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Alice in Wonderland as an allegory for a newly hired non-profit CEO


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the non-profit CEO hiring and on-boarding process because a former client of mine is starting to go down this path. So, I decided to get creative and use Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass to talk about what many new non-profit CEO’s go through during and immediately after they’re hired.

For those of you who are wondering, I did pull from my personal experiences; however, I did embellish a little for entertainment purposes.

You might also be wondering what I ate or drank to come up with such a crazy idea? Well, I did play the role of the Dormouse in my high school’s production of Alice in Wonderland. And this awesome story has stuck with me ever since.  😉

Enjoy!


alice aliceOnce upon a time, there was a young girl by the name of Alice.

Alice worked for a non-profit organization as a front line staff person. Her organization’s mission was inspirational. She worked with volunteers every day to operationalize that mission in a variety of ways. She helped train volunteers. She engaged donors to financially support the organization’s work. She planned a variety of events both programmatic and fundraising in nature. She sometimes even got to roll up her sleeves and get involved with program implementation.

Alice was successful, and the path in front of her was full of hope and opportunity.

One day while skipping down this path, Alice was approached by a White Rabbit. This nervous rabbit recognized Alice’s raw talents and suggested “she has what it takes” to provide leadership to another organization. In short order, Alice had reviewed a vacancy notice, done what she thought was appropriate due diligence, applied for the non-profit CEO position, and gone through a series of interviews with the rabbit and his search committee.

alice rabbitUpon signing an offer sheet, Alice found herself tumbling down a rabbit hole. At the bottom of this hole, Alice was disoriented but determined. As she turned to the White Rabbit for advice and her next steps, she saw him running away and heard him saying over his shoulder, “Hello, Goodbye. I’m late, I’m late, I’m late.

As Alice tried calling after the rabbit, she was interrupted by a smiling Cheshire Cat. Startled and disoriented, she asked the cat what she should do first.

  • What are the organization’s priorities?
  • Is there a 90 day plan waiting for her?
  • Can she please see the organization’s strategic plan?

Instead of helping, the cat simply smiled and remarked that she must be stark, raving mad. “Everyone here is mad. I’m mad. You’re mad. It’s only by chance n’ careful planning if you’re not!” In a blink of an eye, the cat fades away and wishes her luck on her new adventure.

In her first few days, with little to no direction, Alice was hungry for a challenge. She knew that her new organization needs her. After all, the rabbit and his search committee shared with her some of the organization’s challenges throughout the search process. They also assured her every step of the way that she was perfect for the job. This must be the truth because in the end, they did choose her over a number of other applicants.

Without any hesitation, Alice decided to dig in. She ate a project, and promptly grew ten times bigger. She drank another challenge and shrank smaller than she ever thought possible. As she looked around for evidence that this was indeed strange and bizarre, no one seemed to validate her feelings. There was no feedback, and there was definitely no help.

alice catapillerOne of the first characters Alice encounters, after the White Rabbit ran away, was a hookah smoking caterpillar. As it turned out, the caterpillar worked at the organization. Needless to say, this encounter didn’t go well. My friend Lewis Carroll does a better job recalling the conversation:

‘Who are you?’ asked the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, ‘I — I hardly know, sir, just at present — at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.’
‘What do you mean by that?’ said the Caterpillar sternly. ‘Explain yourself!’
‘I can’t explain myself, I’m afraid, sir’ said Alice, ‘because I’m not myself, you see.’
‘I don’t see,’ said the Caterpillar.
‘I’m afraid I can’t put it more clearly,’ Alice replied very politely, ‘for I can’t understand it myself to begin with; and being so many different sizes in a day is very confusing.’
‘It isn’t,’ said the Caterpillar.

Shaken by this meeting, Alice decided to leave the office to explore the new community of which she was now an important member. Perhaps, other stakeholders — board members, volunteers, community leaders, collaborative partners, and donors — could help her get oriented and pointed in the right direction.

Alice hatter hare mouseWithout much effort, Alice came across a Tea Party with a wide range of characters. There was a Mad Hatter, March Hare and Dormouse. These three donors couldn’t seem to get along, nor did they seem to agree on why people supported the organization. When Alice weighed into the conversation by saying she had a good guess as to why the average donor supported the organization, the following weird discussion ensued:

The March Hare: You mean you think you know the answer?
Alice: Yes.
The March Hare: Well, then, you should say what you mean.
Alice: Well, I do. At-at least, at least I mean what I say, that-that is the same thing.
Mad Hatter: It’s not the same thing at all. You might as well say “I eat what I see” is the same thing as “I see what I eat!”
The March Hare: You might as well say “I like what I get” is the same as “I get what I like!”
The Dormouse: [talking in his sleep, then suddenly awake] Aah! You-you, or you might as well say “I breathe when I sleep” is the same thing as “I sleep when I breathe.” [he quickly noded off again]
Mad Hatter: Well, it is the same thing with you.

Frustrated with the idea that her organization’s case for support was perceived differently by so many different donors, Alice decided to leave the tea party. Taking notice, the Mad Hatter yelled after her a few final words of advice, “[This] is a place. Like no place on Earth. A land full of wonder, mystery, and danger! Some say to survive it: You need to be as mad as a hatter.

Alice pulls out a piece of paper she had taken a few notes on and started checking off stakeholders’ names. Perhaps, visiting with other non-profit CEOs in the community would help put her feet on the ground.

alice tweedledeeAt a gathering of her peers, Alice was approached by two identical looking individuals. She attempted to strike up a conversation about resource development, asking about which families are part of the community’s core philanthropic circle. She prattled on about the importance of individual giving and even tried to impress them with her knowledge about private sector fundraising trends. Instead of finding comrades-in-arms, Tweedledee and Tweedledum bark back at her and said, “Contrariwise, if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.”

Having lost her words, Alice paused but quickly recoiled when the gathering of her peers started staring at her and eerily began reciting the following poem:

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrave.
“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jujub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”
He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought —
So rested he by the Tumtum gree,
And stood awhile in thought
And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!
One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.
“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.
‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrave.

Of course, it didn’t make sense, but in this place of nonsense, it made all the sense in the world. Her peers were trying to warn her about her organization’s board of directors. In fact, it wasn’t just Alice’s board they were chanting about. They were talking about all of their boards.

Without hesitation, Alice left the gathering of her peers and started running off in the direction of her board president — The Queen of Hearts — and the rest of the board, which was made up of a deck of cards.

alice queenIn her first encounter with The Queen of Hearts, Alice had lots of questions to ask.

  • Is there a plan (or at least a direction set by the board) that she could put her hands on?
  • If not, then does the queen have any thoughts on where Alice should roll up her sleeves and start?
  • Should she immediately turn her attention to building organizational capacity around resource develop and fundraising? Programming and operations? Board development and board governance?

Without hesitation or any thought, the queen snapped off a response. She explained that the organization was in perfect shape. There was no need to do any of that work, and doing so would simply be a diversion in her opinion. The queen proclaimed that Alice needs to only set her sights on running a multi-million capital campaign.

After giving this a few moments of consideration, Alice decided she must not have been clear in explaining some of what she had witnessed after her tumble down the rabbit hole. So, she started all over again only to be abruptly interrupted by the queen. She said, “I warn you, child… if I lose my temper, you lose your head! Understand?


This is the start of Alice’s non-profit CEO tenure. While the adventure continued for many years and she had many successes (and learning opportunities), this is a good place to pause the story and ask . . .

  • What was your experience with your organization’s CEO search process?
  • What was different with your orientation?
  • Was there as on-boarding plan in place? What did it look like?
  • Did you receive a 90-day plan?
  • Were there organizational scan worksheets to help guide you through your first three months?

Please use the comment box below to share your answers or any other experiences/thoughts you might have. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

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Non-profit leadership is the great equalizer


leadership2Last night I had the privilege of being invited to a non-profit organization’s year-end holiday party stewardship event. In attendance were board members, capital campaign volunteers, auxiliary members, and various other stakeholders. There was no solicitation presentations, but there were a few powerful testimonials from alumni and lots of gratitude. The energy in the room was palpable, and I was reminded me of the old expression that “hope floats“.  It was in this dynamic setting that I had an amazing conversation with someone about the power of leadership.

In the middle of the event, I got locked into a conversation with a former board member. He is an alumnus of the agency’s programs, and he did two different stints on the board of directors. So, the conversation naturally migrated to how much the organization has changed throughout the many decades he has been involved.

Right in the middle of the conversation about organizational change and capacity building, this gentleman paused, appeared to reflect genuinely about what he was going to say, and then said:

“It is all about leadership and who the board hires to lead the organization.”

While I like to think your organization’s formula for success is about a variety of ingredients, I can’t really argue with this wise alumni and former board member’s assessment. I’ve seen lots of organizations overcome large gaps in their formula for success just because they have the right leaders sitting around the boardroom table and sitting in the CEO’s seat.

This comment also got me thinking about a recent CEO job search process that I helped a client lead. There was lots of conversation around “what does the right person look like” and what skill sets and experiences does the right person need to possess.

leadership1The following is a list of competencies and skill sets the search committee reviewed during its search criteria conversations:

Communication skills

  • Informing
  • Listening
  • Presenting
  • Writing

Decision making skills

  • Analyzing
  • Fact Finding
  • Innovating
  • Judgment
  • Problem Solving
  • Systemic Thinking

Developing Organizational Talent

  • Coaching
  • Delegating
  • Performance Management
  • Providing Feedback
  • Staff Development

Leadership Skills

  • Developing Commitment
  • Empowering
  • Encouraging Innovation
  • Facilitation
  • Influencing
  • Leading By Example
  • Managing Change
  • Providing Recognition
  • Team Building

Personal Initiation Skills

  • Contributing to a Positive Work Environment
  • Organizational Awareness
  • Personal Development
  • Proactivity
  • Professional Development
  • Striving for Excellence

Planning Skills

  • Action Planning & Organizing
  • Business Planning
  • Monitoring
  • Project Management
  • Recruitment
  • Strategic Planning
  • Time Management

Quality Skills

  • Implementing Quality Improvements
  • Satisfying Customer Requirements
  • Using Meaningful Measurements

Relationship Skills

  • Conflict Management
  • Meeting Skills
  • Negotiating
  • Networking
  • Relationship Building
  • Teamwork

Safety, Health & Environment Skills

  • Fostering Organizational Wellness
  • Supporting a Safe Environment

Hmmmm? Leadership is the great equalizer, but it certainly starts looking complicated once you begin searching for it.    🙂

What skill sets have you looked for when trying to hire or recruit the right leaders into your non-profit organization? Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Non-Profit Governance: The Work of the Board, part 1


Dani Robbins is the Founder & Principal Strategist at Non Profit Evolution located in Columbus, Ohio. I’ve invited my good friend and fellow non-profit consultant to the first Wednesday of each month about board development related topics. Dani also recently co-authored a book titled “Innovative Leadership Workbook for Nonprofit Executives” that you can find on Amazon.com. 

Governance: The Work of the Board, part 1

Hiring, Supporting and Evaluating the Executive

By Dani Robbins

board of directors3

As mentioned in Board Basics and reposted on this very siteBoards are made up of appointed community leaders who are collectively responsible for governing an organization.” That includes:

  • Setting the Mission, Vision and Strategic Plan,
  • Hiring, Supporting and Evaluating the Executive Director,
  • Acting as the Fiduciary Responsible Agent,
  • Setting Policy, and
  • Raising Money.

As you know, one of my goals is to rectify the common practice in the field of people telling non-profit executives and boards how things should be without any instruction as to what that actually means or how to accomplish it.

Since I wrote a recent post on Strategic Planning, I’m going to circle back to that one and start with Hiring, Supporting and Evaluating the Executive Director.

What that means is:

It is the Board’s role to hire the Executive Director, also called CEO. Prior to hiring, interviewing or even posting the job, it is imperative the Board discus what they want and need in an Executive Director. This conversation cannot be farmed out to a committee primarily consisting of non board members, or to a consultant or hiring firm. That will only get you what they want and think you need – not what you want and actually need.

What skill sets and experience do you need in a leader?

Growing, turning around or maintaining an organization require very different skill sets. Which trait do you want your new leader to have? Does your leader need to be a subject matter expert? Does she need to be local? Does he need to be a fund raiser, an operations person or both?

I recommend a search, REGARDLESS OF . . .

  • if there is a good internal person,
  • if someone on the board wants the job, or
  • if there is an obvious heir apparent.

Do a search, let everyone apply and see who best matches your needs. For more information on conducting a search, please click here.

exec searchOnce your hire an Executive Director, s/he needs to be supported. Supporting an Executive Director is where the rubber meets the road.

I once had a colleague tell her board to “Support her or fire her, but to choose.”  While I was shocked, I was also in agreement. The job of the Executive Director is very difficult and energy spent on worrying is not spent on moving the organization forward. (To the Executive Director’s out there: Worrying about keeping your job precludes you from doing your job. You have to do what you believe is best, based on your experience, information and training, within the boundaries of your role and the law. We all know that any day could be the day you quit or get fired. That can’t stop you from leading.)

Communication is key: the Board needs to know (and approve of) what the Executive Director is doing and the Executive Director needs to know (and be willing to do) what the Board wants.

It is the Board Chair’s job to be the direct supervisor of the Executive Director and the entire Board’s job is to support him/her, set goals and hold her accountable to those goals. This means the Board has to let the Executive Director fulfill the bounds of his/her role. There should also be a strategic plan that is being implemented, board approved policies that are being followed and an annual evaluation process for the Executive Director (and the rest of the staff).

The vast majority of Executive Directors rarely get evaluated, and when they do it’s often because they asked for an evaluation. (To the Board Presidents out there: Executive Directors, just like Board members and most other people, when left to their own devices will do that they think is right. What they think is right will not necessarily be aligned with what the Board wants, especially if what the Board wants has not been discussed or communicated. It also may not be aligned with anything anyone else is doing. See the Strategic Plan link above to create alignment.)

Executive Directors should be given expectations and goals (just like all other staff) and should be evaluated against those expectations and goals every year. There should be a staff (including executive) compensation plan that has a range for salaries for each position and reflect comparable positions in your community; raises should be given within the confines of that plan, or the plan should be revised. (More on that in the Setting Policies blog to come in the next few days.)

Hiring, Supporting and Evaluating the Executive Director has to happen – in full- for your executive to be an effective leader, for your board to fulfill its responsibilities and for your organization to fulfill its mission.

When an Executive Director is hired right, supported appropriately and evaluated effectively there’s no end to the impact it can make on an organization and a community.

What’s been your experience? As always, I welcome your insight and experience.
dani sig

Boys & Girls Club of Elgin about to have their “Lion King moment”


cathy malkani3Welcome to O.D. Fridays at DonorDreams blog. Every Friday for the foreseeable future we will be looking at posts from John Greco’s blog called “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly” and applying his organizational development messages to the non-profit community.

In a post titled “Born, Not Made,” John questions an assumption he made early in his professional career about whether or not leaders are born or made. He also introduces the concept of “servant leadership” and sets it apart from other ideas pertaining to leadership. John frames the central question as: “Can caring, and a willingness and commitment to serve, be learned and/or developed?

This November 2012 post came back to me because I’ve had “leadership on the brain” for the last few weeks.

On Monday, April 15, 2013, the Boys & Girls Club of Elgin will have its “Lion King moment” as it holds its new executive director on high and introduces her to the community. Click here or on the YouTube video below to remember what that moment looks like.  😉

Her name is not Simba. It is Cathy Malkani. I’ve known her for more than a decade. She has been an executive director of a Boys & Girls Club before. She and I worked together at Boys & Girls Clubs of America on a 3-year project in Indiana called the Lilly Endowment Capacity Building Initiative. She was the leader of that project.

Cathy isn’t just a Boys & Girls Club professional. She replicated her leadership and success in other places like a homeless shelter named Hebron House of Hospitality in Waukesha, Wisconsin as their resource development director.

I’ve seen Cathy lead, and I’ve seen it up close and personal. While I think she is a “different kind of leader” — servant leader — the bottom line is that it doesn’t matter what I think. The reality is that the Elgin area community gets their opportunity in the next few weeks to make that assessment for themselves. Essentially, the Club (and Cathy) are entering into a critical period of time because:

“You only get one chance to make a first impression.”

servant leadershipHaving watched the Boys & Girls Club of Elgin’s board search for its new leader, I am struck by how important “process” was in making this decision. After all, if you believe that leaders are born and not made, then it becomes fascinating to watch a volunteer board do the following:

  • identify and recruit an applicant pool,
  • develop interview questions designed to tease out an applicant’s leadership skills, and
  • ultimately decide who they will hoist above their heads and proclaim their leader.

I am also a believer that leadership is situational. So, I found it interesting to watch this non-profit board decide what their agency needs at this point in time and how they matched those needs up with a variety of different well-qualified candidates.

Do you think leaders are born? Or do you think they are made? Have you seen non-profit organizations go through an executive search? Do you have any observations or best practices to share from that experience? Please use the comment box below to share.

ALSO . . . please use the comment box to welcome Cathy and wish her well. Do you have any good advice about what her first 90 days should look like?

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Non-profit boards ask: To search or not to search?


Dani Robbins is the Founder & Principal Strategist at Non Profit Evolution located in Columbus, Ohio. I’ve invited my good friend and fellow non-profit consultant to blog this week about board development related topics. She also agreed to join the DonorDreams team and contribute a board development post every month. Dani also recently co-authored a book titled “Innovative Leadership Workbook for Nonprofit Executives” that you can find on Amazon.com. I hope you have enjoyed the genius musings of my friend for the last next few days . . .

The question comes up anytime someone resigns, and often when someone is forced out as well.  Do we really have to do a search?!?!  It’s usually followed by “we have someone that’s great” or “there’s a Board member that’s interested.”  Wonderful!  Encourage those people to apply and do a search.

Why?  Because it’s the most legitimate way to ascend to leadership.  The absence of a search leaves people, at a minimum, with the perception of impropriety. Even if you are the one they think is great, or you are the Board member who is interested, encourage the search and then apply. Perception is reality and leadership is hard enough without people thinking you didn’t earn the spot.  Why set your new leader — or yourself — up for that?

In the absence of a search, people, at best, become mildly uncomfortable by the thought that there might be something unsavory going on.   At worst, they choose not to follow what they perceive as an illegitimate leader.   Either way, an internal conflict gets created that takes people’s attention away from the work at hand. It is a conflict that could have been easily avoided.  It may also be a violation of your organization’s policies.  Most policies include a requirement and a process for doing a search.  Any lawyer will tell you that once you violate one policy, the remaining policies become more difficult to enforce.

Now is the easiest and least expensive time to post an opening.  In Columbus, Ohio alone, there are a variety of free or low-cost search web opportunities including OANO, the United Way and Craigslist.  Post it on your organization’s website; and if your organization is part of a larger national organization or state or county-wide collaborative, then post the position opening on the group’s web site as well.

You can also create a posting and send it out to all the agencies with whom you partner and ask them to post it.

Finally, if you have a budget, you can pay for an ad, and because of the internet, that ad can be as long as you’d like.  If you’re interested in advertising in the classified section of the local paper, you will still have to pay per word, but even in that case, there is usually a contract with an internet site to post the ad as well.  In your ad, I recommend you request a cover letter as well as a resume.

Before you post the position . . .

  • review what you want in a candidate (both overall and by priority area)
  • determine what salary range you can offer
  • review the current range for such a position in your community
  • consider the job you want the applicant to do and the skill set and experience they will need to be successful (both the minimum requirements and your preferred qualifications)
  • consider the culture of your organization and the values a candidate would have to have to be successful in that culture.

If you are seeking resource development staff, consider if you want an event planner, a grant writer or an individual giving / major gifts person.  If you are seeking an executive director, consider if you want someone to grow your organization, maintain it or turn it around.  Each is a different skill set, and even if the applicant has previous experience in the role, then it may not be relevant to the needs at hand.

Prioritize the skills you seek.  Write your interview and reference questions to reflect the needs at hand, by priority area.  An Executive Director may be proficient at resource development, board development, operations, community profile building, marketing, financial acumen, and more.  They may or may not be a subject matter expert.  They may have prior experience at a similar agency.  What are the top 5 priorities in order of importance to your organization?  Develop three questions under each priority area and one or two questions, each, for everything else.

Inquire as to what applicants have done as opposed to what they would do.  There are lots of things we would all like to do in a perfect world, but what we have done is a much better gauge of what we will do in the future.  Plus, you can confirm it during the reference check.

Once you begin receiving resumes, filter applicants by their ability to follow your instructions to include a cover letter and resume, their writing ability (if writing is a piece of the job), and if they meet your minimum or preferred qualifications.Education and relevant experience are the price of admission to an interview.  After that, good judgment and fit are the most important criteria for me.

In addition to the standard questions confirming relevant experience and preferred education, I also recommend including values-based questions:

  • How does the candidate respond to mistakes s/he made and mistakes made by others?
  • Within what amount do they return phone calls/emails?
  • How has s/he handled it when s/he disagreed with a supervisor?
  • Do they generally get work in early or at the last-minute?

You will learn a lot about the judgment of your applicants, and their ability to fit onto your team during the interview process.  Good leader can do a lot to groom and guide a mentee, but improving someone’s judgment or changing their values are not usually among them.

Create a measurement tool to rate applicant’s answers by section.  Interviewing should not solely be about feel.  While it’s true that you should always trust your gut, you should also always have a process to assess candidates.  I recommend prioritizing the skill sets you seek and use a 1-3 scale for each answer that allows you to tally up answers by priority area.  This process will allow you to compare applicants against your criteria by area and overall.  I recommend a minimum of two interviews, with a background check being conducted in between, and a reference check of your top candidates being conducted after the final interview.

When you call the finalist to make an offer, include information about salary and benefits.  When you finish speaking, wait for them to accept. Know before you make the call if you have the authority to negotiate salary and if so, how high.  Be prepared to answer benefits questions.  Once they accept, discuss start date and a plan to announce your new hire to your organization’s constituents. Congratulations!

Hiring is one of the most critical factors to the success or failure of your organization.  It takes time, as does almost everything worth doing.  A search will inspire the board, the staff, and the community’s confidence in your leader and your confidence in their success. It is one of the most important roles and responsibilities of your non-profit board.

If I had a hammer . . .


Welcome to O.D. Fridays at DonorDreams blog. Every Friday for the foreseeable future we will be looking more closely at a recent post from John Greco’s blog called “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly” and applying his organizational development messages to the non-profit community.

Recently, John wrote two related posts titled “Rabbit Chase” and “Maslow’s Hammer“. These posts spoke to the ideas of organizational culture and effective processes. Additionally, they featured one of my favorite quotations of all-time from Abraham Maslow:

I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”

As John’s posts typically do, they get my mind racing about how his organizational development principles apply to my non-profit experiences. Sometimes, they even set me off in an unpredictable direction as is the case today.

Three non-profit executive director friends of mine are all involved in some kind of job search process:

  • One friend is unemployed and jumping into an executive director search process.
  • A second friend is filling a vacancy and hiring a CFO.
  • My third friend received approval from the board to create a development director position and is hiring a fundraising professional with major gifts experience.

So, you’re probably wondering what in the heck do these three things have to do with Maslow’s quotation about hammers and nails or John Greco’s posts about organizational culture and effective processes?

Well, it dawned on me that when non-profit organizations go into “hiring mode” and open an employment search, they are essentially adding tools to their organizational toolbox. Carrying this analogy to its logical conclusion . . . The obvious challenge for those organizations who have a toolbox full of hammers is to not add another hammer. Right?

Having formerly run a non-profit agency, I look back over all of the search processes that I ran, and I now wonder how many times I started out the search by assessing my organizational toolbox to figure out what type of person would best fill the gap.

You might be thinking that a when you have a vacancy — like my friend who is hiring a replacement CFO — you are by definition filling a gap, but I encourage you to rethink your position by reading John’s post “Rabbit Chase“. You will clearly see in that example that all three actors in that post — the FBI, CIA, and NYPD — do the same thing (e.g. law enforcement), but they all have a different approach.

Won’t that be the same thing my friend experiences during his CFO search? All of his final candidates will know finance, but they will all come with different backgrounds and experiences. They will also all have different approaches.

I think we can also take this organizational development principle beyond the confines of executive search and apply it to board development and how you approach your organization’s board development process.

I’ve seen a number of non-profit boards that had too many hammers on it. I can tell you that it always results in a very flat executive director! LOL

Think about it for a second.

How do you maintain a diversified organizational toolbox from a staff or board perspective? What tools do you use? How do you develop your interview guides with this organizational development principle in mind? Does your board development process utilize a board composition matrix?

Our organizations are stretched too thin for us to continue re-inventing the wheel. So, why not share your approaches and tools with each other in the comment box? We can all learn from each other.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t get the idea of hammers out of my head this Friday morning. So, I thought I’d end today’s post with this classic song from Peter, Paul and Mary:

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
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