Thoughts on Striving for Excellence as an Acting CEO

When I became acting IPC president and CEO in November of last year, it was a very different and new position for me. It’s also a role that comes without much of an instruction manual. My official position at IPC will come to an end when new President John Mitchell starts on April 23. Here are some pieces of that newly created instructional manual that I have put together during this journey:

Keep an eye on the goal: While I obviously had many issues to address, the Board had also tasked me with chairing the search committee to look for the permanent president and CEO. I maintained this as the top priority and as such, the Board committee was able to meet all of its milestones and announce the new leader on March 28.

Join the team: Instead of staying arms-length from the staff, I have made an effort to eat lunch in the lunchroom, spend time with the staff and let them know that my door is open. It’s been a pleasure learning more about the many people on our IPC team and the dedication and commitment they bring to work every day.  As a past Chairman of IPC’s Board, this opportunity to work directly and on the inside with both the domestic and international staff has been a special opportunity that I will always remember.

If it’s not broke, don’t fix it: Always a classic. As an interim leader, your job is to maintain what’s working well until the permanent leader takes office. It’s important to keep the team in place and to avoid a breakdown in any systems. I’m pleased to report that I’m handing IPC over to John with a record breaking number of members (3,297 sites) so he can start from success.  Trust me, this operation is not broken!

Squeaky wheel doesn’t get the grease: Once constituents and others are aware that a “new guy” is at the big desk, they may perceive that the time is right for knocking the organization or urging attention to a particular issue. It’s important to check with those on the staff and Board who know the history and other important facts that may not be apparent on the surface before leaping into action.

Interim leadership can be counterintuitive: An interim leader who is not pursuing the job permanently can be the most effective leader. Being open to learning without judgment can lead to insights and creating a better team. Knowing that my time would be limited helped me prioritize and prepare for the next phase.

It has been a true pleasure and a real honor to serve as IPC’s acting president and CEO. When I attend the Board meeting in early May, I will bring a new and valuable perspective. When John takes over, he will be IPC’s fourth permanent leader. And he’ll always have support from me, number 3.5.

Jim Herring

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