Hard to believe that it is almost back-to-school time, where did the summer go? Hope you are committed to, and mindful of, making the most of the last few weeks. One of the things I hear from nonprofit leaders is that they have so little time to think or to read (here’s an interesting post from Scott Eblin on the topic of thinking time) so I’ve summed up a few articles for you here.
Nonprofit Talent published this article, which continued our recent theme, Car & Driver: How Leadership, Business Models, Vision, and Strategy work together to Power a Nonprofit. In it I make the point that agile leadership, strategic vision/planning, and the business model are all essential components for a nonprofit to be strong and sustainable. Here are some recent relevant articles about Strategy and Leadership Development.
The Only Viable Strategy Is Adaptation - HBR – In this article the author contends that in an age of disruption the only viable strategy is to adapt your organization. He says, “I’ve previously defined strategy as a coherent and substantiated logic for making one set of choices rather than another,” He argues for an approach to strategy in which “we’re not trying to “get it right” as much as we are trying to become less wrong over time…That requires a more adaptive approach, but also substantive differences in how we operate—less hierarchical, more agile, and more sensitive to changes in the marketplace. It also compels us to make important changes to our business systems that enable us to integrate prediction and planning into normal operations. It’s no longer possible to separate strategy work from everyday activities…”
NONPROFIT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT
Skills Leaders Need At All Levels Are Similar, But Key Differences Exist
Readers of this blog and our newsletter know that I have put forth a set of competencies and skills that I believe are needed for nonprofit leaders at the top. But sometimes I work with organizations seeking to develop managers and leaders at all levels. We often begin by creating a matrix of all levels and the competencies/skills that are required for the level. In this article, The Skills Leaders Need at Every Level, Zenger and Folkman take a similar approach. In a large survey they found that the skills required of someone in a supervisory position were (in ranked order from most needed):
The authors point out that as you go up the levels there are few, but key, changes to the top 7 competencies, “With middle managers, problem solving moves ahead of everything else. Then for senior management, communicating powerfully and prolifically moves to the number two spot. Only for top executives does a new competency enter the mix, as the ability to develop a strategic perspective (which had been moving steadily up the lower ranks) moves into the number five position.”
I would say that in my research and experience with leadership development the same skills hold true for nonprofits as well businesses - with a few twists such as: “Builds relationships” and “Communicates powerfully and prolifically“ in a nonprofit senior leader applies to work with Boards as well as staff and external stakeholders.
Nonprofit Management Education Needs Some Changes
In this article from the Nonprofit Quarterly, Thoughts on the Relevance of Nonprofit Management Curricula, the author interviews nine key figures (including one familiar to the Pittsburgh community) and concludes that significant changes are needed to the current state of nonprofit management education, at least in its attention to a rapidly changing context. He identifies and expands on 5 key ideas of what really needs to be taught and developed in nonprofit leaders:
Kate and I are delighted at how 1-4 so closely follow the remarks we made at our recent workshop and those made by our panelists.
But Where is the Support for Nonprofit Leadership Development?
In an opinion piece this week in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Ira Hirschfield, president of the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund makes a case for more foundations to fund Nonprofit Leadership Development. In the article, Nonprofit Leadership Development Is a Vital Ingredient for Social Change, Hirschfied points out that according to a recent study spending on training and leadership development by U.S. companies grew by 15 percent in 2013, to more than $70-billion. He then goes on to say that “While business is investing in its people with renewed vigor, the nonprofit world continues to lag in making such investments. The Foundation Center recently reported that foundation support for leadership development was less than 1 percent of overall giving from 1992 to 2011. That’s not nearly enough.”
Hirschfield makes the case that, “If we agree that strong leadership is crucial to the success of the nonprofits we support, what is keeping us from maximizing the impact of our funding by investing more in the skills and capabilities of people who lead organizations, including staff and board members?” He identifies several foundations that are strong supporters of nonprofit leadership development and that they share certain attributes and beliefs, “Chief among these is that leadership support is multiyear and is tailored to each organization’s priorities and needs; in other words, this is not about a foundation coming in and telling grantees what to do. Nor is it simply about sending executive directors to one-time training sessions. Rather, it is about helping organizations identify and secure the leadership support they need at all levels so they can reach their broader goals.”
The author wraps up with, “Unless we can figure out what is behind the nonprofit world’s chronic under investment in leadership and turn things around, we will continue to overlook one of the most important ingredients of positive social change."
This blog brings Holiday Greetings and apologies to loyal readers who have been wondering why we haven't published since September. We have been busy with strategic planning engagements, Board development activities, and helping organizations steer through change and transition. And I have been working with the Forbes Funds Succession Planning Cohort and have made presentations on Executive Transition and Nonprofit Leadership Development at professional conferences and a Jossey Bass webinar. This blog highlights some "found" resources from these activities. For even more, check out our December Newsletter.
Infographic 1: Strategic Planning Terminology
One of the other things we encounter during strategic planning is that everyone is confused about the difference between strategies, goals, priorities, and tactics. Some organizations have strong feelings about what should be called what. After several rounds of discussion on the terms "goals" versus "strategies," we recently suggested to an organization that we didn't care as much about what they called the boxes on their plan as what they put inside the boxes. We recently found this infographic that does a great job of straightening this all out: What is Strategic Planning?
Infographic 2: Senior Managers Fatal Flaws
In this HBR article Zenger and Folkman break down the most common weaknesses (also called career derailers) they found in their research on senior managers. The top 4? Developing Others, Collaboration and Teamwork, Inspiring and Motivating Others, Building Relationships. The good news is that 75% of managers who worked at it were able to change their behaviors.
CEOs and Top Leaders Need to Work on Delegation and Sharing Leadership
In this article on areas where CEO’s most frequently get (or need) coaching, we again see that “soft skills” are key. Most CEO’s are getting coaching on delegation and sharing leadership, but far more (according to their Directors) could use help with listening and developing others.
Congrats and Holiday Wishes
We would like to congratulate fellow Dewey & Kaye alumni, Michelle Heck and Todd Owens. They have taken Nonprofit Talent (formerly Jobswatch) and the Nonprofit Executive Search Practice independent in the form of a new company Nonprofit Talent. We wish them well in this exciting new venture.
We wish all of you a calm and bright holiday.
Decisions, Teams and Planning are all parts of whole. Picking up where I left off in my last blog post, here are several recent articles that make great points better than I can.
From a great article about a theme that I repeat frequently during strategic planning engagements To Move Ahead You Have to Know What to Leave Behind
“Decisions are the most fundamental building blocks of successful change in our organizations, our teams, and our careers…Avoid Changing By Addition. The Latin root of the word "decide" is caidere which means "to kill or to cut." (Think homicide, suicide, genocide.) Technically, deciding to do something new without killing something old is not a decision at all. It is merely an addition…When team leaders fail to decide which old directions are going to be sacrificed in service of the new direction, the tradeoff doesn't magically disappear. It simply slides down the ladder…” To Lead Is To Decide. The one thing great leaders have in common is their willingness to decide when others could
From How to Make Good Decisions ... Faster
“Specifically, here's how you might apply the 80/20 Rule to your next decision. First, identify the top five pieces of information you need to make the decision. Then select which four of these five are highest in priority. Once you've gathered this information, you will have roughly 80 percent of the information you need. The last 20 percent is less important. Now harness all of your experience and your intuition to fill in the blanks and make a great decision--faster than before.”
From: Three Qualities Every Leader Needs to Succeed on a Team by favorite author Peter Bregman
"In some ways, a leadership team is no different than any long-term relationship. If you want to be a good partner — personally or professionally — you need to be three things:
1. Gifted. Simply put, leaders need to be good at what they do…need to be gifted communicators and
gifted learners, mastering conflict without being offensive, and adapting to their own changing roles as the organization grows.
2. Game. They need to have the courage to take risks…The kind of confidence that allows them to be
questioned by others — even take blame and feel threatened — without becoming defensive...
3. Generous. They need to put the good of the company above their own department, team, or agenda. They must be good-hearted, mutually respectful, and gracious, resisting the urge to dominate, take the upper hand, or shine at the expense of others..."
From: 10 Research-Backed Steps To Building A Great Team
Great post from a new Favorite Blog, and I can’t do it justice here, so please read. But my favorite of the 10 is “Research shows a team really is only as strong as its weakest link. Team trust is not determined by an average of the members, it’s at the level of the least trusted member”
We are presenting a workshop on Creating a Strategic Plan that Works! on September 9 at the Foundation Center at the Carnegie Library in Oakland (Pittsburgh). Come and learn about:
• The real benefits of doing a strategic plan
• When you shouldn’t do a strategic plan and what you might need instead
• The 5 things you need to do to create a plan that you can actually execute
• The planning process and when you should or shouldn’t hire a consultant
$20, call 412-622-6277 to register
Life got a little hectic and it has been a while since I have posted. There are many great resources I meant to share with you - so here is a mixed Spring Bouquet of ideas and articles. My next post will be the promised, “How to Engage and Develop the Board You Have” the follow up to my last blog on “Recruiting Board Members.”
Linked In Endorsements and Advice
I love LinkedIn. I was one of the very first early adopters and have found it to be a valuable networking, recruiting and information-sharing tool. Lest you think that I am social media butterfly, you need to know that I just joined Facebook last year with a Business Page, and I do not tweet, pin or poke. I am also proud to say that of my almost 600 contacts, I have met, been referred to, or have a good reason to accept the invitation for most of them. I admit there are a few strangers who I agreed to connect to because they are obviously part of my network, or because I feel like it the right thing to do (e.g. The young, just starting out person who is looking for a nonprofit career). But I have a few pet peeves that I must express and some advice to pass along.
The first is the invitation to connect that comes to me from someone I don’t know that includes only the standard LinkedIn phrase “I’d like to add you to my professional network.” This forces me to wrack my memory if I have met them in one of my past jobs, search to see who we know in common, look for some connection to nonprofits that are the majority of my clients, or guess at their true motivation for wanting to link to me (candidly, financial planners and salespeople, please know that I assume the worst). My advice? If you want me to accept your invitation, tell me why – and please know that I am one of the people on LinkedIn who is selective about exposing my network to strangers so the reason must be honest and compelling.
The other, and newer, pet peeve is the inappropriate use of endorsements. As someone who was initially happy with how easy it was to endorse those people I felt deserved it, I now consider it one of the most poorly thought out ideas of a company who has rarely made bad decisions. Now I get questions all the times from friends about endorsement etiquette. The biggest question, “if someone endorses me do I have to endorse them back?” (The answer IMHO is absolutely not). Here is an article that describes the problem and predicts how the overuse of endorsements has devalued them: Why LinkedIn Endorsements Will Vanish. And here is an article that provides advice on how to manage and give endorsements: How To Make The Most Of LinkedIn Endorsements.
Criticism, Praise, and Performance
While conducting management training and coaching I often find myself responding to questions about how to handle employee feedback with, “it depends.” It seems like such an unhelpful answer, but it really does depend. For instance giving constructive critical feedback depends on the situation, the employee’s style, whether this is the first time the behavior has happened, the impact of the problem, and/or the employee’s willingness to accept criticism. Here are three recent articles that all offer different perspectives on criticism and praise.
In the The Ideal Praise-to-Criticism Ratio we learn that we need to use both positive feedback to let people know when they're doing well, and offer constructive comments to help them when they're off track if we want to improve performance But even more interesting is that there is an ideal ration of praise to criticism:
“The factor that made the greatest difference between the most and least successful teams, Heaphy and Losada found, was the ratio of positive comments ("I agree with that," for instance, or "That's a terrific idea") to negative comments ("I don't agree with you" "We shouldn't even consider doing that") that the participants made to one another. (Negative comments, we should point out, could go as far as sarcastic or disparaging remarks.) The average ratio for the highest-performing teams was 5.6 (that is, nearly six positive comments for every negative one). The medium-performance teams averaged 1.9 (almost twice as many positive comments than negative ones.) But the average for the low-performing teams, at 0.36 to 1, was almost three negative comments for every positive one.”
The Delicate Art of Giving Feedback starts with this idea, “To be an effective manager, you need to be skilled at giving out both praise and criticism. While praise is easy to give, it is far more challenging and unpleasant to criticize your employees. Yet the practice of management requires you to occasionally show employees where they need to improve. Thus, it is vital for managers to learn how and when to give negative feedback.” Then the Author warns that criticism should always be given in private, preferably beginning with the phrase, ‘I’d like to give you some feedback.”
The reverse of this argument is made in How Criticizing in Private Undermines Your Team. The author suggests that in a team setting limiting criticism to private conversation undermines accountability.
“Is your leadership team a real team — one in which members are interdependent with each other for meeting team goals? If so, they should also be accountable to each other for working together to achieve those goals,including how they rely on, work with, and make decisions together. Yet when you "criticize in private" for behavior that occurred in a team meeting or affects the team, you undermine team members' accountability to each other. You send the message that team members are accountable only to you, not to the team. You also send the entire team the message that they don't need to hold each other accountable — you'll do it for them. In short, you shift accountability from the team to you.”
All 3 articles make compelling arguments, so I guess when it comes to criticism… it depends.
Adam Grant’s Research on Giving describes a way to increase employee productivity, increase your Board’s ability to fundraise, and can help you get ahead in your career.
I am someone who believes is karma, paying-it-forward, that the best way to get business is to first do good work, and that refusing to meet with a job-seeker will bring bad luck resulting in some future career catastrophe. I also believe that when meeting with people or networking, I am more successful in the long run, if I focus on help them versus how they can help me.
So, I accept the request to meet with job seekers, even if it means I have to use precious client development time to do it. In this great (but really long) New York Times article: Is Giving the Secret to Getting Ahead? I learned research shows that I am right to do so. I’m also reminded why employees are motivated by work that has a meaningful, positive impact on others. These employees are not just happier than those who don't see their jobs as impactful; they are vastly more productive, too. Here is a shorter article on that topic from the same author: The Open Secret To Motivating Employees.
Of interest to my nonprofit readers who frequently ask how to better motivate their Boards and Staff to do more fundraising, consider this research from the same author: Thinking About Giving, Not Receiving, Motivates People to Help Others. Even better listen to this podcast from Stanford’s Center Social for Innovation: Philanthropy and Fundraisers' Motivation that allows Grant to describe his research.
Do you have a question on leadership, management, teams or any aspect of Nonprofit Management? Send it to me and I promise I’ll answer it to the best of my ability.
In this last post of the year we gather up some great resources to help you and your organization forge goals and plans for the new year. We wish you all a peaceful and warm holiday season and we look forward to working with you in 2013.
Growing New Types of Teams
In this article, and new book, on Teaming in the 21st Century, the author makes several interesting points about teams and accountability. The nature of teams and teamwork in changing and requires a more fluid approach. “"We've seen fewer stable, well-designed, well-composed teams, simply because of the nature of the work, which is more uncertain and dynamic than before. As a means for getting the work done, we've got to focus on the interpersonal processes and dynamics that occur among people working together for shorter durations.". Because of this, “people have to get good at teaming"—reaching out, getting up to speed, establishing quickly who they are and what they bring, and trying to make progress without a blueprint. The skill set involves interpersonal awareness, skillful inquiry, and an ability to teach others what you know.”
Leaders of team must make sure that people involved in collaboration understand the importance of interdependency and communication. Leaders must also be careful not to penalize the well-intentioned failure of the group. However, accountability must be present for the team to perform, “But not coming down hard doesn't mean coming down soft. "Psychological safety is not about being nice; it's not about letting people off easy and being comfortable. It's about the courage to be direct and holding high expectations of each other, understanding that uncertainty and risk are part of the work, as is the occasional failure. A leader's challenge is to set a climate where psychological safety, accountability, and pressure to do the best possible work exist together.”
Growing Leaders and Managers
Today’s mailbox brought this great summation from the American Management Association of how we move through the roles of Doer, Manager, and Leader in our Career (and sometimes by the hour). I think not recognizing these changing roles gets us in the most trouble. I’d suggest you read the article, but here are a few highlights:
Doers are the PRODUCERS of work. Managers create a positive ENVIRONMENT. Managers exist in a political, competitive universe that is concerned with relationships as much as the work. Leaders invent the FUTURE. Leaders often find themselves alone, going out ahead of the crowd to see what’s coming, to greet the new. Doers coordinate. Managers collaborate. Leaders originate. Once you get the distinction between the three roles it is important to understand what’s required from each role.
“One: You need to know which cycle you’re in, for you can experience them all throughout your career. Two: All day long, in any one position, you may need to follow, then manage people and projects, and, more rarely, lead. One moment we dig in and work . . . the follower. The next, we direct and motivate .. . the manager. Sometimes we initiate and persuade . . . the leader. Three: No one is a leader all the time. Trying to spend all your time in the leader mode is not much better than missing it altogether. Leadership is not a full-time role for anyone—not even CEOs or presidents. A leader initiates and then propels change forward. Change has an expiration date. No one wants to live in such flux, and no one wants the burden of leading all the time; leaders are happy to revert to managing when they can. Though there are always overlapping duties, each cycle determines what others expect of you and how they rate you.”
While we are on the topic of Management, check out this article Lessons from a Reluctant Manager from Fortune. Where a 20-something provides some excellent lessons she’s learned, the hard way, about being a manager
A new study from the Center for Creative leadership, Emerging Leadership in Nonprofit Organizations: Myths, Meaning and Motivations, tackles a topic near and dear to me. “The demands of the nonprofit sector have not been matched by investment in leadership talent. Equipping people to lead through change and challenge has been largely overlooked. Nonprofits rarely have the structures or funding for providing development opportunities for employees. Long-established leaders often hold tightly to their roles, and most funders don't place a high priority on building a leadership pipeline.” Because of this, "The sector is beginning to see the implications of this neglect," says Karen Dyer, director of CCL's Education and Nonprofit sector. "We have a capacity gap that will require significant investments and new approaches to attract, keep and grow effective, creative nonprofit leaders." The study provides suggestions for leaders and funders on how to close the gap.
And from the Nonprofit Quarterly we get this article: Beyond Financial Oversight: Expanding the Board’s Role in the Pursuit of Sustainability. The article includes some key questions to help your board move from the role of oversight to dealing with your financial sustainability. This is a must read for Executive Directors, Board Chairs and all Board members.
Faith In Humanity
So much heartbreaking news in the last few weeks has left me sad and helpless; fearful that there is so little I can do to tackle such huge issues as gun control, mental illness, poverty, and social justice. And then I viewed this (warning get out your tissue box): 26 Moments That Restored Our Faith In Humanity This Year.
Peace to all of you.
One of my clients has asked me to create a potential set of training and development activities for a group of mid-level managers. This is a healthcare organization and most of these folks are skilled in their professions (nurse, social worker, etc…) but have had no formal management or leadership training. The organization has needs – and goals – to improve managerial competence, increase feedback & accountability, and create a stronger collaboration and team culture at all levels. As with all such training activities, there are limits and constraints that involve time and resources. For example, there is a limited amount of time that people can be pulled off their jobs for classroom training or peer group discussions. Individual coaching for 25-30 managers is too costly. Therefore, the challenge that we are facing is to determine what 6-8 topics should/can be addressed in short bursts (1-2 hours of training/peer group discussion) to build a foundation for leadership.
So if you were faced with such a leadership development challenge, what topics would you include in the training plan? Use the comment box below or email me your thoughts. Here are several recent articles about core leadership competencies that have helped me to create a far too long draft list of topics.
BALANCING HARD AND SOFT (BEHAVIORAL) SKILLS
The Skills Most Leaders Don't Have (Inc. Nov. 2012) makes the common distinction between hard skills (occupational skills such as Finance or Nursing) and soft skills or competencies which are defined as “the behavioral ways in which people go about their occupational tasks” (collaboration is a good example). The author suggests that Leadership requires its own set of hard skills (i.e. the clarity to make timely and informed decisions; the capability to define priorities and goals). It also suggests that behavioral skills such as holding others accountable to their commitments or working with and for others are equally important.
While I don’t see the need to break out Leadership Competencies into hard/soft skills I do agree wholeheartedly with the author that:
“Unfortunately, many leaders fail to embrace leadership responsibilities
and instead busy themselves with non-leadership tasks - the work their
teams should be doing…The more your role involves leadership, the more
your job must focus on blending the occupational and the behavioral, the
technical and the interpersonal, the hard and the soft.If you cannot
achieve this internal balance, your organization will suffer a similar lack of
equilibrium...This balance can be exceeding difficult, because many people
define themselves by their ability to be experts in their occupational skills
while viewing behavioral skills as secondary or incidental. In this way,
especially for leaders, traditional “soft” skills are harder to get right.”
LACK OF MANAGERIAL COURAGE & CHEATING FREE-RIDERS
One of the topics I know will definitely be included in my training recommendations is Accountability. Few organizations/leaders I have worked with get this right at first. Most avoid holding people accountable to performance expectations or goals because they feel that it will involve conflict or confrontation. Some go to the other extreme and create micro-managing cultures, looking for and punishing every mistake. In One Out of Every Two Managers Is Terrible at Accountability (HBR Blogs) Authors Overfield and Kaiser say, “by far and away the single-most shirked responsibility of executives is holding people accountable. No matter how tough a game they may talk about performance, when it comes to holding people's feet to the fire, leaders step back from the heat.”
The article provides possible reasons for this lack of managerial courage including my favorite, “at a time when talent retention and engaging employees is de rigueur we get silly advice to management such as, "don't give employees a hard time about their weaknesses; celebrate their strengths." The article goes on to describe research about “cooperative contributors”(high performers) versus “cheating free-riders” (you guessed it) and points out...
“Groups of cooperative contributors outperform groups of cheating free-riders. Thus, it is no surprise that groups in which free-riders are punished for their loafing outperform groups in which they are not. The interesting finding in all of this is that the person who does the punishing actually pays a personal price in terms of lost social support. In a nutshell, group performance requires that someone plays the role of sheriff, but it is a thankless job.”
Even if the job of holding poor performers accountable is thankless, as the authors point out, it is key to organizational health. “The unfortunate consequence, however, is that no matter what short-term costs an upwardly ambitious manager avoids by not playing the sheriff, they are overshadowed in the long run by the creation of a culture of mediocrity and lackluster organizational performance. Add this up over time and across departments and business units and the aggregate costs of neglecting accountability can be staggering for everyone.”
Delegation…Accountability…Collaboration - what other core topics you would include in a leadership training and development plan?
My latest quarterly newsletter can be found here: http://conta.cc/VxmFV0 and contains a new article on Succession Planning: 5 Steps to Identify and Develop Leadership Talent.
Last Chance to Register for the Succession Planning Seminar
The Forbes Funds Invites Nonprofit Staff and Board Members to Attend
NOVEMBER 1, 8:00 - 10:45 AM
Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh, PA
RSVP to Benjamin Hemmings at firstname.lastname@example.org
Facilitated by Leslie Bonner and Gay Fogarty, this workshop will focus on strategic leader development, emergency succession, and ensuring executive transitions in key positions throughout the organization.
Cohort Opportunity An application for participation in a Succession Planning cohort will be released at the seminar. Approximately ten executive directors will be identified to participate in the learning cohort designed specifically for Executive Directors preparing to transition out of the organization within the next three years and will entail a diagnostic, coaching plan, peer learning sessions and ongoing follow-up
On November 1 I will be facilitating the Forbes Funds Seminar on Nonprofit Succession Planning. My co-facilitator will be my good friend, Executive Coach, Gay Fogarty. An application for participation in a Succession Planning cohort/peer group will be released at the seminar. To learn more or to register visit the Forbes Funds website.
As I prepare for the presentation, it occurs to me how much of what is accepted best practice for nonprofits applies equally to small and mid-sized businesses. But first lets clarify what succession planning is and isn’t.
Succession Planning does not mean that the current CEO is stepping down immediately or in the short term. Effective, sustainable organizations are always looking to develop their future leaders and understand the importance of having a contingency plan in case the current leader is hit by the proverbial bus.
There are three types of commonly defined succession planning activities.
a. The first is the creation of an Emergency Succession Plan (for the “hit by the bus” scenario) that outlines who will do what to ensure stability in a situation where the organizational leader is suddenly not at the helm. This scenario often includes the hiring of an interim leader while a search is conducted.
b. The second activity is described as “defined departure” succession planning. In this scenario, the leader has announced that at some point in the future, she/he will be leaving and a longer- term plan is created to conduct a search – internally or externally – for a successor and develop a transition plan.
c. The third activity overlaps, underpins, and reinforces the first two. This “strategic leadership development” is the conscious development of identified potential leaders in the organization to ensure future sustainability and continuity of the organization.
In a previous career as a Corporate Executive Recruiter, I learned the phrase “Borrow, Buy, or Build” as applied to leadership development and succession planning. In the sudden absence of a leader you can “borrow” talent through the hiring of an interim (or temporary executive). Hiring a consultant or outsourcing part of the job is also a way to ‘borrow” talent. “Buying” talent usually means going outside the organization to hire experienced talent at the going market rate. While there are times when this strategy makes sense (new ideas and strategies may be needed), it is often the most expensive choice because of the failure rate of a good match between talent, expectations, and culture. Building your talent internally is the most effective way to ensure continuity of the organization as knowledge is passed down, and identified future leaders help to set strategy. It has the added benefit of helping to retain and engage high potentials who seek development, training, and new challenges.
So if succession planning and leadership development is a good strategy for building sustainability, effectiveness, engagement , etc., why don’t most organizations (nonprofit/business) have one? First is the reluctance to think about “replacing” the current leader. If this person has no plans to leave, the idea of starting this discussion seems emotional or painful. It is often up to the leader at the top to instigate and then support succession planning and leadership development activities. Next are excuses such as, it costs too much, we are too busy for this now, we don’t have an obvious successor on board, or, “I don’t want to upset everyone else by singling out 1 or 2 people”. In my opinion, all of these fall under short term comfort at the expense of long term gains.
Bridgespan Group, in recent research, says that nonprofits “tend to frame the issue very narrowly as “succession planning,” a term it says suggests search to replace an Executive. “That search may be frantic or it may be well planned and executed,” Bridgespan says.“But in any case, it is an intermittent, isolated activity.” In comparison, the most successful succession planning “is not a periodic event triggered by an executive’s departure,” it says. “Instead, it is a proactive and systematic investment in building a pipeline of leaders within an organization, so that when transitions are necessary, leaders at all levels are ready to act.”
One last thought for nonprofit and business leaders – especially those that are founders or who have been in their jobs for a long time. Think you’re not ready to hand over the reins or developing your successor? Ask yourself these questions (derived from Compass Point’s Am I Still the Leader This Organization Needs?):
a. In what ways will this organization/business be changing over the next 5 years? What skills will it take to lead those changes? Do I have them?
b. What level of excitement do I feel most mornings on my way to the office?
c. What new skills have I developed over the past couple of years? Am I still eager and open to learning new things and developing my skills?
d. Do I continue to be effective in building the leadership and management skills of my direct reports? What new duties or responsibilities have I handed over to them in the past two years (and let them do without interference or constantly second-guessing)?
e. Can I conceive of a career move that would potentially excite and re-energize me? Or will I be bored and without meaning to my life?
For my nonprofit readers, hope to see you at the seminar on November 1st where we will provide a roadmap for succession planning. For business leaders who have an interest in learning more, contact me to continue the conversation.
7 out of 10 managers I work with admit that they don’t like managing other people. Like much in life (e.g. losing weight, managing your time, etc.) it sounds easy, and you can “learn” how to do it by reading a book, or taking a class, or getting a coach. However once you start to apply the learning, you discover that all of the daily decisions and unique situations involved in managing others drains your energy and can be very frustrating. Learning is abandoned; coping and instinct take over with mixed results.
Struggle to Manage? Here is the most useful tool I've found.
This article from Fast Company, How To Manage When You Hate Being A
Manager, suggests a premise that I start with in every manager training and coaching session that I do. First, you need to understand your personal management, communication, and decision-making style and behaviors. Then you need to understand the styles of your employees, what they need from you to be motivated and effective. And then you need to adapt and customize your style to each of your employees. The author mentions the Myers Briggs personality instrument, but I tend to use another, the DISC Management Profile, to help managers identify and adapt their styles. Here is an example of this simple but robust tool to help you understand your style and how to adapt it to better direct, delegate, develop and motivate your employees.
Changing Employee Behaviors is Even Harder. Here are 10 tools.
Managing others is often about getting them to change their behaviors or adapting to changing requirements. This is extremely hard, very situational, takes a long time, and requires that you have a varied toolbox. In this EXCELLENT summary of change techniques, Ten Ways to Get People to Change, Morten Hansen makes the point that you can’t use just one or two of these tools to leverage change, but rather you must use them all at the same time:
“These ten principles for changing behaviors are rooted in different
theories that are rarely put together:Sharpen the destination (1-3),
activate social processes (4 and 5), tweak the situation (6 and 7), and
revamp traditional HR levers (8-10). Why don't we see more successful
change in organizations? Because managers use only a few of these
levers. Use them all.”
I especially appreciate his 10th change lever - which many managers/leaders fail to consider because it is often the hardest:
“Hire and fire based on behaviors. The list so far is about changing
the person. But there is also selection: Change the composition of the
team. Get people who embody the desired behaviors and get rid of those
that clearly do not. This is based on theories of role fit: Match strengths
(including your current behaviors) to what the job requires. This also goes
for you: Fire yourself and find a better job if need be.”
While on the subject of getting your people to change, it is important to understand why they are resisting the change in the first place in order to strategize ways around the resistance. Check out this article by Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Ten Reasons People Resist Change.
I am currently working with 3 different clients on some aspect of setting employee performance or personal development goals and how these will be used to measure and reward employees. While all 3 organizations have slightly different issues they, as well as many of the organizations I have worked with in the past, struggle with setting the right employee performance goals, determining how to measure them, and getting employees to partcipate in setting goals.
It often surprises me how strongly employees at all levels resist setting their goals and resent when goals are set for them. It seems to me that by suggesting and/or participating in your own goal setting you have the opportunity to manage expectations and focus your work or personal development goals on something that is important, relevant, and realistic. If you have one ambitious, career-oriented, bone in your body you do what I describe below already and often unconsciously. Ask yourself: “What is the one really big thing I can do, learn, and show that will get me ____ (a promotion, more money, visibility, or responsibility). Who will I involve in helping me to set or reach this goal? Whose ‘buy-in” do I need? How will I measure the goal and know if I am making progress? How will I make sure my progress and focus is visible to my boss?
Earlier in the year I wrote an article on How to Create an Executable Strategic Plan that described principles from Stephen Covey’s Book, The 4 Disciplines of Execution. Many of the points I made in the article are just as relevant to personal goal setting, such as: