The Elusive Predecessor


Yesterday I led an officer transition coaching session with the new council officers at Nebraska Wesleyan University. One of the new leaders asked how to get information from their predecessor, especially when a former officer is elusive and hard to pin down. This may come up for many new leaders, so here are the four things I shared with them:


Take them out


When outgoing officers are elusive, try meeting on their terms – connect after class or talk with them during an event. Rather than trying to schedule a special time to share transition notes, offer to buy their lunch or dinner. Use their time more productively by transitioning during a time they already have blocked for meals.


Show up

If your predecessor owes you a manual, their notes, the organization’s checkbook, or other materials, show up where they are. Don’t rely on them to remember to bring everything or on the random chance that you will cross paths. You might also ask advisors to schedule a joint meeting with both of you present.


Ask pointed questions

Although you might have general questions, pick two or three specific details you are struggling with most. Make it easier for your predecessor by asking pointed questions about those specific details. It will be easier for your predecessor to answer quickly, and you will get exactly the information you really need.



Don’t try to download every piece of information from your predecessor all at once in a single conversation. It’s exhausting, it’s impossible to capture everything, and you won’t remember it all. Instead, check in occasionally with a few specific questions about the issues and activities you will be addressing in the coming months.


Fraternity/sorority leaders often become overwhelmed with their responsibilities and burn out at the end of their term. After handing over the reins to you, the last thing they want to do is think about the job again. Although you shouldn’t have to work this hard to transition the role, making it easy for them will get you the information you need to be successful.


Want more tips on how to be successful in your new position? Check out our New Officer Checklist here.