leadership- nonprofit leadership

CEO Transition Made Easier

The first thing to know is, leadership transition is not easy. Not for the outgoing leader, not for the staff and Board, not for the incoming person. But there are ways to make transition easier for everyone.

Take a look at this column from Nonprofit Quarterly which talks about how planning and transparency play a big part in easing the angst inherent in the process. The column points out that transition coaches or consultants can be used to assess where the sticky points might be, and to help move things along. There are some great resources cited here as well.

I’d love to discuss your transition plans with you. Please be in touch!

Are You Working Too Hard?

This week's Big Question is brought to you by Dan Rockwell, the Leadership Freak, in his recent blog, The Effort Illusion: Hard Work is the Answer.  In it, he breaks down the Big Question into seemingly simple questions which are actually not all that simple.

In the work I do with CEOs, I find that I often ask these questions to help them clarify their role and responsibilities, and to keep them focused on moving forward. Almost always, the message is: More is not always better. As Dan asks, "How does the Effort Illusion hold you back?"

This summer, take a break, scale back, allow yourself to just think instead of do. See what happens.

Please be in touch if you want help with assessing this Big Question, or any of the questions I've been asking this year.


The Five Pillars of Personal Leadership

"The greatest source of transforming the world is in transforming yourself."

This great quote is from a great podcast I had the opportunity to listen to the other day, with Professor Hitendra Wadhwa of Columbia Business School.  The 17-minute podcast focuses on personal leadership, with an emphasis on the personal qualities needed to become a true leader.

The pillars that Dr. Wadhwa identifies are:

  • Purpose or Drive: what compels you to do what you do -there has to be something that propels you forward;
  • Wisdom or Mastery: what you contribute to the conversation in knowledge, skills, or experience;
  • Interface between you and the world:  the emotional quotient you bring to your work- kindness, empathy, compassion;
  • Self-realization: your core insights - you don't need others' approval because validation comes from within; and
  • Growth: your potential to learn and discover.

There's also a Q+A part of the podcast, where Dr. Wadhwa gets into how someone knows they are a true leader, and how leaders keep growing (hint: surround yourself with inspiration). 

A final insight: positive change in your self and your relationships creates a concurrent change in structures. So if you are looking to create a great organization, look inside first.

Enjoy listening to the podcast, and please be in touch if I can help you become a better leader!

The 5 Types of Leadership Transitions

My last blog about succession planning got a great response, and I'm following it up with more on leadership transitions. During the organizational lifecycle, there are 5 types of leadership transition times- when it's more likely or inevitable that change will be discussed or occur.

In young, emerging organizations that are initially volunteer-run, the first major leadership transition is the first hire.  Often it's the Board who has been running things, and they inevitably get to the point where they don't have the time or expertise to move the organization forward. The challenges are then to clarify the leadership position, manage expectations, and recruit the right person.

Once an organization is more well-established, there are other types of transitions in leadership. When a CEO or ED decides to leave a well-performing organization, the challenge is to decide whether the incoming person should be replaced with a leader who is the same or different than the outgoing. A leader who helps an organization grow from infancy is not necessarily someone who has the skills (or desire) to manage a sustainable one.

For organizations that are not performing well, the transition may be at the request of the Board. Often, changing leadership when an organization is underperforming is not the best solution- it may only serve to postpone a hard look at the underlying issues that are causing the problem.

When an organization is in more dire circumstances and is in need of a turnaround, the transition may be to an interim leader who is experienced in managing a crisis and creating stability. An interim leader can help assess how to "stop the bleeding" and identify the right kind of person to become the next permanent leader.

Finally, "founder's syndrome" is not a myth! There are times when CEOs overstay their welcome and become more of a liability than an asset to their organizations. When they finally do leave, not only is it necessary to replace a long-tenured leader, but the culture of the organization is often in need of deep change as well. Even in successful organizations, replacing a leader who has had great impact can be very difficult, and may require the Board to work hard to identify the new direction for the organization.

Regardless of the age or stage of an organization, the Board's responsibility is to assess and address the specific needs of the situation, and to ensure as smooth a transition as possible.

If you need advice or help with leadership transitions or other organizational issues, please be in touch! ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com

Candle or Mirror?

"There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it " ~ Edith Wharton

Do you light the way for others or do you create a way to shine their light outward?  When you are the candle, you have the potential to spread hope and happiness to others. When you are the mirror, your own hope and happiness are reflected through your actions and behaviors.

Choose to be one or the other. Either way, you will be an agent of change.



Listen to This!

One of the nonprofit gurus I follow is Joan Garry, and she's just unveiled a new podcast series, Nonprofits Are Messy that is great. It's already the #1 nonprofit podcast on iTunes! After only a week! Joan has had a weekly blog covering everything under the nonprofit umbrella- how to be a great Executive Director, what the roles and responsibilities of board members are, the secret to effective fundraising, and many more juicy topics. The podcast goes even further, by bringing in other nonprofit experts (like another of my gurus, Vu Le) to give deeper insights into the crazy nonprofit world.

I encourage you to take a listen!

Leading by Humility

Definition of humility: having or showing a modest or low estimate of one's own importance What is the role of humility in leadership?  Jim Collins has said that most of the leaders of the great companies he studied in "Good to Great"  and other works were very humble men.  If a leader is one who rules or inspires, how are humble (i.e., modest or meek) people successful?

I think the answer is that a truly great leader focuses on the success of the organization, not of the self. If the organization grows, realizes its goals and achieves its objectives, a humble leader is satisfied.

What are some of the characteristics of a humble leader?

~ Trusts others to do their best- delegates tasks and authority

~ Invests in others- nurtures talent and cultivates other leaders

~ Admits mistakes- accepts responsibility without casting blame or making excuses

~ Thanks others for their actions- expresses gratitude and gives recognition

~ Recognizes their own limitations- knows when to look for assistance from others

~ Invites feedback- wants to improve

~ Diverts attention- shares success with others who played a part

Being humble doesn't mean being wimpy or weak. Demonstrating humility shows that you have a high level of confidence in your abilities and that you value others and their contributions. It encourages team members to express their opinions and do their best work, with the knowledge that they will be valued.

Any questions? Please be in touch with me at ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com to learn more.


Feed Yourself First

While flying home from a business trip last week, I heard the familiar line from the flight attendant, "If you are traveling with small children or someone who requires assistance, place the oxygen mask on yourself first, then on the other person." Since I was looking for an idea for a blog post, I mulled this over, considering how it could be a metaphor for leadership.  Here we go...

Before you can lead others, you have to learn to lead yourself.  You have to learn to feed yourself before you can nurture others.  You have to learn how to grow before you can help others grow.

You are sometimes your own worst enemy. You forget to take care of yourself-  physically, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually- and both you and those you are trying to lead suffer.  Feed yourself, then you'll be able to encourage others to become the best they can be.

I'd love to work with you on developing your leadership abilities. You can reach me at ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com.

When Autumn Darkness Falls

When autumn darkness falls, what we will remember are the small acts of kindness: a cake, a hug, an invitation to talk, and every single rose. These are all expressions of a nation coming together and caring about its people.      ~Jens Stoltenberg


The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit is Coming!

I attended the Alliance for Nonprofit Management conference in Portland, OR at the beginning of October.  It was my first exposure to the organization, and my intentions were to make some new friends and contacts, learn something, and see some of Portland.  I'm happy to report that I was able to attain all of my goals (special shout-out to the incredible food trucks of Portland!). The highlight of the conference for me was a keynote presentation by Beth Kanter, an amazing thought leader and author of the award-winning Networked Nonprofit books.  I have seen Beth speak several times, and she never disappoints. Her stated topic was, “The Nonprofit Work Ethic Reinvented in An Age of Hyper Connectivity: Strategies for Impact Without Burnout," which included a preview of her next book, The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit, which she is writing with social media guru Aliza Sherman.  This power duo is taking on the challenges that nonprofits and the people who love them face regarding organizational culture and personal habits for sustainable impact.

Many nonprofits operate with a "scarcity mindset": everyone feels compelled to work long hours with limited resources and without encouragement or investment in self-care (sound familiar?). This work ethic is not only outdated, it's not sustainable. It leads to burnout and dissatisfaction and turnover and so many other not-great things. But what if things were different? What if nonprofits took a more people-focused approach to how they do their work? What if there was a culture of replenishment and abundance?

As social media has taken hold in the nonprofit sector, the constant need to be "connected" is contributing to the feelings of being overworked and overwhelmed that are so common. While being connected can help nonprofits engage with practically anyone to achieve their goals, there are human limits and costs to connectivity. Beth and Aliza's book promises to address these challenges and set us on a course of renewal that can lead to even more productivity and impact for all.

I'm really looking forward to it! Check out Beth's blog where you can also see the beautiful graphic illustration that was  done at the Alliance conference during her presentation.



Listen and Learn

When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know.  But when you listen, you may learn something new.    Dalai Lama In a previous post from 2014, I wrote about my intention to Listen and Learn. How coincidental that the Dalai Lama has a quote relevant to that!

Enjoy the last few weeks of summer, and pay attention. You might learn something.


It's All In Your Mind(set)

I recently watched a TED Talk by Carol Dweck, a psychologist and researcher in the field of motivation, entitled "The Power of Believing That You Can Improve."  While the focus of her talk was on changing the culture around educating children, I was intrigued at how her premise could be applied to nonprofits, especially smaller nonprofits. Dweck refers to how different mindsets can lead to different results.  In her view of a fixed mindset, basic qualities, such as intelligence or talent, are traits that define everything. People with a fixed mindset document their intelligence and skills instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone can lead to success—without effort.  They are frustrated and stymied by their mistakes. I've seen many organizations try to succeed with this attitude, and never quite get there.

In contrast, with a growth mindset, basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. They learn from their errors and adapt as a result. This view creates a drive to grow and improve and a resilience that is the key to great accomplishment. Most great people (and great organizations) have these qualities.

Simply by adopting a growth mindset- the belief that you can improve- you can create a culture where problems or obstacles are viewed as something that hasn't been solved yet.  In fact, Dweck proposes that we use "not yet" as a measurement (or a grade, in the education arena) along the continuum of readiness to grow or adopt new abilities.

Organizations need leaders who can not only grasp the "big picture" but be able to respond to it in an open way. Having (or developing) a growth mindset can be integral to growth and success.

To learn more about great nonprofit leadership, please email me at ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com. I want to help you and your organization be the best!


Summertime and the Working is Easy

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.              John Lubbock I've done my fair share of listening to the ocean and watching the clouds float by this summer, but I haven't neglected work: I've spent some of the slower days catching up on webinars, podcasts, TED Talks and reading so I can be at the top of my game. And I've made plans for even more professional development before the end of the year. I'll be heading to Portland in October for the Alliance for Nonprofit Management conference.

What have you been doing this summer for your professional growth?  Email me at ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com and let me know!

What Does My Board Need to Succeed?

The age-old question of what nonprofit leaders can do to make their board members more productive has many possible answers. A recent study by accounting firm Marks Paneth reveals that more training would be beneficial in fostering more board involvement in governance and strategy. That's all fine and good, but most of the nonprofit leaders surveyed said limited time and cost are significant deterrents to providing this training. This is not news to anyone who knows about board development. The good news from the survey is that 73% of the leaders surveyed report that their boards have passion for the mission of the organization, and 61% said their board members are engaged but do not micromanage. Most of the leaders also report that their board members are closely involved in financial oversight and that attendance at board meetings is strong.

However, only 28% reported that their boards are highly strategic in supporting the organization's mission, and around the same percentage said that the board is involved in connecting the organization to external resources.  These are not encouraging statistics.

I am committed to helping organizations succeed by engaging boards in a better understanding of their roles and responsibilities in supporting growth and instilling governance.  If you are a board member or leader who wants to help their organization find its path, please be in touch with me at ewoolfe@intuitionconsult.com.


Dare to be Like Donna

"I truly believe that philanthropy and commerce can work together." - Donna Karan Donna Karan's decision to leave the helm of her eponymous company- a company she nurtured and built over 30+ years- bodes well for philanthropy.  Her Urban Zen line and Foundation were created to facilitate her deep commitment to helping people in need both locally and globally. The Foundation has already had significant impact on Haiti's recovery from the 2010 earthquake, on incorporating integrative therapies to change healthcare in the U.S., and in empowering children.

Through her commitment, Donna has demonstrated that the connection between business and philanthropy can be seamless (pun intended). Doing good can lead to doing well, and vice versa.

Perhaps her new focus will be on expanding her efforts and impact even further.  How great would that be?


Call Your Mother!

You've probably noticed that Mother's Day is coming up this weekend. It is difficult to overlook. I'm all for celebrating moms- I'm a mom, I have a mom, many of my friends are moms-  but I'm not always a fan of the holiday. My heart aches for the people whose mothers are no longer around and for the women who are struggling to become mothers and for the mothers who have lost children, making the day so hard to bear. My own mother is 83 and going strong (knock wood).  When I was growing up in the 70's, she was an emerging feminist, marching in Washington and holding consciousness-raising groups in our living room. She enabled me to view the world with a feminist perspective (she wanted me to go to a women's college, but I drew the line at that) and to embark on my journey merging my personal and professional needs and skills. Although we never called it that, she was a huge proponent of work/life balance. I'm certain it was because she was able to work only until she gave birth to me, though she would have liked to have continued.

I feel grateful to have had my mother guide me along my path all these years, and that I get to continue to share my accomplishments and challenges with her is a true blessing. I'm all too aware that this will not always be possible. So, this Mother's Day, I encourage you to call your mother- whether she is still with you, or just in your memory- and spend some time with her.


Follow the Leader

A quote from one of my business gurus, Jim Collins, author of "Good to Great" and several other essential tomes: The practice of leadership is not the exercise of power.  True leadership only exists if people follow when they have the freedom not to. 

Finally Friday: A Little Nonprofit Humor

It's been a long week here on the East Coast.  Hopefully, we've had our last major snowstorm of the season.  To end the week on a high note, I'm posting this link to one of my favorite bloggers, Vu Lee of Nonprofit With Balls.  I always look forward to Mondays, because of his posts. http://nonprofitwithballs.com/2013/12/8-classic-nonprofit-jokes-to-tell-at-parties/

Please be in touch if you or someone you know needs the services of Intuition Consulting.

Happy weekend!