Q:  You have a comprehensive succession plan, what brought this about?

A:  I am a big believer in contingency plans – when something happens to staff, and it eventually will; a chapter needs to be ready and to know what will happen for at least the first three months. This is needed for all key leadership positions whether or not you are planning to leave at some point. I also believe in developing leaders and when you know that in a few years it will be time for someone else to take over.

When I came back to Kern County YfC in 2004, they were without an Executive Director and for two years they had changing leadership; I was asked to come back and to work with the Board to move the program back to a healthy status.

I gave the Board a 5 year minimum commitment because consistency and direction was needed. I also immediately began to think of how to develop leadership and have the “right” person in place to take the program in the future.

I had left Kern County YFC in 1993 to take the NFD position in the Southwest.  Our region had been without an NFD for two years and we had been running it as an Executive committee; so I asked our board to make the call.  They said, “Go do what you’ve done here for the rest of the region.”  I thought we had a good transition plan in place; however I didn’t have time to do an intentional mentoring plan with process and outcomes. The program ran strong for about 6 years.


Q:  Then why did you came back to Kern County YFC?

A: I left the chapter in good shape and then I came back 10 years later to provide direction, leadership, stability and make sure the Board, staff, plan and finances were in place. Again.  The next time I left, I wanted to make sure the right people and process were in place – particularly by making sure the new executive director and staff were ready for the transition.  My family’s support has always been part of any career moves I've made -- from business to ministry and now from full-time ministry to part-time.  I'm almost 70 years old, have been in paid ministry for 40 years, and there are more things I'd still like to do.  This includes staying on staff part- time to head up specific projects for another 3-5 years.  These projects include leadership development, building up our endowment, and estate planning and serving the Board and Executive Director.


Q: How have you gone about “making sure the right person and process” were in place?

 We began to improve financially, add ministry departments and staff; one of the people we hired fit the profile of and Executive Director and we began to move him into increased areas of leadership with the approval of the Board Executive committee, YfC/ USA and the local leadership were interviewed. After four years or so including meetings with Adam and his wife Helen everyone agreed that Adam was to be our next Executive Director. We then began the two year intentional mentoring program. I value personality and style assessments and Adam Capehart’s Predictive Index showed he was executive director material.  His StrengthsFinder outcomes solidified that appraisal.  So we began our two-year succession plan with Adam (see “Kern County YFC Succession Plan” at  http://www.yfc.net/home-page/boards under "Planning - Succession Planning")


Q: What specific public steps did you take to hand over the reigns?

A: We wanted to make sure there was no misunderstanding or surprises.  In 2010-2011, we informed all of our major stakeholders; then we followed up at our annual fundraising banquet with an announcement of my transition into a new role in two years and the introduction of Adam.  All donors who missed the banquet received a letter informing them of the coming change.  He began to attend all the Board meetings during the first year of the two-year process to build relationships with the board and the leadership staff team.  We took our time in order to move allegiances from me to him; the Board even asked me to give him his own office rather than being in the communal office setting so that everyone understood he was no longer “just one of the boys”. 

Adam was totally familiar with and in agreement with our Operational Plan; which we run all of our performance reviews from and the Board gets a monthly detailed report as to how we are doing.


Q:  What would be your best advice to a chapter just beginning this process? Or   1) What do you wish someone would have told you? 2) Looking back, is there anything you might have done differently?

 A: I would not have done anything differently; this whole process was bathed in prayer. I love to develop people and my strengths are in the leadership and administrative areas, so I knew to be the CEO of a multi- staff, $900,000 program that was working with around 7,000 young people per year, must also have these strengths in addition to a heart for God and a desire to bring young people and their parents to Jesus.

My encouragement to other chapters would be to have a contingency plan in place that would include the Board Executive Committee and department heads. If you are an Executive Director and thinking of changing roles, I would encourage you to start “succession planning”. Begin the process with prayer and make sure you have operational and strategic plans that the Board and staff are supportive of and involved with. Past performance and test results will help you identify future leaders.


Jim Lewis is the Director Emeritus of Kern County Youth for Christ

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