to them about the opportunity you’re embarking on and how it may have an impact on your schedule. If you currently own a business, you may want to consider scaling back the hours you dedicate to managing it. Make a note of the special dates on the family calendar and those of key association activities so that you can be sure to find the right compromise in your schedule.
Being an association president is a commitment to service – probably at a scale that you have never before experienced. However, it is also an opportunity of a lifetime to make a difference in the lives of your members and the community you serve. Take the opportunity to prepare early on while you enjoy the flexibility of the president-elect role. Remember that how you use your time today will do a lot to determine your success as board president in the future.