Be a Human Leader

More on leadership....

  • Make it about “We” not "I" - it isn't just about you, it's about the team
  • Ask for trust and keep your promises- integrity is a priority
  • Establish key values- values are the glue that holds it all together
  • Find and teach more human leaders- we need to pass on the legacy
  • Build a culture of accountability- share the responsibility and be fair
  • Measure with the right metrics- keep track of goals and progress to keep motivation flowing
  • Fight complacency and negativity- keep moving forward and try to ignore those who are choosing to stay stuck
  • Connect it all to a higher purpose- keep it all focused on the mission and the greater good


Thanks to Terry St. Marie for the original column on More Human Leadership.

Please reach me at for more on how to be a great leader!

Is Your Board Playing Nice in the Sandbox?

I'm recommending a very entertaining blog post by Liz Wooten Reschke on the BoardSource site- "A Child's View of Nonprofit Board Culture"- relating parental lessons to the ways we consultants try to improve the boards we work with. There are some great questions here to get your boards to open up about their culture (or lack thereof), how they interact with each other, and how they approach governance. Happy reading!

Control Freaks

I came across this list of things you have control over that can have tremendous effect on your effectiveness out there in the real world:

  1.  Be on time
  2.  Be aware of your body language
  3.  Be prepared
  4.  Be passionate
  5.  Be coachable
  6.  Be energetic
  7.  Have a good attitude
  8.  Have a good work ethic
  9.  Make an effort
  10.  Do more than asked


Take control of your life- Good luck!


Change Happens

Change is the only constant in life.   ~ Heraclitus Every job ends in a transition. The success of that transition depends on when, how and how well it's managed. When we're talking about a change in leadership, it can be a traumatic process for everyone in the organization. And, the longer a leader has been in place, the more challenges there may be for a successor.

I like to tell the CEOs I coach that part of leading well is leaving well. Part of an "exit strategy" is knowing how to prepare yourself and your organization for the impending change. Here are a few tips that may help you with transitioning out of your organization:

  • Start early: transition takes time. If you are thinking of leaving, start planning. Review your organization's succession plan (you DO have a succession plan, don't you?), inform your board chair, and start the ball rolling.
  • Take an active role: make a commitment to be part of the process, as much or as little as your board requests.
  • Set a date and stick to it: it's much more difficult for your organization to plan for your departure if you keep changing the timeline. Even if it's 2 years in the future, it helps for everyone to have a goal for accomplishing the difficult task of replacing you.
  • Continue to be a leader: Be professional as you prepare the organization, prepare your board and staff, and prepare yourself for what is coming next. Continue to show up!
  • Manage internal and external communications: when appropriate, inform stakeholders, donors and others about your plans. Don't let gossip or social media leaks spread the word.
  • Know when to express emotion: a planned departure allows you to celebrate your tenure and allows the organization to honor your legacy. It's OK to express your emotions about leaving.
  • Leave gracefully and decisively: once your successor is identified, make your plans to step away. If you have been asked to assist in your successor's onboarding, do so and then finalize your transition.


I want to help you and your organization through its transitions. Please reach me at

Creating a Circle of Safety

Joan Garry wrote a great blog a few weeks ago, "The Top 10 Books Every Nonprofit Leader Should Read." I was pleased to see that I'd read several of them, and I added a few to my to-read list.  One of the books, Simon Sinek's newest, Leaders Eat Last, will likely be on Joan's next Top 10 list. Sinek writes that true leaders create an organization that makes all of its members feel safe, so that they work together with trust and cooperation and are better able to face external threats and seize the opportunities before them. This "circle of safety" enables people to achieve together things that none of them could achieve alone. It also allows people to feel inspired and fulfilled by their work, rather than threatened or useless. Sinek says that organizations built around this conceptual framework are more stable and perform better across the board.

One of the more important points for me was that the circle only works if it is all-inclusive. That is, leaders don't just protect their managers and leave other people out. It's about protecting everyone, creating the environment that fosters trust and cooperation. And that, my friends, leads to organizations accomplishing great things-  together.

For more, watch Sinek's TED talk. And get in touch with me at


My Cup Runneth Over

"Once upon a time, a scholar came to visit a saint. After the scholar had been orating and propounding for a while, the saint proposed some tea. She slowly filled the scholar's cup: gradually the tea rose to the very brim and began spilling over onto the table, yet she kept pouring and pouring. The scholar burst out: "Stop! You can't add anything to something that's already full!" The saint set down the teapot and replied, "Exactly." In his Psychology Today blog, "Your Wise Brain," Rick Hanson writes about creating and appreciating emptiness as a contrast to the often over-full lives we lead. You know what I mean- running from appointment to appointment, answering emails one after another, piling more stuff into your closet- a life without time and space to reflect and ruminate on life itself.

Hanson writes that we must consciously step back from this nonstop pace and learn how to put space between all that we do. Breathe. Pause. Allow for thought. Enjoy doing or thinking one thing at a time.

Here's a great quote from Hanson's blog: " Drop the stuff you can no longer afford to lug around. At sea level, you can run with a brick in your backpack, but if you're hiking on a mountain, that brick's got to go. Similarly, most of us have some habits, indulgences, ideas, grudges, or fixations that were kind of OK at one time but now - with changing circumstances (such as juggling more balls, raising a family, aging) - are wearing you down and really need to go. What's your own brick? What would you gain by emptying it out of your own backpack?"

I'm looking forward to using some of these suggestions to add more space to my life. Will you?



What is Excellence?

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.



What does it take to be excellent? To be an excellent leader, it's important to:

  • Practice self-assessment: Know your own strengths and weaknesses. What are you good at? What do you enjoy most about your work? You can play to your strengths, but also learn how to accommodate the things you aren't as adept at by delegating to others.
  • Get feedback: How do others see you? Observe how people behave when in meetings or in other situations. Ask them for an honest  assessment of how you can improve as a leader.
  • Be responsive to the needs of others: Acknowledge each individual on your team or in your organization, and understand the role they play in making you a better leader.
  • Be your organization: Fully embrace and reflect the mission, vision and values of your organization. If you want to be a leader, you have to behave like a leader!


You might need to practice a bit, but you'll soon make it a habit and BE EXCELLENT!

For more on leadership, please be in touch with me at

Inspiration, Help and Gratitude

May we all be inspiration more than we seek it. Give help more than we need it.

And express gratitude rather than keep it.

~ Cory Booker


Who inspires you? Who do you hope to inspire? For me, I'm inspired by some of the people I work with who are in the truest sense of the word "survivors". I hope to be an inspiration to others seeking to find their path in the world.

Who have you helped and who has helped you along the way? I'd like to think I have helped my colleagues and friends with my sage advice! They have helped me as well, and I have been so lucky to have had many mentors and guides during my journey.

What are you grateful for? So many things!! My health, my family and friends, and my spirit are most important. Right after that is that I get to see the ocean every day.

I want to hear your responses! Please be in touch with me


Life's Too Short to Sit Through Bad Board Meetings

NEWS FLASH: Some board meetings are so long and drawn out and ineffective that board members are considering resigning from their positions! This may or may not come as a surprise to you, but I've been hearing this from so many, I thought it was time to address the issue. What are some of the things that go wrong at board meetings? Here are just a few:

  • Board members are not prepared for meetings: The expectation should be that the agenda and materials for the meeting will be sent out in advance, and that members will come prepared to have a discussion and make decisions.
  • Committees are not utilized effectively: The Board should be working in teams or committees where the "real" work gets done and is then reported on at board meetings. Otherwise, the entire Board gets caught up in all of the organization's business, which is ineffective and tedious.
  • Avoiding the real issues: Boards often focus on the trivial (fonts for an invitation to an event?) because they don't know how to start the discussion about the really important issues (what to do about a major donor who has slowed their giving?)
  • No decisions are made:  Do agenda items get talked to death, but with no clear results? Perhaps the board chair needs help from other members in leading the conversation so that the issues are discussed, then decided upon.
  • Board members are not held accountable for their commitment:  In addition to committee participation, board members should be encouraged to take on individual responsibilities, and to report on their progress at each meeting. If they are not honoring their commitments, the Board chair should take the time to find out why.


The success of board meetings is in no small part dependent on the ability for the Board chair to be a good leader and run an efficient and effective meeting. If you need some coaching tips on how to maximize your board meeting potential, please be in touch with me at I look forward to working with you!


Involving Board Members in a Culture of Philanthropy

Last week's post covered the ways that organizations are developing a culture of philanthropy that allows everyone to share responsibility for fundraising and relationship building. Easier said than done! This week, let's focus on how board members can be encouraged to not only participate in, but actually lead and champion a culture of philanthropy in their organizations. Without board members' wholehearted support, the effort to develop a philanthropic culture will be solely the staff's responsibility, which is not a formula for success.

To integrate board members more fully in these efforts, make fundraising discussions a part of every board meeting. Encourage board members to tell their own stories about why and how they are connected to the mission. Provide training for members to help them hone their fundraising skills. Allow them the opportunity to learn about programs and services so they can talk about them outside of board meetings. Connect them with the recipients of your programs and services so they can see your impact for themselves.

With support and encouragement, you can help your board members become active and enthusiastic fundraisers. Learn more by downloading Beyond Fundraising: What Does It Mean To Build A Culture Of Philanthropy? , a report published by the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund.

Please be in touch with me to learn how I can help you and your organization attain your goals!

Get Some Culture in Your Organization

Is fundraising everyone's job at your organization? Many believe that ought to be the case. They're calling this a "culture of philanthropy," and although it's not a new term, it's just starting to gain traction within the nonprofit community. In a culture of philanthropy, everyone- staff, board, CEO, constituents, volunteers- has a role in fundraising. It's about relationships, donor cultivation and retention,  and it's mission-driven from start to finish.

There are four core concepts that define a culture of philanthropy which can be used by organizations as a way to gauge whether or not they are moving toward meeting the definition:

Shared responsibility for development: Fundraising is not solely the responsibility of the CEO, development director or board members. Everyone across and within the organization works together to create a finely-tuned fundraising machine.

Integration of mission into all development activities: Looking at fundraising as a means to achieving programmatic success and maximizing impact, rather than as simply raising money to be allocated across the organization.

Focusing on fundraising as relationship-building: Communicating via multiple channels and creating connections at multiple touchpoints is integral to successful resource development.

Strong donor engagement: Paying attention to what donors want, and recognizing that they often have more than money to contribute. Being transparent and demonstrating impact are crucial to cultivating and retaining those who support your efforts.

Want to learn more about how you can instill some culture into your organization? You can find me at


Trouble in Paradise

Houston, we have a problem. According to a recent survey by the Concord Leadership Group, most nonprofits are ill-equipped to face their futures. From the Nonprofit Sector Leadership Report representing 1000 organizations, here are some sobering stats:

  • Only half of the board members responding say their organization has a strategic plan (formal or informal) in place
  • 77% of the organizations participating in the survey do not have a leadership transition plan, or any succession plans at all
  • 61% of the CEOs of these organizations do not receive an annual performance review


What does this mean for those of us working in the nonprofit space? Well, for one thing, there are serious ramifications when an organization operates without strategy. Strategy is a necessary response to the reality of limited resources and the fact of increased competition. How can we expect stakeholders to support organizations that don't articulate their mission, vision and values strategically?

As for leadership, most CEOs are coming to their organizations without the necessary skills and experience to do their jobs successfully. Many are surprised that fundraising is such an integral part of their responsibilities, and express concern that they are not "good at it." In addition, there's very little leadership development happening for EDs and CEOs, and they're not being evaluated on a regular basis, so it's hard to imagine that they feel confident about creating a sustainability within their organization.

The report is most definitely an eye-opener. You can download it here. And then get in touch with me at so I can help you build a strong future for your organization!


Tacos Can Cure Anything

Today did not start out well. As I left the house to head to my appointment in the city, I stepped in dog poop. When I got to the train station, I realized I had forgotten my cell phone. I put 4 out of 5 quarters in the parking meter before it jammed, causing me to have to get back in the car and move it to another spot with a working meter. And, walking to the train station from the car, a bird pooped on me. I kid you not!

The funny thing was, I didn't freak out about any of it. I actually said out loud (to myself, though perhaps some of the other people waiting on the platform heard me), "I am not going to let any of this ruin my day." And I didn't. Though I had some moments of anxiety, thinking of calls and texts I might be missing, I spent the ride into the city reading and looking out of the window, able to focus without the distraction of the small screen in my hand.

When I got to my destination- lunch with an old friend- I told her the story of my "challenges." She laughed and promptly said she was paying for lunch! The day got a lot better after that.

When I got home, I saw that there were indeed some calls and texts waiting for me, but on the whole, it was a quiet day and nobody missed me too much. I'm so happy I didn't let any of the morning's mishaps get the better of me. And I'm so happy I ordered the tacos. Tacos can cure anything!


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!

What Does Seth Godin Have to Say About Intuition?

Hey! Seth Godin is writing about intuition! That's what people call successful decision making that happens without a narrative. Intuition isn't guessing. It's sophisticated pattern matching, honed over time. Don't dismiss intuition merely because it's difficult to understand. You can get better at it by practicing.

When I named my company Intuition Consulting, I had in mind exactly what Seth is writing about. I think what he means by practicing is "learning to listen." As in: learning to listen to the little (or not so little) voice inside your head, or the feeling in the pit of your stomach that is guiding you toward a decision or helping you recognize what is happening right in front of you.

You can get better at it by practicing. To learn more, please be in touch with me at


Five Ways to Kill Your Dreams

I took a break last week to watch some TED talks (and hopefully find some new blog ideas!). I came across this one from Bel Pesce, a Brazilian entrepreneur, who talks about paths to success. Her clever title, Five Ways to Kill Your Dreams, has these takeaways:

  • Believe in overnight success: while some people's ideas may take off right away, for most it's a long journey to hitting the big time. Be patient!
  • Believe someone else has all the answers: they don't. Trust your intuition!
  • Believe that you should settle for "okay": it's YOUR dream- make it perfect!
  • Believe the fault is someone else's: when things go wrong, take responsibility!
  • Believe that all that matters is the goal: part of the experience- a big part of it- is the journey. Enjoy it!


Pesce says that we should use every step we take- even those that make us trip and sometimes fall- as a learning experience.

Here's to keeping your dreams alive!