January 4, 2010

Managing the Human Side of Volunteer Transition

“There’s a human component to every system. If you’re not managing the human aspect, you’re not managing half of the system. You may be getting results, but you’re driving only half the car; the other half goes wild in any direction.”

—Fred Kofman, former MIT faculty member and part of
Peter Senge’s original Center for Organizational Learning at MIT.
January brings a major moment in the human component of associations: leadership transition. In turn, a common question will soon surface: why won't they just let go?

While some outgoing leaders indeed have real control issues and impede a smooth transition, the story is more complex with others. Their head and hands are ready to let go, but their heart wants to hang on to several human dimensions of their role: the deep relationships they've developed with colleagues, the efforts underway that align with their passions and interests, and the opportunity to remain a part of the inner circle.

Instead of trying to cut that string of caring and commitment, we need to tie a new knot that allows these individuals to transition gracefully out of their previous role, but still remain connected in meaningful ways. I explored this topic in-depth several years ago in an article available online from ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership.

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