Rolling Out a New Era

Making the Most of Presidential Transitions

Your president has announced their resignation, launching a critical time in the history of your institution. While every situation is unique, how you and your team leverage this opportunity in the days to come will help you put your best foot forward, build confidence in new leadership, and assure that your school makes its mark.

Consider the context. Where is your institution in its history of leadership? Is this the first time this person is taking the helm of a school or the final legacy? Is this president inheriting a campaign in progress or have you hit pause until they arrive? What are the major events that are taking place before and after the transition? What resources do you have and what do you need? Collaborate with your cross-campus team to establish a pace and build a proposed straw man of programming with a solid yet flexible scenario encompassing all the moving parts to have at the ready when the new president arrives.
 
There’s no time like the present. It’s all hands on deck from the start. Build an all-star team with the perspectives needed to ensure planning goes smoothly. Break down any internal silos, because regardless of who is in charge, you’ll need input from across the campus, including those people who know the ins and outs of what needs to happen as you welcome and introduce your new president to constituents.
 
Assess the need for external input. Decide whether or not circumstances call for a PR expert or even debriefing with the consultants who led the search process. Will bringing an external source on board provide another helpful perspective and the knowledge you need to strengthen rollout planning? Determine if assistance outside the usual suspects will support your team and fill in any critical gaps.
 
Make establishing trust an action item. Don’t stop at getting to know the incoming president, get to know their former staff too – they’re the keys to understanding your new leader’s personality and culture, in addition to preferences for what a rollout looks like. This is undoubtedly a special time that’s been dreamed about, the culmination of a long search process, and a career milestone. First impressions count. Developing those connections and gaining the trust of the new president will help you create the best possible welcome AND allow you and your team to shine.
 
Capitalize on new opportunities for engagement. Who’s on your school’s wish list? Make the most of the significance of this period to reach out to new donors, stakeholders, and important media connections. At the same time, consider the assurances you may need to make with existing supporters and partners during this time of transition. Use this opportunity to deepen connections and make new ones.
 
When it comes to introducing a new president, being collaborative, strategic, and a good listener will go a long way toward creating powerful moments and building trust in new leadership. Seize the opportunity to assure it’s a milestone that extends a warm welcome and showcases your institution’s stature and vision.
 
When the transition comes to an end, your constituents should be excited, engaged, and anticipating a bright future. Regardless of circumstances, creating moments and experiences that infuse existing traditions with the new president’s style will help you set the tone and position your school now and for years to come.

Best Practices
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