nonprofit leadership

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.

Are You Ready For Takeoff?

What makes a nonprofit willing and able to change and grow? Is there a “secret formula” to this readiness?

In her blog on Social Velocity, Nell Edgington identifies 5 traits that indicate an organization might be a good candidate for change or growth:

  • You have momentum among Board and staff: while not all of your key internal stakeholders need to agree, a significant number of them have to believe that the time for change is now

  • You have a clear idea what the definition of change is: you are utilizing opportunities to consider and discuss what change looks like for your organization and you can set some specific goals for change.

  • There is a belief that change can happen: the collective power of positive thinking creates momentum and enthusiasm.

  • You have the ability to have difficult conversations about potential challenges to growth: you have a group that is able to confront these issues and be honest about how to address them.

  • There is a strong commitment across the organization: everyone participates, everyone has a specific role and a way to be involved in making and facilitating change.

As Edgington says, you either have these traits, or you develop them. But without them, you won’t get too far.

Is your organization ready for takeoff? I can help!

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!

Starting To Improve The World

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."  Anne Frank

Today's Big Question: How are you helping to improve the world? Maybe not the WHOLE world, but your world, or the world of others?

I really want to know! 

What social causes do you support? Are you teaching tolerance or fighting intolerance? What acts of kindness or generosity do you perform on a regular basis? Which community events do you participate in? How do you nurture your employees? How do you nurture yourself? 

You really can start now- without waiting a single moment- to improve the world!

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 Most Important Question

OK, here we go. It's almost the end of February and I've been asking some Big Questions. This week's is : What is the most important question you have ever asked yourself?

This is a tough one for me to answer. I ask myself a lot of questions, all the time. Most of them are rhetorical (Are you serious? What am I doing here?).  But one of the more common questions I ask myself is: What will I learn from this? Sometimes I ask this question before I decide whether or not to do something, and sometimes it's used as an evaluation tool. Success or failure, it's important for me to figure out what the experience has taught me.

How about you? What important questions do you ask yourself? I really want to know! 

 

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 Do Nonprofits Need to Succeed?

Here’s some daunting news from a new survey of more than 3000 nonprofit leaders, staff, board members and donors:  Almost 80% of nonprofits struggle with leadership and management issues. Even worse, only 11% are prepared for growth and optimal impact.

William F. Meehan III and Kim Starkey Jonker conducted the study, “The Stanford Survey on Leadership and Management in the Nonprofit Sector,” to serve as the basis of their new book Engine of Impact: Essentials of Strategic Leadership in the Nonprofit Sector, which will be released this month. The survey was conducted in collaboration with the Center for Social Innovation at Stanford Graduate School of Business, the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil SocietyStanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR), GuideStar, and BoardSource.

Meehan and Jonker’s research on successful organizations suggest that there are seven essential components of strategic leadership that are needed for maximum impact:

·        Mission – a focused, defined statement of purpose;

·        Strategy – a strategic framework based on mission;

·        Impact Evaluation – a way to measure impact;

·        Insight and Courage – a commitment to considered and fearless decisionmaking;

·        Organization and Talent – the right people to move the organization forward;

·        Funding – the ability to build diverse and sustainable revenue relationships with the right donors; and,

·        Board Governance – a strong and effective board to provide direction.

Organizations that aspire to be high-impact need to develop strength in all seven of these areas, Meehan and Jonker said, and a deficiency in any one area can prevent an organization from achieving its goals.

According to the survey, the most common challenges for organizations are:

  • Over 50% struggle with fundraising and another 50% struggle with impact evaluation;
  • More than half struggle with weak board governance;
  • 27% demonstrate “weakness in strategic management,” such as, organization and talent, funding, or board governance, despite exhibiting strength in other areas

Further complications come from leadership and staff indicating that they don’t think their organization sets clear expectations for performance, rewards high performance appropriately, or provides consistent feedback on performance.

To read the complete study results, visit http://www.engineofimpact.org/survey

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.

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/

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.

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.

 

 

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."