When Is It Time for An Executive Director to Move On?

I asked the following question to a group of nonprofit Executive Directors on LinkedIn.

'OK, you're an executive director. You just suggested a team building exercise for your upcoming staff retreat involving a piñata of your board chair. Perhaps a clue it's time to move on? Other clues?"

I was surprised how much this question resonated. People came back with lively (and really funny) answers.

Three of the best were:

"I had a boss once who handed me an article from a publication entitled 'How to Tell if you're being pushed out.'"

"The board chair asks you where you'd like your farewell party to be."

"The board asks you to work from home for a few days so they can use your office for interviews."

One of these actually happened! (Can you guess which one?)

It is my firm belief that leaders sometimes overstay their welcome. Organizations change and need different kinds of leadership. Sometimes an organization can become overly identified with its leader, rather than its mission, which can jeopardize the organization's stability or sustainability.

And of course, there is just good old fashioned burnout.

There are reasons that Executive Director jobs can drive you mad. They are really hard jobs and the work is ridiculously important.

So humor can be a handy asset. Take it from a colleague on LinkedIn: "I have been an executive director for over 26 years at an organization that deals with crime victims. If I didn't have a sense of humor, I'd either be postal or dead."

Don't go postal. We need you to hang in there, to keep it in perspective and to remember how badly your clients need you.

As for more clues (funny or otherwise) that it's time for an Executive Director to say his or her farewells, I wrote a whole bunch over on my blog (see "I Hate My Job").

Now it's your turn! Tell me what you think are the most important signs that it's time for an Executive Director to pack it in? You can let me know in the comments below or on my blog.