Is Your Organization Leaderful?

I’m excited to lead a discussion on Leadership Succession Planning for Wegner CPAs Nonprofit Roundtable, in Milwaukee on October 15, and the subject of succession planning has led me to reflect on my past experience as an executive director of five different nonprofits.

Unsurprisingly, not one of those organizations had a succession plan in place before I departed.  In one instance, a successor was named before I departed. In another, I was able to help identify an interim executive director before leaving.

In all of these situations, my departure was disruptive for the organization, not because I wasn’t replaceable, but because change in leadership is disruptive. Having a plan in place would have lessened that disruption.

baton

CompassPoint Nonprofit Services has published many resources on Executive Transition and I have found “Building Leaderful Organizations: Succession Planning for Nonprofits”  to be a very informative guide to preparing for the inevitable…leadership transition!

Tim Wolfred cites three types of succession plans:

1.    Strategic Leader Development

2.    Emergency Succession

3.    Departure-defined Succession

Each of these approaches start with building leadership within the organization. Disruption is minimized when successors come from within the organization.  Here are some key questions to gauge how prepared your organization is for leadership transition:

1.    Does your organization have a strategic plan that includes staff leadership development?

2.    Is the board evaluating the executive annually? Does it understand the scope of the position?

3.    Do the executive director direct reports receive evaluations and are they solidly performing?

4.    Is the top management team high performing and capable to lead the organization in the absence of the executive?

5.    Are key external relationships shared beyond the executive – with either another staff person or board member?

6.    Do the organizational financial systems meet industry standards and are reports generated regularly for board and staff?

7.    Do operating manuals and personnel policies exist? Are they easily accessible and up to date?

8.    Have top program staff documented key duties in writing and identified another staff person to assume duties in an emergency?

If you answered  “yes” to all of these questions, you are miles ahead of the majority of nonprofits. You can then focus on building the leadership throughout your organization through targeted professional development plans and documented emergency succession plans. If you answered “no” to any of these questions, you have a place to start to build the organization’s capacity for transition.

Don’t wait until you or your Executive Director have one foot out the door.  Your organization will be in much better shape if you plan for the transition.  That is the type of legacy all leaders want to leave.

What advice do you have for nonprofits facing a leadership transition?

What’s Goverance Got to Do with It?

Over my twenty years in the nonprofit sector I have held different seats at the governance table.

As a member of an all-volunteer organization, I’ve experienced serving on a board that worked essentially as the staff. As an Executive Director of a nonprofit, I experienced a relationship with the board as my boss. While serving as a board chair, I was the leader of the board. In my professional work as a consultant, I am brought in to support boards in reaching their greatest potential.

What have I learned based on my experience in each of these roles? Your organization is only as healthy as your board.

governance wordle

When boards and board members are working in coordination with staff, the organization has leveraged the talents, and resources of 10-20 more people…for free!

When boards and board members are not working in coordination with staff, the organization stalls out.

I have seen the latter dysfunctional situation often as both a board member and as a consultant.  In these situations, staff start to work around or ignore the board, viewing the board as “a necessary evil.”  Board members wonder why the Executive isn’t “doing as they say.”

So what are the key elements to an effective board-executive partnership?  Although it was originally written for the corporate sector, the work of David Nadler, Beverly Behan and Mark Nadler, published by the Harvard Business Review on Building Better Boards, is a timeless resource for building engaged boards.

Key Elements of an Engaged Board

1. The Mind-Set: Board-building is an ongoing activity, continuous improvement means annual self-assessments.

2. The Role: The board needs to be an engaged partner with the chief executive and playing the correct role for each situation. Is it a fiduciary role, strategic role or generative role? This resource explores the role of Governance as Leadership.

3. The Work: Identify the areas where the board can add the greatest value and focus attention here.

4. The People: The right people are not merely based on technical expertise but other competencies related to programs, external environment, quality of input and style of interaction.

5. The Agenda: Agendas dictate the work of the board. “show and tells” kill board meetings and crowd out time for serious and important discussions. Boards need to find ways to engage with the organization outside of official meetings so “show and tells” during meetings can be limited.

6. The Information:  Boards can be left in the dark by either too much information to digest or information malnutrition. I have seen board tomes of 300 pages! Don’t only be a “recipient” of information but seek it out.  Board members should be encouraged to collect and share information that they have identified externally.

7. The Culture: Robert’s Rules of Order are great obstacles to an engaged board. Use them sparingly.  Engaged board cultures are characterized by candor, willingness to challenge thinking (respectfully), camaraderie, and teamwork.

Where is your board in getting it right?  Take a look at some of the other great resources on nonprofit governance or contact me to discuss next steps in building an engaged board.

Resources:
BoardSource
Blue Avocado
Nonprofit Quarterly

Is Your Organization Built to Last?

Recently I partnered with Forward Community Investments in hosting a webinar on organizational capacity building and strategy development.  In this time of constant change, nonprofit organizations need to think about building capacity to remain relevant in the field in which they operate.

800px-Cairo,_Gizeh,_Pyramids_of_Kephren_and_Khufu,_Egypt,_Oct_2004What are the key steps to building your organization to last?

1. Assess current organizational capacity.

Capacity refers to intentional, coordinated and mission-driven efforts aimed at strengthening the management and governance of nonprofits to improve performance and impact.

2. Start at the top.

Focus on your organization’s mission and vision.

3. Know Thyself.

Analyze your organization’s business model; focus on geography, customers, programs, and funding.

4. Know the market.

Your organization doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  Map out where you operate and who you compete with.  What trends will impact your organization?

5. Build on your strengths.

What differentiates your organization from others in your market? What makes you unique? Build on that.

6. Make decision-making explicit.

Identify criteria for testing strategic options. Create a structure for discussion with board and staff.

7. Develop strategies to answer the biggest questions.

What are the most important questions facing your organization right now?  Draft strategies that answer each question.

8. Develop implementation plan.

You’ve defined the big questions facing your organization and created strategies to address those questions.  The last step is bringing strategy to life.  Document how you will implement the strategies that will build an organization to last.

Check out the webinar.  Or if you want to chat about building your organization to last, Contact me today to get started!