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Showing posts from August, 2009

Succeeding Long-Tenured Staff

IT'S HARD TO LEAVE AUGUST WITHOUT ONE last post. This one is based on a news article about the director of a nonprofit theater leaving his post after four months. The poor fellow decided to call it quits and return home due, as he told his board, to family illness. OK, I guess I'll buy that since the newspaper article is all I know about this story. You just have to wish him and the theater he left better luck the next time around. But, gosh, the theater did a national search and plucked him from 100 candidates. The board president is having to put the best spin on it, as she did in the article, but it sure must feel as though the rug has been pulled out from under her.

But there was an interesting comment in the article that got me to thinking. It said that this fellow had succeeded a long time director. That's given me some blogging grist. If any of you have been in the situation of following a long-time anyone, you know it can be a dicey gig. It happened to me …

Making a Place for Retired Staff Leadership

YESTERDAY AND TODAY I'M ATTENDING ONLINEsessions from the 2009 American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) conference that's being held in Indianapolis. In addition to about a dozen sessions, AASLH also has a blog and Twitter feed going. We were told in our first online session that the attendance from the online component (about 250+ of us) was making the total conference attendance a record-breaker. Impressive.
A conference blog post relating to a session on leadership succession talked about the trend of retiring staff to stick around as paid staff or volunteers to work on special projects of interest to them or to fundraise. Here's the observation by conference-goer Barbara Walden of the session she attended: As the economy has taken a turn in our least favorite direction, a number of long time museum professionals are opting out for early retirement. Although their positions are coming to a close, a number are choosing to continue their involvement wit…

One Piece of Advice...

IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO GIVEone piece of advice to your board chair, what would it be?
Would it be...
...despite the fact that a board chair's opinion and advice may carry more weight than that of other board members, it's just as important for the chairperson to know when to zip the lip and facilitate discussion to encourage everyone's participation, or
...that modeling behavior speaks as loud (or louder) than words, or
...leadership is at its most powerful when shared, or
...big picture thinking is a critical skill for coaxing an organization toward achievements it might have thought impossible, or
...diversity is a strength because it is challenging, or.....
What's the one piece of advice you'd pass along today?
Photo: good advice from hellojenuine

Taste that Mission Statement!

IT HIT ME THIS MORNING -- MISSION STATEMENTS ARE LIKE good wines or craft beers; they're meant to be savored.
A lot of care goes into making truly wonderful things and that's no less true for the noble statement of purpose. Yet so many mission statements are nothing more than cookie cutter iterations that lack true craftmanship and, ultimately, true meaning. If you can't get jazzed about your organization's mission statement, who do you think will?
How can you break out of the old mold? Let the tasting and the savoring begin!
Try this and see if it helps: make some copies of your mission statement and give it to staff and to some of your board members and volunteers. Ask them to carry it around with them for a day and use it as a comparison to what's really happening at your institution.
Does the statement capture and mirror the enjoyment, the learning, the level of activity, the sense of wonder and discovery, the intensity and the humanity of what's going…

Finding Leaders for America's Nonprofits

A NEW REPORT BY THE BRIDGESPAN GROUP analyzes the breadth of the "evolving nonprofit leadership deficit" in this country and notes that the need is especially acute among human service and arts organizations.In the face of anticipated baby boomer retirements, many of those surveyed cited a need to fill roles with increasing management complexity, and they foresee challenges in finding candidates who are both qualified for the roles and who are cultural fits with their organizations. That sounds familiar. Also among the findings:
Message No. 1: The leadership deficit in nonprofit organizations remains large, and the gap includes “new–to-the-organization” positions as well as vacancies due to baby boomer retirements (a trend that may have slowed with the downturn, but certainly not abated).Message No. 2: Functional skills matter (and are transferable across sectors or domains).Message No. 3: Cultural fit is the deal breaker.Message 4: Job boards, networks, and search profession…

Developing the Leadership Within

THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF MUSEUMS' 2009 Emerging Museum Professionals survey gives us a sense of how the museum field is meeting the needs of its future leaders. The survey rates the importance of nine professional development resources to this group and its related satisfaction with access to each of them. The resulting "gap" between importance and satisfaction thus becomes the point of the story.

The biggest gap is the ability of young professionals to access leadership opportunities within their own institutions. It's a gap that has grown significantly from the time the last survey was done just two years ago. Back in 2007, 55% of survey respondents ranked finding leadership within one's institution as very/somewhat important. That stands at 73% today.

But as far as these folks are concerned, they simply aren't being given the opportunities to challenge their leadership abilities. Why is that, especially when most museums are understaffed (and becomi…

Read This Before Your Next Meeting

ONE OF THE CONTRIBUTING FACTORS TO MY decision to leave full-time nonprofit organizational life was the amount of time I spent in meetings. Board meetings, staff meetings, committee meetings, community meetings....you name it (and you know it, I'm sure). A day at the office wasn't complete without one....or two....or....

Given the fact that nonprofits are all about people means that there's a ton of communication that must take place in order to nurture and maintain them, and service the constituents who need them. In the communication quiver is one arrow that gets readily used: the meeting.
Trying to contain meeting virus is a serious management tool.With so much written about it, it’s a wonder that many organizations still haven’t been able to master it very well or at all.Here’s one more bit of advice – by Harvard Business blogger Gina Trapini, Extreme Ways to Shorten and Reduce Meetings.Among her suggestions: Start and end on time.Basic stuff, but it’s amazing how man…

Throw in an Egg Salad Sandwich While You're At It

THIS QUOTE FROM MAUREEN DOWD'S NY TIMES COLUMN (August 2, 2009) is a sentiment I’ve seen before regarding the interview process:Carol Smith of Elle says she doesn’t hire anyone without taking them out to a meal first because it’s “like a little microcosm of life. How they order, what they order. How are they going to give instructions to a waiter? Are they sending back the meal eight times?Employers are encouraged to go the extra step when hiring their top people.What’s the equivalent for “hiring” nonprofit board members?As I’ve written in previous posts here and here, the recruitment process of new board members deserves a nonprofit’s utmost attention starting from the first hello.Being a board member is serious business and these days a helluva lot is riding on the ability to provide logic and clarity to decision-making in what’s more like a pinball game than a measured exercise of the public trust. I’m thinking that the board recruitment process ought to include a meal.There’s …

Know Thy Audience

Take a look at this interactive graph of how people spend their time over the course of a day (NY Times, July 31, 2009).You can sort the data by age group, gender, race, education, employment and family size.This annual survey helps economists figure out the value of time of the unemployed.What intrigues me, though, is when, over the course of a day, people say they engage in certain activities.Of particular interest for cultural nonprofits are the socializing, volunteering, other leisure, computing and phone call activities. The first thing I thought about was whether access to cultural organizations aligns with the availability of survey respondents.Could your organization conduct a similar study in your community, or at the least among your current stakeholders to get a better handle on this alignment?Would this exercise result in your organization doing a better job of offering programming and information when people say they might be most able or receptive to participation? How …