Monday, August 31, 2009
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 once -- my predecessor had been in her position 25 years and she was well-respected in our little city. She'd raised her kids and nursed her husband through illness and into the next life while directing our local history museum, and I think she was now ready to move on for herself.
It can be a lot ot live up to, these long-tenured and much-beloved predecessors. As the new kid on the block, you're not only expected to fill their shoes, but make big strides with them. And folks will pretty much fall into two camps: those who think you won't measure up and those who are looking for change. Either way, it's considerable pressure.
I've heard it said that it's sometimes much easier to come into a mess, because you've got nowhere to go but up and anything you do will be an improvement over what was. When you come into a stable organization that still has plenty of upward trajectory left you've got to make sure that you keep it moving upward while always acknowledging who got it to where you inherited it. That can be a tough lesson for some of us to learn.
I don't suppose we'll ever know if the theater director's reason for leaving so soon after he arrived was the real deal or a polite excuse. No matter. It was an expensive decision for all parties.
Friday, August 28, 2009
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 with the organizations but in a variety of roles (as a board member, consultant, fundraiser, etc.). This decision is based both on the retiree’s passion for their profession and the newly found freedom to focus on raising funds for the long term sustainability of the organization.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
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.
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 professionals most effectively connect talent to jobs.
This is a report to share with appropriate board committees, HR departments, and department heads in your organization. Whether or not your organization is currently involved in a search, the insights and advice you'll find in "Finding Leaders for America's Nonprofits" will help you prepare for future searches as well as guide strengthening your current leadership.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
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 becoming more so)?
I think there are at least two factors at work. The first is that there is a long-standing general lack of really meaningful professional development planning in museums, large and small, that helps individuals set professional goals by working with supervisors (and others across the institution) to build capacity. The annual "evaluation" that so many of us have been involved with is more often about containment than it is about development.
The second factor is, I think, a mindset that talent development requires heaps of money and time. And when institutional leaders aren't getting the professional development they need, they're most likely not going to turn around and offer opportunities to younger or subordinate staff. But, in the context of this survey, we're not talking about sending folks off to conferences, workshops and seminars; we're talking about in-house skill-building.
So, that leaves time. And making time to develop in-house leadership opportunities for all staff who want those opportunities does require a special institutional commitment that may require a radical shift in how people work or a few relatively simple tweaks that can open doors to new learning. The cross-functional team is a perfect example. Combining staff from various parts of an institution to work together on a project is not only an opportunity to cross-pollinate ideas, it's an opportunity to cross-train. Shadowing staff is another tried and true learning experience. Attending leadership or board meetings is another. And these just scratch the surface.
Developing leadership within the institution has its best chance of success when commitment to it flows from the top, but it can certainly bubble up in any number of ways at all levels. There are thousands of people who want to be challenged in their work; let's not turn a deaf ear to them.
Monday, August 10, 2009
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 many meetings don’t start on time. And when they don't start on time, they almost always run over. Have you noticed that by the end of these late-starters there are but a handful of people? What's the point of that?
- Meet standing up – a surefire way to keep meeting time to a minimum.
- Post a countdown clock so everyone can see the time…and the time left to get through the agenda.
- Keep agendas short. Ah, yes...that means weeding out all those reports of past events and putting the most critical stuff at the beginning of the meeting.
I like the idea of posting written meeting expectations in offices and meeting spaces (as in the photo above), and including it in board member and committee chair orientation packets. I think it's a great idea to go over meeting expectations with boards, staffs and committees, too. As your groups master the expectations, you may be able to raise the bar of expectations.
For those of you who are interested in what the rules say in the photo:
Before a meeting...
1. Clarify the purpose
2. Make sure you've got the right people and everyone is prepared
3. Prepare outcomes and agenda in advance
4. For problem-solving and decision-making prepare an assessment ahead of time and present your recommendation
5. Create a "strawman" in advance to give people a place to start from
During a meeting...
1. Start with a review of the outcomes and agenda
Clarify the decision-making process upfront
2. Share responsibility for keeping the meeting focused and on track -- anyone can call a "process check"
3. Document all key decisions and agreements
Keep a running list of issues
4. Solicit comments from those who haven't spoken much
After a meeting (or at the end of the meeting)....
1. Review key decisions/agreements to make sure everyone leaves with the same understanding
2. Assign next steps with due dates
Photo: Conference room wall from ginatrapani
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
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 so much more you can discover about what a person thinks about your organization (and the nonprofit ethic in general) when the conversation can take place over a tuna melt, a bowl of pasta or a beer. It’s an opportunity to share the stories that reflect and reinforce the organization’s values. It’s an opportunity to understand if those values resonate with your candidate.
Monday, August 3, 2009
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 many of your organizations have done this type of research? Has such new-found knowledge caused your organization to rethink its access to the public? What have been the results?
Photo: Human Graphing - 20