Archive for February, 2012

Non Profit Management by Walking Around

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Member Observation By Walking Around

If you use the techniques in MBWA, you will have a better understanding of your organization

Management By Walking (or Wandering) Around is a tried-and-true method of finding out what REALLY is going on in your organization. Tom Peters and Robert Waterman popularized this method of management back in the 80’s because they saw a very worrisome trend arising — managers distancing themselves from their subordinates.

Are you a non profit board member who attends the monthly meetings, by making a beeline for the boardroom, voting on issues, and then making a hasty retreat to the parking lot? Do you even stop to say “hello” to the folks in that building day-in-and-day out? Have you ever brought a box of donuts for those folks and put it in their breakroom with a note that simply says “THANKS”?

When is the last time you, as a non profit board member, walked around and observed what’s going on outside the boardroom?

Well, most of the basics of MBWA can be applied to non profit board members — however, we won’t call it “management,” we’ll call it “observation.” Thus it becomes Board Member Observation by Walking Around (BMOBWA).

Most non profit organizations are “people organizations,” aren’t they? Well, if that premise is true, then one of your responsibilities as a board member is to LISTEN and TALK to people. LISTEN, OBSERVE, and TALK to those folks who work for the organization as well as those who benefit directly from your organization. That means there’s only one way of effectively doing this and that’s by getting OUT of the boardroom and walking around — observing.

I can’t think of a better way of walking your talk than by exercising BMOBWA! What a fantastic opportunity for you to better understand the vision, mission and values of the non profit organization than

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by walking around and observing — observing those who are involved in your organization on a daily basis. The observation can also help you reflect on your Belief and Lift statements — perhaps even to re-shape them after your observations.

Here are some things to consider as you embark on your “walk-around” — walking around YOUR organization.

  1. Make it a regular habit, not just once a year
  2. Learn peoples’ names
  3. Drop all formalities and stuffiness.
  4. Listen and Observe
  5. Relax, watch, listen, and talk about the organization
  6. Relax, watch, listen, and talk about family, sports, hobbies, and everything that makes all of us tick
  7. Share great news
  8. Listen and Observe
  9. Welcome new ideas
  10. Be honest when you don’t know
  11. Check out the REAL geography: Lunchroom. Break room. Restrooms. Bulletin boards. Supply rooms. And OH, so much more.
  12. Listen and Observe
  13. If you’re asked to do something, follow through and don’t forget!
  14. Under promise and Over Deliver!
  15. Make “tell back” to the entire board an ongoing agenda item
  16. And…Listen and Observe Even More!

BMOBWA is an effective methodology for non profit board members to become advocates, while sharpening board member people skills for being friendly and people-oriented, empathetic, flexible, focused, and knowledgeable.

By Joseph John

The Non Profit Membership Committee

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Being proactive in communicating performance requirements and expectations is as important for a non profit as for any other organization.

non profit boardAs soon as I had completed my article about Analyzing Performance Problems or ‘You Really Oughta Wanna,’ I was called by a close friend of mine. The purpose of the phone call was to challenge me to see how some performance problems can be headed off at the pass.

Headed off at the pass? Yes, indeed. Performance and expectations need to be laid out at the “front door.” And that front door is the membership committee, a group that is entrusted to seeking the right individuals, with the right chemistry, and the right talents to be added to the non profit organization’s board of directors. Instead of saying, “You really oughta’ wanna’” after you add people to the board, you should really be saying at the outset, “You Really Need to Wanna’ and Musta’”.

If you recall, I have referred to non profit board assessments in prior articles — not a dirty word! So, why not make the non profit board assessment profile part of your interview process? It really is in the organization’s best interests to let potential recruits for your board know UP FRONT what the expectations and performance criteria will be as a working board member. A working board member! Everything, from being accountable to visionary, are the very qualities your organization is looking for, and the same qualities that will be used as an assessment when that very important period occurs.

The rush to add deep pockets and super-credentialed individuals for your board may not always be in your best interests if you are looking for a board of doers. Your organization needs a board that will work together, become team-oriented, and become a group of doers.

I have challenged readers that assessment is simply an extension of accountability. The membership committee, in its initial discussions with a prospective board member, has to be honest during the interview/recruiting process and ask the prospective board member, “Do you possess and exhibit the following traits for this organization to achieve its mission?” And those traits would be, but not limited to: being an advocate, being friendly and people-oriented, being empathetic, flexible, and focused. In addition, possessing fundraising savvy and not being afraid to go out into the public to ask for funding for a cause you believe in. And the list continues.

Of course, the list continues, such as what about possessing integrity, being responsive, being team-focused, and willing to “roll up your sleeves and get to work — not being afraid to get those hands dirty!” And again the list goes on.

But STOP. Let’s ask the most important questions: “Why do you believe in this organization?” Are you willing to work alongside all folks who believe in this organization but may not be in the same “circles” as you? Can you work alongside these folks who want to devote their time, their talents to this organization? Can you leave your ego at the front door?

Now, of course, you may not be asking the “leave your ego at the front door…” question in so many words, but you get the point. What DOES your non profit organization need? Prestige? Or people who are willing to give their time, their valuable time, to support a group they believe in.

These are hard but necessary questions to make sure you ultimately have a non profit organization that works together as one minus the egos and willing to go through assessments for personal development to make your organization a better one.

Wow. Is that what a non profit organization membership committee is supposed to do? You bet!

By Joseph John

Accomplishing Open Communication

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Communication: arguments, disagreements, unsettling discussions.

Open communicationWe’ve all had more than our share of these difficult and sometimes embarrassing, uncomfortable moments.  It’s the last thing we want to happen when having dinner with a close friend whose politics you’re aware of, but an open communication with her on a political topic?  No way.  But suddenly she brings a name into the pleasant evening conversation and you say something outside her expectation and her idea of your boundary.  And it begins.  And it’s now not fun anymore.

What are some ways to achieve “open communication?”  Stop and recognize how you can contribute in a major way if you just take off the glove and be the assertive one in solving the problem, not continuing to find ways to aggravate your lunch-mate once you realize her pain and vulnerability on the topic now heated up to near boiling.

First and foremost, acknowledge the other person’s perspective.  Comments from you, including, “I do see your point and your position.  However, please hear mine…” can only create a more positive environment to have what’s possibly going to be a likely distasteful conversation.  Unless you put your “let’s keep this a reasonably pleasant conversation” attitude to work.

Indicate willingness to resolve the disagreement.  Recognizing that this is going to be a long, drawn-out and awkward discussion, that could even have an effect on your friendship or relationship, see if you can reach a middle ground, or at least end the discussion with an “agree to disagree” position.  That may not satisfy either of you, but at least it will keep the relationship status quo.  And the topic that sparked the tension that becomes a topic maybe the two of you avoid in the future.

Thinking of that last piece of advice, stay in the present.  Too many “what ifs,” and you’re spending far too much time on individual opinion and personal perspective.  By keeping the communication in the present, you avoid creating heroes and straw dogs.  The issues of today require attention and communication.  Therefore, the resolution ideas from both of you will take your attention off of winning the argument and put it more focused on solutions.

Do not interruptBe respectful.  Respect begins with simply shutting up and actually listening to your lunch partner.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised when you begin talking and she politely folds her hands on the table and pays attention to what you’re saying, not waiting for a brief pause to pounce on your opinion.

Use “active” listening skills.  Nod your head to show understanding of her opinion, not necessarily agreement.  A little turn-down of your lower lip along with a slight head nod should do it.  Shoulder shrugs also say, “could be” or “you may have a point there.”  Disagreeing doesn’t require throwing your hands up and laughing.  It can be a lowering of the chin and a one-time “no’ head shake. Recognize that your reaction will fuel the argument or cool the fire so that real discussion takes place; not driven by “gotchas.”

Look for common interests.  Your assertive effort to try to reach common ground is the best way to get to either the “we agree to disagree” moment, or maybe what you’re really should be working toward, the “it appears we have some common opinions” conclusion.  When and if you reach that moment, end the discussion quickly and pleasantly.  Agree to maybe try communication to reach more common ground next time.  That way there will likely be a next time.  And both of you will have learned a lot more about “Open Communication” that will help you in all of your conversations.

By Neil Kuvin


Managing Differences

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

We’re going to have some arguments, disagreements, differences of opinion.

No way to avoid it. You’re you and I’m me. Neither of us truly knows exactly the right and absolutely perfect solution to all problems. We’ll have differences.

managing differencesBut when we disagree about really important and possibly relationship-changing subjects, there are some rules we can follow to assure that our discussion doesn’t get so rancorous it creates a wedge. That wedge usually starts as frustration; maybe anger. But it can quickly grow to cavernous proportions if we don’t get control of how we approach our discussion and what our expectations are from the get-go.

With the warning light on and our intelligence buzzing, let’s explore some ways we should approach the upcoming tidal wave of emotion generated by recognition of differences of opinion coming out of a casual luncheon discussion or some work-related subject that brings us onto common ground, but not common ideas. Here are some ways to manage differences.

First, Assure a Fair Process.

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Take a moment to actually talk about how you’re going to approach this disagreement. Look each other in the eye and agree that you’re going to allow him/her freedom of expression and you’re really, truly going to listen. Really, truly.

Second, Don’t React. Just listen. Ponder. Absorb. Understand. I’m not saying, “agree.” But strangely, as the discussion goes on, you might.

Third, Deal With Emotions. When you stop and contemplate why you’re beginning to stiffen and sweat a little, be fair with yourself and recognize prescribed concepts. Say to yourself, “I don’t know what’s right all the time. Maybe most of the time.”

Four, Attack the Problem. Not the Person. The difference is of ideas, not people. She/he is conveying a personal observation that disagrees with yours. Wow. The person in the other chair has some sound ideas. If the disagreement requires compromise, that’s not all bad. Can you two mix and match ideas to FIX the problem and the disagreement? Nice idea. Good to work together.

Five, Look Past Positions to Underlying Interests. This one takes a major serving of humility. But you’re better than a person who harbors stiff, unrelenting positions and your overall attitude allows for other thoughts, ideas, concepts, positions. Doesn’t it?

Six, Focus On the Future. Don’t “focus on winning.” Not on this set of circumstances. You positioning the discussion to allow you and your friend to put a massive set of personal ideas and opinions aside to find a mutual solution to your discussion will aid your ability to respect him/her first and foremost. Then, you’ll be able to solve any problem and move together to look at things more positively.

To achieve a more successful style of pointed, opinionated discussions, I suggest you practice this skill of direct communication. Ask a friend or co-worker to participate in a knowingly opinionated discussion. It could be a real opposite condition, or made-up. But practice these six points and see if you don’t find your discussion more respectful and mostly more productive. And allows you to manage natural differences.

Neil Kuvin


Analyzing Non Profit Performance Problems

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

An Old Book (1970) is NOT Outdated — Especially for Non Profit Boards

I was cleaning some of the bookshelves in my office recently — yuck, the dust — when I uncovered a book that I had used religiously over the years. It’s a book I really carried around all the time whether my involvement was in the for-profit or non profit arena. Déjà vu. I had completely forgotten about this marvelous book (Why did I forget? That’s another story.) titled Analyzing Performance Problems or ‘You Really Oughta Wanna’. MagerDr. Robert Mager and Peter Pipe, the co-authors, wrote an easy-to-understand book that provided step-by-step processes for identifying and then, hopefully, solving performance problems. Well, even though I refer to their book in the past tense, this is a book, 40+ years later, that remains current. Simplicity — this is the essence of this book. What appears to be simple is really taking the complex and reducing many of the performance problem situations into a flowchart. Yes, a flowchart that helps one isolate and quickly identify a performance problem; and then analyze step-by-step processes to rectify the problem — if it is indeed a problem. IF IT IS INDEED A PROBLEM: That is why I have always embraced this book and mentally “high fived” the authors. Many performance problems might not be a training issue. Reflect on the subtitle of the book appropriately titled “you really oughta’ wanna’.” So many times people don’t wanna’ even though they should. And why is that? Because a performance discrepancy might be caused by a number of issues that aren’t training-based. Some of those performance discrepancies could include a skill deficiency, a lack of motivation, a lack of rewards, or perhaps countless obstacles that

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will impede optimum performance. Have you noticed those performance discrepancies among your board members? Well, the flowchart helps the user follow an assessment process to analyze what Mager terms as “discrepancies” rather than “deficiencies.” Let’s quickly put the questions into a non profit board perspective: You really oughta’ wanna’friend raise, fund raise, create a belief statement, create a lift statement, develop teams, and the list goes on. So is it a training issue? Or is there more to the board members’ not wanna’ doing it! I know the book is available for sale on numerous websites, but if you would like to see the flowchart and the descriptive narrative behind this excellent document, go to Google and type in Mager Chart. What should appear as one of your choices is the following: Quick-Reference Chart for Analyzing Performance Problems If you really want to help your non profit board improve its performance, then you “really, oughta’, wanna’” read Mager & Pipe’s excellent book, Analyzing Performance Problems. By Joseph John

Hiring specialist consultants for a client

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Handling those “outside” consultants

consultantBringing on a special consultant from outside your company or group is a great idea when that expert’s knowledge is the best you can provide your client as a supplement to your overall knowledge and services. When you bring on other consultants for a project, how do you establish compensation for them and where does it appear on your invoice?

No matter what the outside expertise, ensure that the added “helping” consultants are aware that you are the lead and that they will only be needed for special pieces of the project. If you have agreed with the client on a project price, see if the added, special consultants are willing to take a flat rate and compensate them from your profit.

Usually when I need help with a project I let them know they are only needed for certain things and negotiate a price.  That price should then be added to the total project consultation price and an asterisk on the invoice could provide the “specialist’s” hours and/or added price (including your upped price for your profit picture as a “gross” item.  Something like “special research consultant,” or “videographer and editing facility”).

Bring consultants in early in the process. Do not introduce specialists to the client unless it is essential for research in a certain area, or obviously in the case of video work, they’ll ultimately meet anyway.  For instance, if you don’t have a research specialist in your company or group, it becomes nearly impossible to prepare for gathering of research data without a meeting or two with the client.

Keeping the client from meeting with the added expert is not because of hiding or trying to keep your client away from the “sub,” but from a “sub not working out” perspective. Once they’ve met the client, hard to change. Make sure you have a conversation about the scope of work, client culture, and your expectations. Then follow the conversation with an agreement that spells out work, payment and number of hours. Include deadlines in the agreement.

Most of all, as I’ve read in other BCG members’ articles, be respectful, empathetic and always attuned to what your client needs and wants — not what pleases or directs you in the completion of your contracted project.

by Neil Kuvin


Just What is the role of your non profit board?

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

346 Rules for Advisory-type Non Profit Boards

I don’t have any statistics, however, I’d be willing to bet, that more than 50% of non profit boards lean heavily towards being an advisory group rather than one that has true management responsibilities. I believe that across this country, there are countless boards that don’t have hiring/firing responsibilities, nor daily administration/clerical responsibilities, and long-term budgeting requirements. HUH? O.K., so just what do they do? Well, they’re typically involved in fundraising, going out into the community to spread the good word about the organization, and assisting in the correct course of the organization as it moves towards its vision/mission/values. But I believe another major role they play in their willingness to serve is to provide advice and counsel. The Business Dictionary states that an advisory board is one that “does not have the authority or the responsibility to take definitive actions or issue executive orders, but which may only advise or suggest what needs to be done under the circumstances”. Well, I have 346 rules for Non Profit Boards that need to be exercised when it is acting in an advisory capacity for the organization: Rule #1 through Rule #320. LISTEN. Open your mind, open your two eyes, open your two ears, and close your one mouth. Listen, process, listen, process, and listen some more. The board member’s major role is to listen and provide feedback on what he/she heard and possible avenues of approach; however, it is not an opportunity grab a soapbox to verbalize personal biases. Listen and tell back — that is the major rule for an advisory group. And YES…the first 320 Rules are all about LISTENING. You r-e-a-l-l-y didn’t want me to go 1-2-3-4-5-6-etc., did you?! Rule #321 through Rule #325. See Rule #1 and then avoid being JUDGMENTAL. Remember the word “trust”? The Board needs to be trusted by the Executive Director and the staff that runs the organization on a daily basis. They’re looking for your counsel and guidance. They need to trust that you will not have bias towards their needs — rather, you’re open to their ideas. Rule #326 through Rule #330. See Rule #1 and then COLLABORATE, COLLABORATE, COLLABORATE. It’s the old-fashioned team concept. Essentially, your board is saying: “We’re here to help. We want to help you in any way we can because we know that we, the non profit board, are here to “serve.” We believe that with the collective talents on the board, there is an incredible opportunity to get a lot accomplished because of a team spirit.” Use the collective talents to collaborate in planning for attainable and thoughtful long-range goals. Collaborate so that everyone will begin to think beyond today. Rule #331 through Rule #335. See Rule #1 and then SUPPORT. The non profit board doesn’t have all the answers. The board knows that change is inevitable at times. The board knows that life is nothing but twists and turns, and therefore, when it comes to the organization needing support, the board is there. Rule #336 through Rule #340. See Rule #1 and then DON’T MAKE PROMISES YOU CAN’T DELIVER. This is so very true especially when your non profit board operates in an advisory role. No guarantees. No false promises. The non profit board will lend an ear, it will listen, but it can only make recommendations. This is especially important in light of limited resources, both financial and human, that funding will always be an issue for non profit organizations and board members can’t afford the mistake of promising funding or any other support

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that they can’t deliver. The ONLY promise the non profit board CAN and must make is to continually live up to the Vision/Mission/Values of the organization. That promise can NEVER be broken. VMV drives the organization. Rule #341 through Rule #346. See Rule #1 and then EMPATHIZE, BRAINSTORM, and BE THERE. Be there when you’re needed and by listening, you’ll be able to empathize

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and walk around in someone else’s shoes. Be willing to brainstorm with others to keep the generation of ideas and advice flowing. The group being advised wants to make sure that the ideas-and-advice faucet never dries up. I suppose I could add another rule, Rule #347 ,for good measure: Remember always to leave your collective egos at the front door. Bear in mind that the advisory group’s advice is not always going to be taken. But that’s o.k. Just make sure the advisory group, the non profit board, has supplied more than a handful of ideas and advice that came from the team and not just one person looking for reward and recognition. And when in doubt, LISTEN to me and always go to Rule #1 through Rule #320. By Joseph John