IOUG President on Leadership Development and Succession Planning
One of John Matelski’s goals is to make himself replaceable. As president of the Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG) – one of the world’s largest Oracle user groups – Matelski staunchly advocates succession planning for any volunteer board.

“My legacy as a leader is not about me,” said Matelski, who has served on the IOUG board of directors since 2009 and is currently in his second term as president. “It is about the organization and the people we serve. When I leave, I want to have helped implement a vision [for the IOUG board] and create a leadership structure around it so that the beat will go on.”

Matelski understands first-hand the importance of succession planning. After Matelski’s first term as president ended, his successor resigned from the board due to the demands of a new job. Because the board did not have another candidate in the pipeline, Matelski found himself president once again.

“You need to be sure that you are always cultivating the people coming up. Despite the best-laid plans, these are volunteer boards and things happen. People take new jobs. They move. Their current job gets more demanding. For the organization to thrive, you always have to have a plan B,” said Matelski, who has also served on boards of other user groups since 1997. If boards do not do this, he explained, more of their time and energy is spent on managing the “spin cycle” of replacing board members and less on the vision, governance and long-term health of the organization.

For Matelski and the IOUG board, a renewed emphasis on leadership development did not happen overnight. It started in 2011 when the board began to closely examine and understand its membership base. For example, at that time IOUG had 25,000 members worldwide (membership is currently 30,000). The vast majority of its members were technically oriented IT database administrators at companies that implemented Oracle’s database management systems, many of which are Fortune 500 firms. As a result, much of IOUG’s focus as an organization was on providing technical training, education and peer-to-peer networking to strengthen the technical acumen of its members.

The board’s initial analysis revealed that most members (about 85 percent) were in technical, individual contributor roles. While they possessed extensive technical training and knowledge, most were not exposed to management and leadership opportunities that would have provided key elements of what IOUG needed in future board members. In fact, when Matelski joined the IOUG board in 2009, he was one of the first board members in the organization’s 20-year history who had executive-level management experience. Matelski is the chief information officer and director of information technology for DeKalb County, Ga., where he leads an organization of 100 IT professionals.

As a result of its initial analysis, the board began to gradually expand IOUG’s offerings to include leadership development training and programs in addition to its traditional technical development programs. Furthermore, Matelski and the board began to recruit new members to IOUG who possessed both the technical and leadership acumen they required.

“In addition to the technical proficiency that most of our members already had, we are now looking for people who can inspire, mobilize, set vision, enable their peers and be creative problem solvers. We want people who are open minded, good communicators and high performers,” Matelski said. “Our discussions are no longer about the person’s title or how long they have been a member. We have started to shift the mindset to ‘does this person have the right leadership character traits for what we need?’”

To further support its vision of developing more leadership-capable candidates, IOUG established a number of initiatives. One of the more impactful endeavors was establishing strategic initiative committees to allow current board members and prospects to work on emerging issues that impact the entire organization such as membership growth, industry trends, new development opportunities, understanding and leveraging social media, and technical publication authorship. IOUG also encouraged its emerging leaders to attend world-class leadership training.

Matelski and the IOUG board are so committed to developing its leadership pipeline that it recently added language to its 2015 Strategic Plan regarding succession planning. Its goal: Continually identify new, interested, qualified and inspired volunteers who can be groomed and mentored for board-level leadership.

In the last year, Matelski and IOUG are already beginning to experience the dividends of their investment in leadership development and succession planning. He also has identified two individuals who have the leadership abilities to step into the president’s role. Additionally, Matelski is working with the 10 board members to help each of them build his or her own leadership-succession slate.

“We will know that we succeeded when we have not just one or two, but three or four members who could step in and lead the organization even better [than me],” Matelski said. “It is a concerted effort. It takes time, energy and investment. But, at the end of the day, it is so important for the organization and its members.”


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