Send Him on a Cruise

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Published September 20, 2015

Send Him on a Cruise

On the basis of my experience, I feel that an organization’s former CEO should not continue to serve on the Board— except in very rare cases and, at most, for a very short time.

Whether they should continue on in any capacity full time (for instance, the long time president of a college becomes a chancellor) should be a matter of very careful analysis and discussion. And with total agreement with the new incoming CEO or president.

The answer is to be very judicious and selective in making the decision. And there must be total agreement with the new CEO. I have one situation in a major university in the Southwest where the former president not only serves on the Board, but has an office on the campus. From day one, he has been a thorn in the side of the new president.

On the other hand, Bruce Heilman, who served the University of Richmond for years as President, was named Chancellor. He has had that position for at least 15 years.

At one point, he became Acting President when the incumbent had a heart attack and unexpectedly died.

Another excellent example is Norvel Young who is the genius who moved Pepperdine University from downtown Los Angeles to Malibu. After his stint as President, he was named Chancellor. He became the one of the University’s chief fundraisers.

I wrote a book called The First 120 Days. It was written for new college and university presidents. It’s a point-by-point thesis of what a new president should do in their first four months of office. It works just as effectively for a CEO of any organization.

There’s a chapter that deals with how to handle and maintain a relationship with your predecessor. The title of the chapter is: “Send Him on a Cruise.” That gives you an idea of some of the absolute disasters I’ve witnessed.