nonprofit consulting

I Get By With a Little Help From My Coach

“The very best coaches are compassionate truth tellers. And the very best leaders can hear that truth and make the adjustments necessary to improve their skills as leaders and managers.” Atul Gawande, MD in his TED Talk , “Want To Get Great At Something? Get a Coach!”

It’s tough out there in the nonprofit world. Between raising money, managing staff, overseeing programs, dealing with your board, and a myriad of other priorities, it can get pretty crazy for a leader. When do you know that you need a coach to help guide you through some of life’s ups and downs?

Joan Garry’s recent post in the Chronicle of Philanthropy sheds some light on the myths that many leaders (and boards) have about who needs a coach. Spoiler alert: every leader could use one! Whether you’re a newly-hatched ED or CEO or one who’s departing, whether your organization is doing well or floundering, whether you think you have the money or not, coaches can and should be part of the mix.

I encourage you to read Joan’s post and watch Dr. Gawande’s talk. And then let me know how I can help you become the best leader you can be.

Question: Are You Asking The Right Questions?

Let’s say your organization is going through change. Let’s say there are questions about your mission, or vision, or values.

Let’s hope that you’re addressing these questions. Let’s hope that you’re asking other questions that can provide clarity and direction. What might those questions be?

  • What do we want our world to be? Is there an ideal you are striving for? There should be!

  • What is our why? What’s so important about what you are working toward?

  • How will we uniquely achieve this? What do you do better than anyone?

  • What do we stand for and against? How are you defining the boundaries of what you do for your world?

  • Who do we serve and what do they need and believe? Who will we impact and who will impact us?

These questions are not always easy to answer. They may spur debate, disagreement, and discussion. They should! To get to a place where you’re more certain about why you are doing what you do in the way you do it AND how that might need to shift or change over time is the most important work of an organization. Without it, there can be no change or growth.

If you are ready to do this work, I am ready to help you.

It's All About Change

Back in December, I wrote about my theme for 2019, which is all about change and transition. My new gig as Interim CEO is going well, but not without its challenges for me personally and for the organization undergoing transition.

Thinking about change in your organization? There are many resources out there to guide organizations through the initial stages of succession planning and transition (yes, these two things are different- more on that in a future post). Here’s a good one: Graceful Exit: Succession Planning for High-Performing CEOs.

Please be in touch with questions about your organization’s future. I’m here to help!

Build Your Practice, Balance Your Life Part 1

I had the pleasure of presenting at a conference last week, with the topic, “Build Your Practice, Balance Your Life.” I wanted to share the principles that have helped me approach the work I do in a positive, assertive way that has enhanced my practice and how I interact with my clients.

  • Wanting to serve comes 1st: mission-centricity is hugely important to how I choose the clients I work with

  • I love what I do: that saying “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life”? Well, THAT’S not really how I feel, but I do love my work!

  • I have cultivated a niche for myself: working with small organizations feels important for me and for them

  • I enjoy relationship building: networking, collaborating, mentoring- all make it easier for me to do my job well

  • I position myself as an expert: it certainly feels weird to say that sometimes, but it’s true,and I think it makes me credible

  • I am generous with my time and spirit: I am aware that many people took the time to help me while I was building my career and my business, and I try to do the same

  • I am confident: you have to believe in yourself to “sell” yourself

  • I come from a place of caring: I have compassion for others, and for myself

I will share more from my presentation in future posts. Enjoy, and start 2019 balanced!

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.

 

Lessons Learned?

This week we have a double whammy for you: two Big Questions to ask yourself.

Question number 1: What was the most important lesson you learned in 2017?  For me, it was that I am a resilient person. I wrote a blog about this back in September. I'm looking forward to seeing where this new understanding can lead me.

Question number 2 is: By the end of this year, what do you hope to know more about?  In my professional life, I hope to learn more about my clients (and potential clients) and how I can best help them. In my personal life, I'd like to know more about what the important questions are for me, and possibly get on the path to answering them.

I want to hear what you think about these two questions! Please be in touch. 

Note to Board Members: Ask the Right Questions!

One of the key responsibilities of board members is to ask the right questions of the organization they serve. By doing this, and understanding how the answers shape the organization's impact, they can help the organization succeed.

What are the right questions for board members to ask? Let's start with these:

  • What is our organization's mission?  Ideally, all board members should be able to quote and/or clearly articulate the mission, vision and values of the organization.
  • What are our key programs and services, and who do they serve?  Understanding and even experiencing what the  work of the organization actually is can provide valuable insight to board members.
  • What is my role in the sustainability of the organization?  Yes, we definitely want board members to understand what their financial commitment is (and, yes, there needs to be a financial commitment), but we also want board members to contribute by being ambassadors of the organization and sharing their enthusiasm with others.

If you as a board member aren't asking these questions, you should be. And if you are a board chair or CEO, you should be encouraging the asking of these questions and providing the answers so that board members are clear about their role on the board.

Please be in touch with me to discuss your board and how board service can have maximum impact.

 

What Does the Board Member of Your Dreams Look Like?

No two boards are exactly alike, so their desired board members need to be different as well. Finding the right board members is a process that takes time, and needs to be closely related to your organization’s needs.

In a fundraising webinar I participated in this week, Darian Heyman talked about three kinds of boards:

In Name Only: Boards where people lend their name, often so an organization can get off the ground and start to become credible. These board members might show up, but they aren’t going to move the organization forward in a significant way.

Working: Board members take the place of staff in young, evolving organizations. You can work on “big vision” strategy with this type of board, but their primary role is in helping the organization survive.

Fundraising: Board members are active in helping the organization grow in a capacity-building way. These board members have the ability to transform an organization through their giving.

You can see that each of these boards requires different types of board members to be successful. However, all boards need to cultivate board members who play one or more of these roles:

- Ambassador: builds relationships that can be beneficial to the organization

- Advisor: provides guidance as the organization grows

- Advocate: serves as a cheerleader for the organization

- Asker: raises money

Board recruitment can’t be accomplished successfully until you have scripted the vision for your future. It’s important to involve current board members in this strategic process, and use the vision to help identify others who want to join you.

As your organizations matures and changes, your board member needs will also shift. Getting the right people on the bus, as Jim Collins says, is essential to your organization’s fulfilling its potential. Finding the right people isn’t always easy, but taking the time to find the right people is time well spent.

Please be in touch with me to talk about your ideal board member, and how we can build the board of your dreams together.

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!

#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/

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!

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

Aspiration as Intention

"Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead."    ~ Louisa May Alcott Welcome to the unveiling of my 2017 intention! I know you have all been waiting patiently while I figured out what it would be. I was waiting patiently too, for the inspiration. Last night I came across this quote, and it just clicked.

So this year's intention is : ASPIRE. I hope to be able to:

Acknowledge my aspirations

Share my aspirations with others

Pursue a purposeful path in following my aspirations

Inspire others to aspire

Respect others' aspirations

Eliminate ego from my aspirations

I will be sharing my aspirations in future posts and writing about how this intention is being fulfilled as we travel through the year.  Here we go....