Careful assessment of what you need to lead your organization over the long haul provides a good starting point from which to consider who and what roles should be on your executive team.

During her career as a leadership consultant, Nicki Roth has seen countless variations on executive teams—both for good and ill. But regardless of organization size and structure, certain questions about group composition keep floating to the surface for the leaders of these teams. As an executive director, how do you ensure you have the right people, in the proper roles, on your team? Roth recently shared some advice with Bridgespan Partner Kirk Kramer.

Kirk Kramer: What are the key hurdles for executive team leaders who are looking to create highly effective teams? 

Nicki Roth: Understandably, executive directors and their boards often focus on strategy, funding, growth, and impact. Their primary goals are to get strong players in specific roles with clear functional expertise. Over-focusing on those goals, however, can lead to selecting the wrong people. Beyond functional skills, you need to know if these people have management experience and the ability to develop talent or that they can be trained to do so.

Kramer: What are some of the critical issues you frequently see?
Roth: Often, there isn’t enough forward thinking. Leadership team members are often selected for the present but based on the history of the organization. Just because someone has made valuable contributions doesn’t mean they are a leader.

Kramer: What is a good starting point for considering who should be on your executive team?
Roth: Imagining the future and what organizational capabilities need to be developed is a strong starting point for thinking about the executive team composition.

Read the full interview about optimizing nonprofit executive teams by Kirk Kramer at The Bridgespan Group.