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Transitions are part of working life. These changes can be times of great enthusiasm and motivation. But that is only if we execute the transition very well. It is even trickier if anyone is transitioning from a top-level to a top-top level, like moving from the Chief Executive Officer role to a Board Chair role.

Yes, any organisation’s success (or failure) is mostly attributed to its leadership. For instance, in the driving seat, the CEO oversees the financing, human capital, operations, sales and marketing, strategy, culture, compliance, and more in that position. The leadership challenges are evident, but a dedicated CEO can thrive with the right skills and network.

But can a CEO transition to the role of a Chair? Let’s find out together.

CEO vs Chair – Two Different Positions

Being an Executive is clearly different from being a non-Executive in any corporate setting. For example, an Executive member may thrive based on specific hands-on capabilities. In contrast, the same capabilities may do nothing to help and much to hinder the role and responsibilities of a non-Executive.

If a successful CEO can put their rich experience into good use, they are halfway to becoming a good Chair. However, most transitioning CEOs tend to fall back into old habits in most cases. Others who are not interested in moving up the ladder push preconceptions that make the change unattractive to those interested in the transition.

We have seen many long-serving Chief Executives of top companies seamlessly transitioning to prominent Chair and Non-Executive Director roles. In some cases, these new Directors and Chairs also take up volunteer roles and top oversight positions that resonate with their qualities and interests.

How do these CEOs make it happen? Let’s find out together.

3 Tips for a Seamless CEO to Chair Transitioning

Tip 1. Identify what you really want. 

The first question you have to ask yourself is, “what do I really want?” The fact is if you are not very clear about what your next line of action is, making a move may be difficult. If you are convinced you need something more fulfilling than the role of CEO, the Chair position may just be an ideal challenge.

With the conviction that your potential new role will give you the satisfaction you crave, you can start looking at your skills, passions, and how best to leverage this in your new challenge. Being a CEO prepares you for the journey ahead, but both roles do not require the same competencies and mindset.

Tip 2. Consider how you fit in. 

Deciding on candidates for the board can be tricky for the board members. However, the most important prerequisites should be personality and characteristics. Applying that to your situation – do you fit into the team and the organisation at large? You will be surprised at how much you need to be a fit to be the right Chair.

For starters, you must have over six years of experience while checking all the boxes for succession. The appointment of a Chair is a big decision, and the movie itself is so huge that undoing it is never an easy option.

Tip 3. Adopt everything good practice. 

Sound practices are a must-have criterion for anyone looking to get into the Chair position. From identifying the best practices in the board review and process review systems to implementing them successfully, a Chair is saddled with crucial responsibilities. As the Board Chair, a good amount of your time and efforts will go into assembling the best people for the board.

So, as an incoming Chair, you must know if the team is working genuinely for the organisation’s interest and that of the executive team. You do not have the right team or board until you are certain that they are. In that case, you must use the board review process to pick out what is not working and proffer excellent solutions.

Finally, the Board Chair is a key individual when thinking about performance and sustainability, so it is crucial to get it right.

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