“You’re Breathing Aren’t You?” Not a Compelling Reason to Join a NFP Board

 

“But the biggest thing I’ve learnt is to ask the right questions before you agree to a gig like this!”
“But the biggest thing I’ve learnt is to ask the right questions before you agree to a gig like this!”

 

By Chris Gandy

I had noticed on Jason’s social media posts that he had joined a not for profit board for the first time. When I ran into him recently in town I asked him how the new board role was going?

“Well I am learning an awful lot”, he said. “But the biggest thing I’ve learnt is to ask the right questions before you agree to a gig like this!”

He went on to explain that he ended up on the board through an all too familiar recruitment method. A friend (who is the Chairman of this particular Board) texted him saying they were short on numbers and he was a “perfect fit” to help them out.

When Jason responded by asking:

“What makes me a perfect fit?”

He received this response:

“Your breathing aren’t you”

We kept chatting and I asked him what were the questions he thought he should have asked? He said he was pressed for time but would email me his list of questions.

He did and here they are:

  • Can I have a copy of the CEO’s CV and most recent performance review? Is there a Succession Plan to replace this person?
  • What is the profile of the current Board? Why are you looking for new members?
  • Can I see a current set of financials including P&L, budgets and cash flow forecasts.
  • What revenue streams does the organisation rely on? How secure are these and what are the plans to diversify?
  • Can I tour visit the organisation’s facilities. Can I see some programs in action?
  • Is there any litigation pending against the organisation?
  • How will my skills benefit the organisation?

Jason concluded his email this way:

“I am not saying I still wouldn’t have joined the Board if I had asked and received answers to these questions. But this information would have certainly smoothed my transition onto the Board and enabled me to contribute far more quickly. Also, I have presented this list to the Chairman and fellow board members and suggested that these areas may be ones to concentrate on – not only to attract new, capable Board members but for the organisations well-being.”

What questions do you ask before agreeing to join a not for profit Board?

Chris is the Principal and Managing Director at Cause & Effective. Our cause is to help cause-based organisations effectively deliver on theirs.

 

When Work Becomes Intolerable

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By Sara Harrup

Many years ago I landed a job which looked to be a real coup. Great salary and conditions, fabulous location, nice people and a charismatic boss. I did a fair bit of due diligence on the organisation before I accepted the position and I thought that although challenging, I would be able to do the job competently and be happy there.

The honeymoon period was fantastic. The first couple of months was energising and exciting. As the honeymoon wore off the reality became something that wasn’t so appealing. It became clear to me that the role I had accepted was incredibly broad and the scope of the responsibilities too much. Large scale change was necessary to turn around performance and although I managed to implement it whilst trying to manage the change process it ended up being me that suffered. As others in the senior management team tried to wade in and help me manage the huge portfolio things became more complicated and conflict ensued.

As the months dragged on I realised I didn’t like who I had become in this role. I felt incompetent, sensitive and unhappy. I was in a hole. In the end I decided the only way out was to leave. When I did finish up I was relieved but also a little battle scarred. My confidence was battered and to be honest I just wasn’t sure exactly what went wrong. Years later my confidence has recovered and I reflect on that job with a great sense of insight and feel grateful for learning some very painful but valuable lessons.

Many people have been in situations like me, where they find themselves in a hole at work that they just can’t seem to get out of. Like me, many of them leave, thinking this is the only thing they can do. Finding work isn’t as easy is it once was and leaving is not always an option. It also isn’t always the only way out. Trying not to get into a hole in the first place is a good option. But how do we safeguard ourselves from that .

1. Know yourself and what sort of work makes you excel. I’m a great all-rounder but there are particular sorts of work which don’t suit me, even though I may be able to force myself to do them with some degree of competence. For example, large scale process redesign is something that quite literally makes me want to tear the skin from my body. Performance measurement and financials make me feel energised and excited. That job I was talking about? You guessed it. The processes of the entire business needed rebuilding. I would now see that as a major red flag in terms of my suitability to a position.

2. Whatever happens at work, don’t take it personally. Workplaces, whilst made up of people who can be wonderful, or not so wonderful, will at some time disappoint us. Things will happen that, if taken personally will lead to disappointment. Don’t forget that whilst good workplaces will value their people, they also value their business and sometimes good business decisions will disappoint good people.

3. Leave your ego at the door. Letting your ego rule your actions and behaviours at work will put you on a roller-coaster, some days will be great and some will be appalling.

4. Know what your professional boundaries are and work with them consistently. Is it ok for colleagues to work in ways which impede your own work performance? How do you feel about saying no to things? There is no need to be aggressive, just quietly firm and confident that you have a reasonable set of boundaries around actions and behaviour in the workplace.

5. The workplace is not the place for too much emotion or feelings. You may disagree with me here but the reality is that people in workplaces are all trying to do the best they can for where they are at. Sometimes that means they will step on your toes, on purpose or accidentally. It’s great to communicate when something is not ok, but the focus should be on “what would really work for me next time is…”, rather than “I feel really upset that you did…” Don’t forget that if you communicate to people what upsets you or makes you anxious or angry, you might actually be telling them how to push your buttons.

6. When things happen that aren’t so great, move on. Holding onto things is the fastest way to ensure you end up in a monster sized hole. Stuff happens so try to find a way to get over it.

If all that fails and you find yourself in a place you’d rather not be, try these things:

1. Refocus…on yourself. Most often when people find themselves in a hole there is a fair bit of focus on others or “the organisation”. Focusing on what other people do or don’t do means you cannot focus on yourself. Don’t be a victim. Whatever your predicament, own your share of it and consider what you can do to make it better.

2. Get someone to challenge your view. A skilled coach may be able to work wonders here. When people are in a rut they can often have ways of thinking that are extreme and don’t necessarily have a moderate view of the situation.

3. Consider the most important things which need to happen and then work out what needs to be done immediately to take you a step or two in the right direction. You don’t need to know the whole plan, just the next right thing.

4. Get some perspective and clarity. Some coaching may be able to help you reframe the situation and set some goals to get you on track.

5. Do your absolute best to stay out of office politics. People in a work rut are drawn to office politics like a moth to a flame. Office politics will not help you to feel better. In fact it will almost definitely make you feel worse.

6. Take some time out if you can. Sometimes a few days away where you can work on steps 1 – 5 can help you return with renewed enthusiasm.

Sara is a Cause & Effective Associate and a highly experienced not for profit, CEO, Senior Executive and Board Member.

Our Janus Program is CEO Recruitment With a Reverse 4.5 in Pike Position

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By Chris Gandy

Competitive Diving provides a great metaphor for our Janus Leadership Transition Program.

At the outset, let me say that diving is not one of my things. In fact the few times in my life that I ventured off a Springboard my efforts could best be described as an uncontrolled fall rather than a dive.

Despite my own pathetic efforts, like most people I can discern between a dive and a DIVE! To impress us and the judges, competitive divers tumble, spin and gyrate as they plunge from the board to the water below. Each of these maneuvers quires a great deal of effort, skill and courage. To reward a diver’s daring, FINA, the world governing body for Swimming, Diving and Water Polo rates various dive routines on the basis of their degree of difficulty. And this is factored into the scoring system – the greater the degree of difficulty the more potential points to be earned. Currently the maneuver with the greatest degree of difficulty for a 3m Springboard dive is a “Reverse 4.5 in Pike Position”.

The thing about diving is that it is all about successfully executing the transition between leaving the board and when the diver’s body is fully enveloped by the water below. It’s what happens during those split seconds that determines winning and losing. A diver can play it safe with a relatively easy dive or attempt to nail a dive with a high degree of difficulty. In competitive diving a conservative diver rarely wins a top competition.

Transition execution is also now seen as critical for not for profits.

When a CEO leaves a not for profit, how well an organisation uses the transition between the incumbent announcing they are leaving and a replacement being on-boarded is vital in determining whether the organisation will rise to another level, flat-line or decline in the coming years.

Our Janus Leadership Transition Program is the “dive routine” during this transition. The Program is future focused and helps an organisation to correct any vulnerabilities, determine where it is heading and find the right person to guide the organisation towards the new vision. Like a Reverse 4.5 in Pike Position it requires skill, effort and courage to execute well but will be given 9’s and 10’s by stakeholders when an organisation nails it.

Chris is the founder of Cause & Effective. Our cause is to help cause-based organisations more effectively deliver on their cause

 

Making Change Happen

 

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By Chris Gandy

A clear challenge faced by many leaders is to inspire their organisations to change. And it is a tough job for as Woodrow Wilson once said:

“If you want to make enemies, try to change something”

People resist change and in many cases need a great deal of encouragement to embrace a new way of doing things. So how do good leaders do it? How do they make change happen?

Essentially there are three steps:

  1. Illuminate the issue – Good leaders cast a spot light on the problem to be solved.
  2. Clearly articulate the final outcome - How will our world look when the issue has been dealt with?
  3. Provide a firm set of stairs between 1 & 2. – Now we understand exactly where we are now and where we want to be, it’s then a matter of bridging the gap with manageable bites.

Do you need to get a change happening either in yourself or in others? Try these three steps. Sounds simple but it works.  

Chris is the founder of Cause & Effective. Our cause is to help cause-based organisations to more effectively deliver on their causes.

Expectations…

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By Joe Moore

An obscure Rolling Stone’s song “No Expectations” lies at one extreme end of a string of their 60s recordings.

“Satisfaction” – the mid-60s anthem to the search for perfection towers at the other end of the extreme.

These two songs appropriately bookend “You can’t always get what you want”  – the ode to compromise.

While debates continue about the meaning of the lyrics, we can take some of the sentiments to check our life at work.

For you – is life at work about:

  1. The relentless search for improvement – continually and healthily dissatisfied with how things are?
  2. The triumph of mediocrity – let’s compromise on quality, service, standards, our values?
  3. No expectations – the lonely life at work where nothing much is expected and nothing much contributed?

Which of the sentiments do you inspire among those whom you lead?

What’s important to you at work and why do you care?

And yes, (thanks for asking!) I’m going to the Stone’s November 12 concert in Sydney with my daughters! Happy!

Joe is the founder and principal of Kimber Moore & Associates. He and his team are highly skilled in helping leaders and staff deal with uncertainty, change, complexity and conflicts. You can contact him here

What is the Difference Between Leadership Transition and Leadership Search?

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By Chris Gandy

I get asked this question quite often lately and the simple answer is…

“An awful lot!”

Leadership transition refers to a period of time. It commences when a Chief Executive decides (or is invited) to leave and extends right through to the successful completion of the first six months of the new leader’s tenure.

A Leadership Transition Program manages the entire departure, replacement and installation process in a very holistic approach. It is not just about finding someone who fits the job specification as quickly as possible, but focusses on minimising the risk and capturing all the opportunities that a leadership change unleashes.

Essentially a Leadership Transition Program incorporates four activity phases which we like to describe as:

Stabilization – Readiness – Quest – Prosper

Stabilization steps are immediately taken to keep the organisation on track and maintain the confidence of clients, staff and stakeholders. The real issues facing the organisation today are addressed giving the board and staff a chance to collectively catch their breath, take stock, regroup and move forward with renewed vigor.

Readiness prepares the organisation to take advantage of the remarkable opportunity it has to plan the next stage of its development. Mission and goals are revisited and restated and an objective assessment of the organisation’s key strengths and vulnerabilities is conducted. The type of leadership that will take the organisation where it wishes to go next is determined.

Quest marks the beginning of the recruitment plan to attract, screen and select a new leader – a person who can help the organisation create the future.

Prosper positions the organisation for success with on-boarding support for the new leader and the board to ensure a good beginning with clear goals and agreed evaluation processes.

The result is a future focused relationship between a Chief Executive who fits the current and future leadership needs of the organisation and the board and staff who are prepared to work with their new leader.

Clearly Leadership Transition and traditional Leadership Recruitment models are aligned during the “Quest” phase, but that is about all. When compared to a typical Leadership Recruitment process, Leadership Transition offers an array of organisation development and capacity building initiatives that will bring far reaching and long lasting benefits to not for profits.

About Chris: Chris Gandy is the founder and a director of Cause & Effective – Our cause is to help organisations deliver effectively on their cause.

Effective Storytelling By People Just Like You

The landscape of communication is evolving at an exponential rate, and digital media creation is riding at the head of the wave - Alexandra  Bezdikian
The landscape of communication is evolving at an exponential rate, and digital media creation is riding at the head of the wave – Alexandra Bezdikian

 

By Chris Gandy

Our friend Dennis Fischman writes often about the effectiveness of good storytelling in gaining support for your Cause. Intuitively what he says makes a great deal of sense but often we tend to dismiss his suggestions as being only for tech savvy not for profits with big marketing budgets.

Well think again!

TechSoup recently ran a nonprofit storytelling campaign and contest called Storymakers. The campaign was created to help nonprofits to communicate differently, to build community, and to educate on how to tell powerful and effective stories for a global audience.

So, drum roll please…………..

And the winners were…………

Best Story Overall (Grand Prize)

Hope House: Camp Counselor Tyron by Stone Soup Films

Youth or STEM Story

Free Running in Baltimore by Wide Angle Youth Media

Super-Short Award, for a story under 20 seconds

Shine a Light on Avoidable Blindness by Operation Eyesight

Best New Storyteller, for an organization new to storytelling

Dr. Mark Karnes by Soddo Christian Hospital

Audience Choice Award, voted on by the community

Where Manos Serves by Manos Internacional

Take a look at these and some of the other entries. I am sure you will say “Hey, we can do that!”

And then have a go at doing it!

Chris is the founder of Cause & Effective. Our cause is to help you deliver more effectively on your cause.

 

“The Helping Hand” – A Scary Not For Profit Story

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By Chris Gandy

Over at Nonprofit With Balls Vu Le has been collecting and running a number of “scary” not for profit stories to get us in a ghoulish mood for Halloween.

We have borrowed one of the yarns and given it a bit of an Australian flavour and here it is:

The CEO of a remote not for profit was driving to a large rural centre to learn about further changes to some government-funded programs his organisation was running. He just knew he was going to be told again to “do more with less”.

Halfway between two towns he hit a ‘Roo the impact of which pushed the front fender against the wheel. Try as he may he couldn’t free it. To make matters worse he had no mobile reception. He had seen a derelict farmhouse a few kilometres back and although he didn’t think anyone still lived there he decided to give it a try. He walked up to the house and to his surprise a voice from inside yelled “You need some help?” The CEO explained his predicament and the man grabbed a crow bar and a few other tools and drove him back to his car.

As they drove they struck up a conversation. The man told him his name was Jim and asked “What line of work are you in?” The CEO told him about the not for profit he worked for.

With the right implements the fender was roughly put back in place and the CEO was able to carry on.

He thanked the man profusely and the man looked at him closely and said: “Listen, since you do such good work, I want to make a donation.”

He got out his cheque book and started writing. The CEO watched in astonishment when the man wrote out $100,000.00. “Do what needs to be done with it”, said the man. The CEO gratefully took the cheque and put it into his pocket,  thanked the man again and left.

At the meeting, he was telling a group whose services happened to cover the area where the incident occurred and everyone in the group became silent.

“Jim was a generous man, always helping others out,” one of the locals whispered, “but he died in 1984.” The CEO took the cheque out from his pocket, and his face went pale. They looked and saw that it was dated October 31, 1984.

Suddenly the CEO grabbed the cheque and rushed out of the room. “Where you going?” asked the locals.  The CEO shouted over his shoulder:

“Back to that house. Jim forgot to sign the cheque.”

About Chris – Chris Gandy is the founder and a Director of Cause & Effective. We are on a mission to make sure Boards don’t endure a scary experience when a CEO departs.

Personal Development Lessons From Ice Skating

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By Attila Ovari

Went ice skating as part of my daughter’s birthday and it was an awesome experience.

It had been years since I have been ice skating and it was good to get back out there. As I watched both the adults and children a few things came to mind that are just as applicable to life as they are on the ice.

The first thing  I noticed was that those in the group that let go of the wall first were the quickest to learn to skate. In fact, the two that didn’t even use the wall, were the best ice skaters in the group by the end of the two-hour session. One had not even been ice skating before. This got me thinking that in life when we remove our safety net we tend to grow the most. There is little to no growth in clinging to the safety net.

The next key thing I learnt was that falling over was an important part of learning to ice skate. Those that fell over the most improved the most. Those that didn’t fall over at all didn’t improve. Their skill level on the ice remained the same. Again this is related to life. Anytime we step out in the unknown we learn and grow; however stepping out into the unknown also leads to mistakes and errors. So we should view these errors and mistakes as a good thing  – all part of growth and development.

Another key lesson was about encouragement. Everyone in the group encouraged each other to get out on the ice and to let go of the wall. The key to getting us all out on the ice was encouragement and the encouragement came from those already on the ice. Don’t we see this so often in life?  Teams that encourage each other will achieve far more than those who don’t.

Occasionally on the ice two people collide – for any number of reasons. Though it may not be your fault, it is something you have to deal with. By observing what is happening around you, you can reduce the risk of someone hitting you. As in life, things can happen that are not planned on. To cut the likelihood we need to be situational aware and if things still happen then make sure we approach it with a good attitude.

As the session went on the ice became to cut up. This did make it more difficult to skate on, however as most people stayed around the outside, it was worst on the edges. This meant that the middle had the best ice. So to let go and skate into the middle, where you are furthest from the safety net of the wall, was the best place to skate. In life successful people know that though it may seem risky and take effort to go after your dreams, it is very rewarding.

By the end of the two hour session the best skaters in the group were doing tricks. These skaters also spend a fair amount of their time on their bottom. It seemed to go hand in hand. The better skaters fell over a lot as they pushed themselves to do better. In life this is so much the truth. Seems for one to be great at something we need to be able to risk setbacks and embarrassment.

So some life lessons I had reinforced at my daughter’s party were:

  • To grow you need to let go of the safety net
  • Errors and mistakes are a part of growth and development
  • Teams that encourage each other will do far more than those who do not
  • Stay aware of your situation and surrounds, however when things go wrong keep the good attitude
  • Take a risk and go after your dreams, it is very rewarding
  • For you to be great at something; you need to be able to risk setbacks and embarrassment.

Attila is a Cause & Effective Associate. He passionate about life and thrives on helping people become better leaders. You can contact Attila here.

Watch That Last Step, It Can Be a Doozie

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By Chris Gandy

Many people aspire to climb as far as they can up the management tree and often progress quite effortlessly over time from shop floor to functional head. This relative ease can at times set us up to fail as we go for that final leap towards overall organisational leadership.

Within an organisation changes in responsibilities always require changes, sometimes subtle, in our leadership style. But it is that final step where the required adjustments are most pronounced.

Michael Watkins from the IMD Business School recently wrote about some research he has done on the challenges facing people moving into an organisation’s top role for the first time. Essentially, Michael has identified seven major shifts that leaders go through as they transition from functional leadership to company leadership. These moves being from …

  • Specialist to Generalist
  • Analyst to Integrator
  • Tactician to Strategist
  • Bricklayer to Architect
  • Problem-solver to Agenda-setter
  • Warrior to Diplomat
  • Support Cast to Lead Role.

To me there are a few take outs from this research.

Firstly, people aspiring for the “top job” need to honestly ask themselves …. “Do I really want to be a generalist, diplomat, architect etc.? Will I feel comfortable in these roles?”

Secondly, from a recruitment perspective, Boards need to search for people with a clear “enterprise leadership” profile and not take the risk that someone may over time may successfully transition from a warrior to a diplomat etc. Sure a person may have been a great functional leader but do they have, or can they quickly develop, the characteristics of a great CEO?

And finally, let’s celebrate and not undervalue the fine traits of functional leaders. After all we need far more good specialists, analysts, tacticians, bricklayers, problem solvers, warriors and support cast members than we do generalists, integrators, strategists, architects, agenda setters, diplomats and leading actors!

About Chris – Chris Gandy is the founder and a Director of Cause & Effective. They are on a mission to encourage all not for profit Boards to question whether they should adopt a Leadership Transition Program when their CEO decides to move on 

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