Board Size: Does It Matter?

A new report from BoardSource, "Leading With Intent: 2017 National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices" includes findings on board size, which has declined steadily over the past 20 years.

The size of a board affects how its work is conducted, and different sizes work for different organizations. However, BoardSource believes it's possible for a board to be either too small or too large.

In general, it recommends that there be at least 5 board members, regardless of what an organization's bylaws require. Otherwise, the organization may not have enough skills and expertise to draw upon when making decisions. In addition, a board that's too small may have difficulty supporting and overseeing the CEO. And, finally, a too-small board might not have enough reach to create a strong fundraising network.

A board that is too big may find it challenging to have fruitful conversations utilizing all of its members. In this situation, many important organizational issues may get shifted to the executive committee, which can create a disconnect. Board members can end up feeling as if their participation is not values, and- even worse-  the board's ability to govern may be adversely affected.

The bottom line from BoardSource is that every organization has its own particular needs for governance, so board size needs to be determined on a case-by-case basis. And of course, organizational needs change with growth, so board size needs to be a topic that gets discussed and planned for.

Please be in touch with me to discuss your board needs!

 

Cultivating Resilience

I have been thinking a lot about resilience this summer. In June, I found out that I had a large, benign tumor wrapped around my spinal cord and I had to have neurosurgery immediately to remove it. Thankfully, the surgery went well and I had no complications. But the recovery is long and requires a good deal of patience and physical therapy to get back to normal. I had a few bad days initially, feeling sorry for myself for not being able to do the things I had looked forward to doing during the summer (Shakespeare in the Park!), but overall, I was very positive about what had happened and I improved rapidly.

During this time, I started wondering how people handle adversity like major illness, disability, loss of a partner, job transitions, and other experiences that have significant emotional effects. Some people seem to bounce back relatively well, and others seem to get stuck and can’t move forward. What’s the difference?

Well, apparently the difference is resilience. What is resilience and how can you get some? It’s like a muscle- an emotional muscle- that can be strengthened if it’s weak. There have been many books and articles on resilience, but the latest to address it in a really accessible way is Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant’s Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy.  In fact, they have a whole website devoted to it and you should check it out.

Here’s a few suggestions on how to build up your resilience muscle:

Practice being optimistic: there are people who are born negative thinkers and those who are born to think more positively. Regardless, you can train yourself to think more positive thoughts. I’m more of a positivist, but in my darker times, I pushed myself to think about the fact that I would be able go back to my yoga practice pain-free soon.

Rewrite your story: reframing your struggles into experiences that taught you something important and enabled you to empathize with or help others is part of developing resilience. I now understand better how pain affects people’s lives and can appreciate how hard that can be.

De-personalize things: try not to blame yourself for your situation. Things happen. Mistakes get made. Now let’s move forward. As President Bartlett used to say on The West Wing, “What’s next?”

Support others: look outside yourself for others who need help, and get involved in helping someone else.

Be inspired: look at how other people have overcome their adverse events and succeeded. I channeled the experiences of the many friends I have who have survived (and thrived) their cancers, and it really made a difference for me.

Speaking of friends, be grateful for the support and encouragement of your friends and family. Mine were instrumental in my recovery. Even reading their messages on social media was so important.

I wish you the best as you learn how to be a resilient person!

What's New in the World of CEO Succession?

The Conference Board has released its 2017 CEO Succession Report, and while they are looking at the practices that are trending in the corporate world, there may be parallels in the nonprofit world as well.

A trend that I found interesting is that one in ten CEO successions involved the appointment of an interim CEO. This indicates more planned and gradual transitions, which offers an opportunity to utilize interim leadership or other temporary measures. This can be a stabilizing decision for companies and organizations, allowing them to go through a considerate search for a permanent leader. Interim leaders are not necessarily interested in the permanent position, nor is that usually a good idea.

The report also indicates that other scenarios seem to be trending in CEO succession, such as the opportunity for shared leadership.

You can download the report here.

#MyLazyBlog

This week, I'm spotlighting a great post from Joan Garry with a list of the ten nonprofit blogs you should be following. Maybe mine will make the list someday...a girl can hope!

http://www.joangarry.com/10-nonprofit-blogs/

Building Your Leadership Team

Like a house, your organization needs a strong foundation to avoid collapse. That foundation is made up of PEOPLE.  And, most important, the people on your leadership team.

 What are the qualities of a strong leadership team?

-        A strong moral and ethical code

-        A passion for the cause and for the work involved in furthering the mission

-        An ability to put aside ego to build the culture of the organization

-        A great sense of humor

-        A fearless attitude toward change

-        An inquisitive mind

 If these are the qualities of your leadership team, congratulations! If not, use this as a goal for identifying and recruiting the best candidates for building your organization from the ground up.

GOOD LUCK!

Please contact me for more on building a great leadership team.

Tell Me A Story

 

One of the most important aspects of an organization’s success is the quality of the stories it tells. Your narrative, told in a straightforward way, stating your mission in a concise way, and providing insight into your impact is the best way to build your community of dedicated staff, board, volunteers, donors, and stakeholders.

Your narrative should be reflected in everything you do- internally as well as externally- to communicate with your community. Your website, donor mailings, newsletters, social media posts, and public speaking messages should all be presented in a way that tells a story and draws more people in to tell their stories as well.

In order to do this successfully, your narrative needs to be clear, consistent, and strong. You and everyone in your organization (and I mean EVERYONE) need to be able to tell your story to everyone and anyone, with the conviction that it has the potential to build a community, expand your reach, and change lives.

Building your narrative should be a strategic part of your growth plan. Starting with developing an “elevator pitch” and then honing it into a comprehensive “brand” is the ultimate goal. Once you have your narrative, make sure everyone knows it. Make sure everyone feels comfortable telling the story in their own authentic way. Adapt the narrative to be appropriate and targeted to your various audiences.

If you want to learn more about how to build your narrative, let’s talk.

How to Think

“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”  Peter Drucker

My last blog post about the “Schultz Hour” got me thinking even more about the subject of introspection. Research shows that people who practice self-reflection perform better, are more productive, and are happier than those who don’t.

Giving yourself a chance to invest in conscious thoughts can even make you a better leader. So how do you do it?

There are many ways to train yourself to detach and just THINK. Try this: First, schedule a time to do this regularly- at least weekly. Sit in a quiet place with no distractions. Turn off your phone. Start to clear your mind. Try some deep breaths. Then ask yourself some questions: How am I handling (or not handling) a difficult situation or relationship? How could I have been more effective in that meeting the other day? Am I ignoring things that I shouldn’t? How do I help my team achieve their goals?

If you enjoy writing, try journaling your thoughts. If you think better when outdoors, go for a walk.

Focus on one question at a time. See what comes up. Trust your gut- if you let it, it will lead you in a direction that can help clarify your thoughts.

If you feel stuck or frustrated trying to practice self-reflection, ask for help. Use a friend or colleague whose judgement you trust to talk things out with. Then try it one your own again.

Good luck! Contact me for more on how you can become a better leader.

You Deserve a Break Today

In a recent op-ed in The New York Times, David Leonhardt writes about the importance of allowing yourself time for detaching from regular daily activities and simply...thinking. He calls it a "Schultz Hour," after former Secretary of State George Schultz, who was a proponent of carving out an hour each week to think about the strategic elements of his job, without distraction.

It seems like this detachment is even more important today, considering our 24/7/365 lifestyles and connections to technology. Our brains are able to benefit from activities that are directly connected to accomplishments and productivity, and those that are more like daydreaming. But they can't do both at the same time, so it's important to give each type of activity some time.  Turning off our phones and computers for an hour, taking a walk in the park, or just sitting and looking out the window the next time we're on the train can give our brains the space to think more creatively and enable us to appreciate the world around us a little more. 

It might just be that by giving ourselves a Schultz Hour, we will become better able to focus on our personal relationships as well as finding solutions to problems we are trying to solve.

Let's try it! Email me and let me know if you do.

What Do Great Board Members Bring to the Table?

How do you know when you have the right board members sitting at the table? Hopefully, you have members who already have these qualities. If not, you can use this as part of your cultivation and development process.

Enthusiasm: They demonstrate a passion for the cause, a willingness to act as an ambassador for their organization, and an ability to inspire excitement in others.

Education or Experience: They possess knowledge and skills that can help your organization succeed.

Expectations: They present with the attitude that their skills and abilities will be respected and utilized appropriately, that they will be encouraged in their efforts to contribute to the growth and advancement of the organization, and that they will behave ethically and professionally.

Energy: They show the stamina to fulfill their obligations and responsibilities and can energize others.

Good luck! I can help you create a board that works for you. Please be in touch with me, ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com.

Getting Emotional

This week, take a look at this Harvard Business Review video on emotional intelligence. It's pretty special. I think you'll enjoy it.

For more on emotional intelligence and how it can help you personally and professionally, please be in touch with me at ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com.

 

 

It's Time for Your Yearly Physical

It's Spring! And it's time for your checkup. Your organizational checkup. Time for a peek under the hood to assess how healthy it is. Here we go...

First, do you have a good CEO/Board Chair relationship? Joan Garry believes that this is the single most important sign of organizational health. Do you both understand your roles? Are you partners in your strategic analysis of the organization?

Does your organization have a strong strategic plan? It doesn't have to be a written plan. It doesn't have to be "fancy." But strategy does need to be a vital part of what the Board develops and oversees.

Is there a culture of philanthropy? Does everyone in the organization- Board, staff, volunteers, stakeholders- participate in supporting the organization through fundraising and telling the story of your organization's impact?

Speaking of storytelling, does everyone in the organization know how to articulate the mission, vision and values? By doing this, they can communicate your  organization's impact in transformative ways.

Is your staff motivated and engaged? Are they working well as a team and as individuals? Are they happy?

Finally, do you have sustainability and succession plans in place? Creating a sustainable future involves setting both short and long-term goals and diversification of resources. It also includes leadership cultivation, which is why a succession plan is essential.

Asking yourself these questions, and being honest about where you might need some improvement, is the key to your organizational health. Start now!

Please be in touch with me at ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com for help with making your organization the healthiest it can be!

How to Create Leaders

"When we tell people to do their jobs, we get workers. When we trust people to get the job done, we get leaders."  Simon Sinek OK, so you're The Leader now. You started at the bottom of the ladder, and you've worked hard enough to advance.

But what have you learned about being a leader? Are you still thinking like a manager? Are you still tied to doing the job instead of managing those who are responsible now for doing the job?

Learning to let go of doing the job is a key part of becoming a leader. It's not easy, but it's necessary. Use your experience to train and coach others to do the job. Believe in their ability and trust that they will follow your example. And soon, they will become leaders too.

If you would like to learn more, please be in touch with me at ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com. Together we can make a better leader!

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda

This post comes to you via Michael Rabin, a life coach I follow on Facebook. I've been thinking a lot about the "shoulds" (and "shouldn'ts") that I hear from myself and others. Thanks, Michael, for helping us make sense of this through your insightful writing.

"German psychoanalyst Karen Horney had a phrase for this: “the tyranny of the should.” She viewed shoulds as dividing our personalities into two selves: an ideal self and a real self. When we don’t live up to the ideal self, we are split and our inner critic comes out.

We put ourselves down when we fail to live up to our shoulds, and we get angry with others when they don’t live up to our shoulds. When we place unfulfilled shoulds on our job and workplace, we end up unhappy at work as well.

A should represents a sort of bargain with ourselves and with the world. If I behave in a certain way then things will work out well. And if you (the workplace) do what you should do, then life will go more smoothly. Until, of course, it doesn’t. Because the bargain isn’t necessarily based on reality or the truth, certainly not your personal truth. The bargain is likely based on something someone told you or a form of magical thinking you created to feel better in a situation.

Shoulds are not always a bad thing, particularly when they compel us to behave in a kinder manner. Fulfilling a should through volunteering or donating to a cause, can help us feel good about ourselves. But when your shoulds are the source of unhappiness, guilt, frustration, etc., it’s time to examine them and create a new way of life."

To Do or To Be? That is the Question

This is an important post, and it's not written by me. It's one from Vu Le of Nonprofit with Balls, and it's a MUST READ.  It's about the culture we have developed that's based on the "what do you do?" question and why we need to shift into a "who are you?" culture in order to fully embrace the diversity and skills that people possess. I can't really say more, except that you need to read this blog right now.

http://nonprofitwithballs.com/2017/03/why-we-need-to-stop-asking-what-do-you-do/

Enjoy!

What Do Great Leaders Need?

No one is born knowing everything there is to know about leadership. Much of what makes a great leader has to be learned. There's a difference between leadership skills (what you know) and leadership attributes (who you are). A great leader needs both. Let's focus on leadership attributes - those qualities that seem to be inborn in many great leaders:

  • Passionate: about mission, about strategic decisions, about life
  • Authentic: building trust; being honest, genuine and forthcoming
  • Curious: engaging people by asking questions and listening to the answers
  • Humorous: laughter at self and situations
  • Fearless: trying new solutions and thinking creatively about things
  • Joyous: expressing happiness

 

There are most certainly more of these attributes. If you have an attribute to contribute to this discussion, please reach out to me at ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com

 

How To Hire a Great Consultant

Need help growing your organization? Want your board or staff to function more effectively? Thinking of hiring a consultant? Do you know how to find the right person for your team? A great consultant:

  • Has self-confidence: they should approach their work with a high degree of certainty about the direction that work should take
  • Has a good understanding of the business: they have a grounding in both practical and theoretical knowledge
  • Has skills that are adaptable: they can apply their skills across many different situations and can deliver innovative ideas and strategies
  • Has the ability to explain and simplify: they can make complex problems and issues understandable, without jargon
  • Can think on their feet: they can come up with more than one solution to a problem, and can improvise when challenged
  • Has good listening skills: they ask questions and listen carefully to the responses, in order to fully understand their client's needs
  • Gains the client's trust: they work at developing a real relationship with the client and the organization
  • Remembers who comes first: THE CLIENT ALWAYS COMES FIRST!

 

If you are thinking of engaging a consultant to help you and your organization find the best path, please be in touch with me at ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com