Enabling the Successful Transition of a Founder

Social Justice

Leadership transitions are one of the most disruptive and costly events for any organization—big or small—and, depending on how it is handled, a transition of leadership can either positively or negatively affect executive teams and, in turn, the organization as a whole. In fact, some estimates show executive turnover impacting on the bottom line to the tune of 500 percent of total compensation costs.

The challenge

After seventeen years at the helm, Breakthrough’s CEO and founder was stepping down and seeking a smooth transition to new leadership. With two separate boards on different continents, the organization faced the challenge of ensuring the transition happened in a way that met the varying needs of its U.S.-based and India-based teams. As part of the transition process, the boards also wanted to explore the effectiveness of the current overall governance and leadership structure of the organization.

What we did

Crossland worked with Breakthrough’s boards, senior leaders, and staff to co-design an approach for assessing the organization’s current reality, determining the needs of all its stakeholders, and imagining a number of future contexts for the organization. Through in-person and remote interviews, focus groups, and onsite engagement, Crossland was able to design options to help the organization gain alignment on the value and implications of the new governance and leadership structure. Crossland facilitated two significant meetings with the organization’s two boards—one of which brought both boards together physically for the first time in a very long time. These two meetings produced key decisions, a high-level implementation plan, and actionable recommendations on gaps in the organization’s alignment.

The result

As a result of Crossland’s work with Breakthrough, the two boards gained clarity on their respective roles; became more engaged and aligned on Breakthrough’s future; and invested in a leadership transition process that allowed the community to gracefully say goodbye to their highly respected founder. Another critical aspect of this work was that an agreement was reached between the U.S. and India boards and staff members on the new governance and leadership structure, as well as a profile for the type of leader it needed for the next phase of its lifecycle. The foundation for the recruitment process was solid, and in July of 2017, Breakthrough successfully hired its next leader.

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