Leadership news: CEO search update

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With the April 30 date of CEO Dwight Hymans’s retirement approaching, the search for a successor is progressing well but not yet complete. The ASWB Board of Directors met in early April by Zoom to approve extending Hymans’s contract. “There will be no gaps in leadership until a new CEO is hired,” said Past President Harold Dean, chair of the Search Committee.

The Board has put its trust in the Search Committee to make the best decision and the best recommendations. Our goal is to bring one candidate to the Board.
— Search Committee Chair Harold Dean, ASWB past president

Search activities got under way in August 2021, when Hymans officially announced his retirement to the ASWB Board of Directors. The announcement came as no surprise to the Board because Hymans had signed a two-year contract to serve as CEO in 2020, succeeding former CEO Mary Jo Monahan. The work has been guided by Policy 7.4, CEO succession plan, which identifies that the president shall appoint a Transition Task Force and a Search Committee to support the Board in its goal of working “proactively to develop a diverse finalist pool that is reflective of ASWB and its membership.”

Guided by policy

As outlined in policy, then president Dean duly appointed both groups, with unanimous approval from the Board of Directors. Task force members included then president-elect Roxroy Reid of New Mexico as chair, Secretary Karine Levesque of New Brunswick, Director at Large Ann-Marie Buchanan of Tennessee, CEO Hymans, and Director of Communications Jayne Wood. Search Committee members include Dean as chair, Treasurer Brian Philson of Michigan, and Director at Large Elizabeth Pope of North Carolina; member board representatives Lisa Crockwell of Newfoundland and Labrador and Kenya Anderson of Tennessee; and ASWB senior directors Lavina Harless and Jennifer Henkel. Senior Director Heather Foley serves as HR consultant in a nonvoting capacity.

The Transition Task Force handled the preliminary work of conducting a search for an executive search firm. In early October, the task force recommended and the Board approved national firm DRi, Inc. The company, based in Arlington, Virginia, has deep nonprofit experience, a proven record of successful CEO placements, and capability to extend the search for candidates in Canada.

DRi’s work started with consulting with Dean and Foley to gather information about the position and qualities the committee would be seeking and performing a compensation study. The firm began meeting regularly with the Search Committee in December. Some of the initial tasks included revising the CEO job description, completing an executive profile, and identifying the opportunities and challenges the new CEO would face.

Dean noted that one of the top challenges—and opportunities—for the incoming CEO will be leading the association’s release of exam demographic data. The committee, Dean said, identified desirable qualities of the successful candidate as someone able to think outside the box and be open to looking at ways of how to approach the work of ASWB a bit differently. “Whoever comes in as new CEO,” said Dean, “will need to forge relationships with our stakeholder organizations and be able to establish good working relationships with those groups fairly quickly.” Dean also said candidates must be licensed social workers, preferably with knowledge of and/or involvement with professional regulation, and knowledgeable about ASWB, its programs, and its mission.

The search process has been a two-way street, with committee members recommending potential candidates to DRi, and DRi accessing its database and opening a public search in February. “It has been collaborative process working with DRi,” said Dean. “I’ve always found Jennifer Dunlap [DRi’s CEO] to be up-front, aboveboard, and gracious. She has a strong sense of what we are looking for in ASWB’s next CEO.”

Interviews to get under way

Since announcing the search, DRi has been screening potential candidates and presenting them to the Search Committee via an online portal where committee members provide feedback. This process helps DRi determine eligibility of candidates to move forward. “We’ve received applications from really strong candidates,” said Dean. “I think we’re in a good space.”

Zoom interviews with the top six or seven candidates are expected to start in late April, said Dean, with a second round of interviews with the top two or three candidates in mid-May. A third round of in-person interviews will take place at DRi headquarters a week later with the top two finalists. The gap in timing, said Dean, is to accommodate schedules of committee members and ASWB activities, most notably the 2022 ASWB Education Meeting in Chicago, Illinois.

The committee will make its recommendation to the ASWB Board of Directors after completing the last round of interviews. “The Board has put its trust in the Search Committee to make the best decision and the best recommendations,” said Dean. “Our goal is to bring one candidate to the Board.”

A smooth succession

Plans are for the Board to meet with the recommended candidate via Zoom, then meet separately to discuss impressions and vote. Assuming the Board votes Yes, the president will extend the offer, legal counsel will develop the contract, and the Transition Task Force will reconvene to assist in the transition of incoming and exiting CEOs. As noted earlier, Hymans will stay on beyond April 30 to ensure a smooth succession.

“In the history of ASWB, we have not had a lot of turnover in CEOs,” said Dean. He continued, pointing out in contrast that the Board of Directors has an annual turnover. “Because of that, it’s okay if we have to ask questions as we go through this process. We don’t do this every day. Mary Jo Monahan is to be credited for getting a succession policy in place to guide us.”