Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Frances Hesselbein is the board chair of Leader to Leader, the successor to The Peter Drucker Institute. Leader to Leader is committed to strengthening the leadership of the social sector by providing leaders with essential wisdom, inspiration and resources to lead for innovation and to build vibrant social sector organizations.

Previously, Ms. Hesselbein was the national executive director of the Girls Scouts of America. Under her watch, the Girl Scouts dramatically reengineering itself to address the needs of a new generation of girls.

In an address to the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University on developing a people first culture, Ms. Hesselbein summarized the essential job of every successful nonprofit. In three phrases, she presents a powerful focus. Successful organizations are:

  1. Mission-focused
  2. Values-based
  3. Demographic-driven

Align your organization around these essential themes. Start the conversation. At your next staff meeting, begin to discuss these themes.

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In The Hungry Spirit, Charles Handy lists what he the seven cardinal principles of trust as it applies to organizations. Trust is the result of human interaction – it is a dynamic, changing feeling based on the day-to-day experience of living and working with others. And it is essential to a health, productive work environment.

Here’s the list:

  1. There’s no such thing as blind trust.
    You tend to trust those whom you know well. On the job, small work groups help people get to know each other.
  2. Trust requires boundaries.
    Knowing the extent and limits of their colleagues’ competence helps reassure employees that their trust is well placed.
  3. Trust calls for constant leaning.
    The ability to learn through growth and change is basic to trust. Fear stifles both leaning and trust.
  4. Trust is ruthless.
    Individuals who “cannot be relied upon to do what is needed” must usually leave because they require an organization to establish additional systems of support and control.
  5. Trust is not impersonal.
    It request bonding among individuals and “buy-in” to the core values of the organization.
  6. Trust and touch go hand-in-hand.
    Face-to-face interaction is very important, especially in virtual organizations or those heavily dependent on a fieldwork model of service delivery, which tend to isolate individuals.
  7. Trust is built the old-fashion way – you have to earn it.
    Positive experiences strengthen trust; negative ones weaken it.

What one small thing can you do in your organization, department, or group that would have a big impact on developing a more trusting workplace?

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To meet the needs of the current work environment characterized by ambiguity, change, and stress, research has shown that what people look for and respond to best is someone who:

  • Let’s me know what’s going on and isn’t afraid to say, “I don’t know.”
  • Is easy to “read” so I know where he or she is coming from.
  • Remains calm under fire.
  • Sets clear expectations, ones that are sure to change and will then be replaced with new clear expectations.
  • “Hears” me – is wiling to listen.
  • Is willing to change the plan when things aren’t working out.
  • Involves me and isn’t afraid to ask for help.
  • Is visible and available
  • Seems “together” in thought and action.

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capacityBy: Lilya Wagner, Ed.D., CFRE, 5/2/07

Capacity building seemed to be the “buzzword” of the early 21st century. Books and book chapters were written about this concept, workshops were requested and conducted, articles were published, and foundations were openly urged to do more for nonprofit capacity building.

The truth is, capacity building as a concept is neither new nor complicated. Nonprofit organizations have always had to be concerned, to some degree or another, about their capacity to carry out their work and do it well and also to improve their capacity

Capacity building is an organization’s ability to carry out its mission, using best practices, having financial and personnel resources to do so, and meeting the needs of clients. Mike Hudson, in Managing at the Leading Edge, provided this succinct definition: “Building organization capacity is about systematically investing in developing an organization’s internal systems (for example, its people, processes, and infrastructure) and its external relationships (for example, with funders, partners, and volunteers) so that it can better realize its mission and achieve greater impact” (Hudson, 2005, p. 1).

Another authority on this topic, the Amherst Wilder Foundation, defines capacity building as “the process of strengthening an organization in order to improve its performance and impact” (Amherst Wilder Foundation, 2002, p. 7).

Capacity building has been around for as long as nonprofits have had an identity as a sector, balancing government and business in the scheme of United States civil society. But the renewed attention came for a reason.

Nonprofits have tended to concentrate on delivery of programs and services, a state of being that was no doubt reinforced by some donors, mainly foundations, who focused their attention on the efficiency (keeping costs low) of their grantees and tended to fund programs, especially new ones for which they sometimes provided seed money. But this trend or expectation leaned toward some negative side effects.

How can excellent programs be developed and delivered without appropriate organizational capacity to do so? As one of the authors of a seminal book on capacity building stated, “Nonprofits have been doing more with less for so long that many now border on doing everything with nothing” (Light, 2004, p. 14). He also stated that the result of emphasis on programs has caused the public to have expectations of delivery without the attendant funding related to costs of capacity building, and the unfortunate outcome is increasing criticism of nonprofits as organizations that lack managerial and financial substance.

The lack of capacity building and the emphasis of program and service delivery caught up with the nonprofit world at least in the thinking of many leaders and practitioners if not in reality. Beginning late in the last century, there came a shift, even if slight, from expanding effective programs to building effective organizations that develop, house and improve the programs. Consequently, there is increased attention on not only what nonprofits do, but also how they do it, because stronger nonprofit organizations lead to greater program impact.

Building an organization’s capacity means deliberate efforts are undertaken to enhance an organization’s ability to achieve its mission. Capacity building is a significant part of the overall management of a nonprofit, one which overlaps with and is congruent with all other management functions, from programs to human resources, from fundraising to public relations.

Mike Hudson (2005) considers the elements of internal capacity to include the mission; the board; the staff, volunteers and other personnel; management skills; physical infrastructure; technology; and evaluation (2005, p. 9). The external key elements are relationships; identification of relevant high-value services; orchestration of creative campaigns for social change; and creativity in funding and income generation (Hudson, 2005, p. 9-10).

In “Capacity Building: A Primer,” the lead article in a volume devoted to nonprofit capacity building, the authors acknowledge that it may take many forms, sometimes depending on the type and size of the organization, but several steps or stages are always present:

1. Validate the mission

2. Reconsider the vision

3. Reaffirm the values 

4. Develop resources
5. Set strategies

6. Ensure productivity

They also acknowledge that organizations wishing to engage in capacity building will find many possible ways to achieving a high-performance organization and a single solution is not mandatory nor feasible.

The success of capacity building is dependent on first understanding that change is needed, and identifying the desired outcome. Money, time and human resources must be invested, with appropriate guidance for the efforts. Building capacity may include a wide range of approaches, such as peer-to-peer learning, training, research, assistance from consultants, academic study, and experiential learning. It means taking a careful look at an organization’s ability to achieve its mission, to do its job more effectively.

As explained by a volume produced by Venture Philanthropy Partners, the Capacity Framework defines nonprofit capacity in a pyramid of seven essential elements: three higher-level elements aspirations, strategy, and organizational skills three foundational elements systems and infrastructure, human resources, and organizational structure and a cultural element which serves to connect all the others (Venture Philanthropy Partners, Effective Capacity Building in Nonprofit Organizations, August 2001).

There is no mystery in capacity building, as is sometimes implied. Capacity building isn’t something that dawned recently. It has always involved an organization’s ability to balance programs against management; to be as effective as possible in fundraising, customer relations, financial management, and governance as in delivery of services to its clients; and to achieve positive change. What’s new is the renewed emphasis in the recent decade by funders and critics who understand that good programs need good organizations, and therefore good capacity somehow must be developed and maintained.

Capacity building is far more than a buzzword. Regardless of terminology, the capacity of an organization to carry out its mission and all activities based on its mission has been a critical element that delineates between organizations just getting by or perhaps even fading away, and those that are the backbone of the nonprofit sector.


Connolly, Paul and Carol Lukas. Strengthening Nonprofit Performance: A Funder’s Guide to Capacity Building. Saint Paul, MN: Amherst H. Wilder Foundation and with the Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, 2002.

Hudson, Mike. Managing at the Leading Edge. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Imprint, 2005.

Kinsey, David J., and J. Russell Raker III, “Capacity Building: A Primer,” in Capacity Building for Nonprofits, New Directions for Philanthropic Fundraising, No. 40, Summer 2003.

Light, Paul. Sustaining Nonprofit Performance: The Case for Capacity Building and the Evidence to Support it. Washington, DC: Brookings Institute Press, 2004.

McKinsey & Company, Effective Capacity Building in Nonprofit Organizations, Prepared for Venture Philanthropy Partners, 2001.

About the Author
Lilya Wagner is vice president for philanthropy at Counterpart International and was formerly with the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.
You may contact the author at: lwagner@counterpart.orgl

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customer-serviceWhy is it that we never speak of customer service in our nonprofit work? Be honest, when was the last time you heard someone refer to increasing customer service, or customer satisfaction? I can’t remember one time.

What does this say about how we view our clients, particularly for organizations that don’t sell a service like hospitals, arts and cultural nonprofits.

The Ritz-Carlton has made a brand out of exceptional customer service. Matter-of-fact, they won the Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award twice (I am a Baldrige examiner). They have something to teach every organization about customer service.

Diana Oreck, vice-president of The Leadership Center for the Ritz-Carlton shared some of the company policies in employment and customer. Listen to what she said, how can you apply it to your organization? If you charged for your client services, would you have any buyers?

  • Good customer service is like poetry in motion, Oreck said.
  • And customer service starts with proper training for all employees.
  • The service philosophy is so simple, but many companies are giving it lip service, she said.
  • It all starts with hiring the right people. The Ritz has an elaborate interview-testing method that was developed specifically to identify personalities that are “customer-focused.”
  • Communication with customers is a necessity, she said.
  • Happy people spend more money, Oreck said. Verbiage is important. We use customers’ names. It’s important. And we want them back. How many companies blow it in the last second when dealing with customers?
  • Perhaps listening to customers is the most useful tool.
  • If you receive a complaint, own it, she said. Then resolve it to the guest’s satisfaction. While service is declining in other industries, we have continued to increase business and offer guests unparalleled customer service. This can only be done through highly trained and motivated employees.

Let you organization’s ego “hold it’s breath.” What can you learn from her comments?

Source: Shottenkik, J. (2005, April 6). VP of Ritz-Carlton speaks at Oklahoma City leadership program, says success hinges on good customer service. Journal Record, 1.

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Nonprofits have organizational missions, and their boards have fiduciary responsibilities to contributors, employees, customers, members, and the environment in which they operate. The most egregiously overlooked problem with nonprofit organizations is that their boards don’t seem to realize that the organization exists for a reason that lies outside of the board meeting room.

Get in the game and fix what’s not working; nonprofit doesn’t mean nonperformance!

Ignorance of Governance
The board is too often a tool for the CEO or executive director, rather than a governor and overseer. Nonprofit boards should do three basic things:

  • Establish the mission of the organization.
  • Determine what measures will determine success in that mission.
  • Select, evaluate, and develop officers and senior managers.

Poor Choices for Board Membership
The most common criterion I’ve heard for prospective nonprofit board members is: Can they raise money? Fund-raising and governance are two separate requirements, and one individual rarely possesses both sets of skills at equal levels.

Board members should, amongst them, represent experience and expertise across the following gamut: business management, public relations, finances, law, human resources, volunteerism, and nonprofit experience.

Inappropriate Size
Virtually every nonprofit in the land errs on the side of too many board members. This is because board members are chosen not only for governance (which is, in fact, the least of it), but also for name recognition, reward, potential donations, contacts, cachet, and personal friendship.

Poor Self-Regulation and Discipline
Nonprofits need board terms even more than for-profits, because there is less external incentive and internal upheaval likely to cause turnover in the former.

Lack of Interim Actions and Poor Committee Work
No one can provide governance by working only once a month, much less once a quarter. Committees and subcommittees need to be active in the interim.

Insufficient Distance From the Organization Leadership
Too often the executive director or president is a close friend of the board chair and/or key board members. Sometimes this coziness grows to the extent that the board chair and CEO often change places, or one is seen as a stepping-stone to the other.

Ignorance of the Bylaws
Boards need a parliamentarian to keep them on the straight and narrow.

Bylaws should be required reading for all new members, need to be taken up in review form at least annually by the full board, and should be updated and revised as current conditions warrant. The best boards assign a person as the watchdog to make sure these requirements are met. The worst can’t even find their copies.

Nonprofit boards act, most of the time, as if they were the senior management team. Their job is not to implement, not to execute, not to oversee daily operations. Their job is to set long-term goals and evaluate progress toward those goals.

The Great “Campaign” Debacle
The most legitimate gripe I’ve encountered from nonprofit staffs is the annual change in “theme.”

Strategy should never be solely a twelve-month affair, and constant theme changes can easily disrupt long-term strategy, making a mockery of any attempts to achieve longitudinal objectives. While bylaws often require a change of elected officers each year, they certainly don’t require a change in direction that is not dictated by strategic need or environmental events.

Misunderstanding the Value of Volunteers
The most waste to be found in any nonprofit is in the squandering of volunteer resources. Boards tend to look at volunteers as so much cannon fodder, not comprehending the tremendous asset they represent, the fact that the resource is not nonrenewable, and the financial fact that there is a return on investment equation that applies to volunteers.

Source: Good Enough . . . Isn’t Enough, by Alan Weiss. Amacom, 1999.

The Independent Sector is an excellent resource for help with board development and training.

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I ran across the following comment on diversity by Dr. Leonard Berry from Texas A&M University, and wanted to share it with you:

Strong values-driven leadership enables organizations to achieve what John Gardner calls wholeness incorporating diversity.

Speaking to a Stanford University graduating class, Gardner told them their goal was “not to achieve wholeness by suppressing diversity, nor to make wholeness impossible by enthroning diversity, but to preserve both.”

Source: Berry, L. (1999). Discovering the soul of service: The nine drivers of sustainable business success. New York: The Free Press.

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Most of us have had the unpleasant experience of working for a manager who just “didn’t get it.” These insecure bullies live by private dictums and closed doors. And those who call up the most cynicism can parrot the pabulum of the latest business book, but are as motivating as a skunk at a garden party. Their real management model is that of the 400-year-old command and control. Henry Ford would be so proud!

I worked for just this sort of organization – a Washington, DC beltway bandit — privately held (read, the personal play thing of an ego-driven owner, and lock-stepped managers) which was actually paid to provide management assistance to national and regional nonprofit organizations for a government agency! Physician heal thyself?

For all these organizations and their brain-dead bosses, I offer the following notes on areas that result in real-world management motivation. The most consistently proven method is to fulfill personal needs that motivate — not yours, but those of who elect to work for you.

  • Belonging: Being a part of a group provides us with a sense of comfort, security, and partnership.
  • Achievement. To achieve gives our lives purpose, and it reinforces our self-esteem because it demonstrates our competence.
  • Advancement. To feel successful, we need to continually expand our personal and professional skills, knowledge, and abilities.
  • Power. An advance in a career usually means more power or increase authority.
  • Responsibility. With responsibility comes respect, both for the person given responsibly and for the person who delegated it.
  • Challenge. Feeling challenged to grow mentally and emotionally provides a strong incentive for many people.
  • Recognition. Having others know of our achievements is essential. A letter or memo, an award, a gift, or a bonus is all forms of recognition that motivate future actions.
  • Excellence. Doing an excellent job is often a reward in itself. This explains why millions of workers can find joy and meaning in their work even when it’s routine.

Let those with eyes see, and those with ears hear. –Matthew 13:15,16

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The task of leadership

Peter Drucker, arguable the management guru of the 20th century often spoke of effective leadership. Here is one of my most favorite quotes:

The task of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths . . . making our weaknesses irrelevant.

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What are the attributes of today’s ideal leader? Marshall Goldsmith, one of our the country’s premier management coaches, put this question to 200 high-potential leaders. The results were clear. The ideal leader is a person who builds internal and external partnerships.

Leaders must also partner with customers, suppliers, and competitors.

1. Partnering with customers. As companies have become larger and more global, there has been a shift from buying stand-alone products to buying integrated solutions. One reason for this shift is economy of scale. Huge retail corporations, like Home Depot or Wal-Mart, do not want to deal with thousands of vendors. They would prefer to work with fewer vendors who can deliver not only products, but systems for delivery that are customized to meet their needs. Also, many customers now want “network solutions,” not just hardware and software.

As the supplier’s relationship with their customers continues to change, leaders from supply organizations will need to become more like partners and less like salespeople. This trend toward building long-term customer relationships, not just achieving short-term sales, means that suppliers need to develop a much deeper understanding of the customer’s total business. They will need to make many small sacrifices to achieve a large gain. In short, they will need to act like partners.

2. Partnering with suppliers. As the shift toward integrated solutions advances, leaders will have to change their relationship with suppliers. For example, more of IBM’s business now involves customized solutions incorporating non-IBM products and services. While the idea of IBM selling non-IBM products was almost unheard of in the past, it is now common—to the benefit of customers and, to IBM itself. The same trend is occurring in pharmaceuticals and telecommunications.

In a world where a company sold stand-alone products, partnering with suppliers was not only seen as unnecessary, but unethical! The company’s job was to “get the supplier down” to the lowest possible price to increase margins and profitability. Today many leaders realize that their success is directly related to their supplier’s success. In fact, some include commitment to suppliers as one of their core values. They seek to transcend differences and focus on a common good—serving the end user of the product or service.

3. Partnering with competitors. The most radical change in the role of leader as partner has come in partnering with competitors. Most high-potential leaders see competitors as potential customers, suppliers, and partners. Most organizations that rely on knowledge workers have varied and complex relationships with competitors. When today’s competitors may become tomorrow’s customers, the definition of “winning” changes. People have memories. Unfairly “bashing” competitors to ruin their business could have harsh consequences. While competitors should not expect collusion or unfair practices, they should expect integrity and fair dealing.

The leader of the future will need to be skilled at managing these relationships. In many ways, telling direct reports (who know less than we do) what to do is a lot simpler than developing relationships with partners (who know more than we do). Working in a “silo” is simpler than having to build partnerships with peers. “Taking orders” from managers is simpler than having to challenge ideas that don’t meet customer needs. Selling a product to customers is simpler than providing an integrated solution. Getting the lowest price from suppliers is simpler than understanding their complex business needs. Competing with competitors is simpler than having to develop a complex customer-supplier-competitor relationship.

The challenge of leadership is growing. Many traditional qualities like integrity, vision, and self-confidence are still needed. But, building partnerships is becoming a requirement, not an option, for future leaders.

Marshall Goldsmith is the founding director of the Alliance for Strategic Leadership, and authority on helping leaders achieve positive change. marshall@gcnet.com. www.marshallgoldsmith.com.

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