Sunday, September 26, 2010

Succession Planning

This was the last week for Klingberg Family Center’s President of eighteen years, Rosemarie Burton. Rosemarie has retired to spend more time with her twin granddaughters, as well as to develop her executive consultation business, By Your Side Consulting (
Rosemarie has been an exemplary president for Klingberg. When she started eighteen years ago, Klingberg had 95 staff, two programs and one location. As she leaves now, we have over 400 staff, around 15 programs and seven locations. In addition, the agency has grown in skill, sophistication and expertise.

Rosemarie has set the tone for the agency by her unswerving commitment to the children and their families. Rosemarie has taken each of the children in our programs to lunch on their birthdays and other special occasions. She enjoys the children and is deeply committed to their quality of life. Therefore in addition to focusing on securing the latest Federal earmark for the agency, Rosemarie arranges for the kids to have baseball uniforms, or for a talented girl to obtain an acting scholarship, or for a boy who is interested in architecture to tour the office of an architect friend of hers. She has demonstrated daily that the children and their families take precedence over anything else.

Rosemarie models the fact that high ethical standards and a sharp, practical business sense are not incompatible; in fact they support each other. Financial integrity and a commitment to excellence reinforce each other.

Several years ago Rosemarie began to talk about her retirement. Although none of us wanted to hear about it, her long and careful process has resulted in an excellent transition for the agency. Our new president, Dr. Steven Girelli, was chosen after a careful national search, and he has been amply prepared to assume his new role. All the many people, from staff to Board members to kids and families to donors to legislators who will miss Rosemarie have had many opportunities and ceremonies to say good bye. Rosemarie’s retirement party is next week and should be a major event with people from all eras of her life. Everyone is of course anxious about a major transition and this process has helped with that anxiety.

But for Rosemarie, succession planning has not been limited to finding and preparing her own replacement. Throughout her tenure at Klingberg one of Rosemarie’s strongest commitments has been fostering the growth of her staff. She has paid attention to staff at all levels and offered them opportunities to grow, be promoted and meet their profession al and personal goals. She has done this by offering conferences, training, taking people with her as she participated in national forums, and by spending time with people, encouraging and guiding them. She has especially focused on the women and minorities on the staff. At every level of the organization people have been identified who are doing a good job and showing promise, and experiences they need to grow toward the next step have been offered to them. So not only has the Presidential transition been smooth, the growth of the organization has been facilitated. Another benefit is that if staff feel they have opportunities, they stay with the organization.

I am certainly one of the people who has benefitted by Rosemarie’s encouragement. Much of who I am and what I am doing professionally has been made possible by Rosemarie’s ability to embrace new ideas and find the resources to move towards the future. Knowing Rosemarie as a person and a friend has taught and inspired me. I will miss her in so many ways. I am also confident in Klingberg’s future as we move forward under the skillful leadership of my friend Steve Girelli.

This multi-facetted succession planning is one important source of strength for a non-profit agency.

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