Listening is critical to creating dialogue
By Neil Kuvin
What’s so important about gaining more perceptive listening skills? When you listen attentively for real content of the discussion and then focus your specific follow-up questions to concentrate on the things that really, really matter, you find yourself in a respectful, intelligent and especially responsive conversation.
Unfortunately, each side in the discussion often is so anxious to get their perspective heard, they both don’t wait before they interrupt or their point is muddy because they may have gone down a side, dirt road. No matter what, if you really want a conversation (which usually means everyone is heard and allowed to speak) begin your comments by crediting the others with “sensitive, thoughtful, critical points. However, I have a slightly different perspective.” It’s critical at this point to assure him/her that you understand their opinion. Assure the other person that they were understood. Probe. Ask for further confirmation of facts.
Remember, rarely does any one of us have the best, right answer. Be prepared to be convinced that other positions have benefits and rewards too. That’s where your patience, listening skills, and understanding come in. I think that’s called an “open mind.” The advantages are in “them” knowing that you heard it correctly — that you are listening to them. First, you will please the others in this conversation that you appear to truly sense and get the picture they maybe couldn’t get others to understand, or at the very least, acknowledge; Second, there is a motivation for them to listen a little more closely to your ideas and perhaps accept some of them on the way to finding a solution to the “problem” that satisfies many in the discussion.
Wow. Imagine that. Actually crossing the aisle and without “politics,” finding satisfactory solutions.
Ivan Seidenberg was the former and original chair and CEO of Verizon Communications Inc. He also headed several communications’ companies during his career. At one of those companies, he knew expenses needed to be slashed to survive. Well surprise! He ran into stubborn opposition from defiant division heads relentless in their objections to his ideas. Seidenberg, while listening to and acknowledging the differing perspectives, knew that the cuts couldn’t be accomplished without cooperation and some measure of acceptance. Bottom line is he succeeded in getting the opposing sides to accept some compromising on certain issues like hours, overtime, vacations and sick leave, while still reducing work force by a substantial number that got him a lot closer to proposed budget cuts. Genius? Not really. Just patient, intelligent, respectful dialogue, with everybody having their listening ears on.
It appears to me that there are four basic elements required for true, honest conversation to take place. Courage, respect and most importantly, recognition (not necessarily acceptance) of another point of view. And lastly, patience to steer the conversation to a destination that satisfies (almost) everyone in the conversation.
Management Should Never Ignore Crisis Planning
By Tiffany Engleman
There are five major components that should always be included when creating an effective Crisis Management Plan for any organization.
The first key component is the Crisis Management Team Contact Sheet. This particular section of the CMP provides the names and contact information of all members of the crisis team, their areas of expertise, and/or any outside professionals that may be necessary. It also includes any outside agents that may need to be contacted, such as emergency personnel and insurance agents.
A First-Action Page is a crucial component of an effective CMP. A First-Action Page lists in detail the top management and how these individuals can be immediately contacted. It also illustrates how and when a CMP should be implemented.
A Crisis Control Center Description is the third key component of an operative Crisis Management Plan. When the CMP is activated, team members need to be aware of a place where they can assemble. With Crisis Control Centers established, team members will then know to go directly to the Crisis Control Center when they are contacted which gives an organization the opportunity to get through a crisis situation efficiently.
Once you have a Crisis Management Team Contact Sheet, a First-Action Page, and a Crisis Control Center established, one can now focus on the fourth key component:
Crisis Risk Assessment. The Risk Assessment Section anticipates what crises an organization potentially may face. The Risk Assessment Section identifies potential crises and evaluates the risk of each crisis in terms of impact and then the probability on an organization. The impact of damage should first and foremost include the human impact, then the financial, structural, environmental and reputational. It is important to be prepared for every possible crisis scenario, especially the human impact.
The final key component of an effective Crisis Management Plan is constructing a Business Continuity Plan. How will an organization recover from a crisis? How quickly will an organization return to normalcy? What steps can be taken to ensure that business continues? These are all questions that a Business Continuity Plan will answer and subsequently make the road to recovery that much easier for an organization.
There are many more elements to consider when creating an effective Crisis Management Plan; however these five key components will result in a very promising start. By creating and utilizing a Crisis Management Team Contact Sheet, a First-Action Page, Crisis Control Centers, Crisis Risk Assessment Section, and a Business Continuity Plan a business owner will have solidly laid the foundation for a successful and effective Crisis Management Plan.
Proven pipeline for quality non profit board members and future donors!
By Joseph John
In one of my previous articles, I asked the following questions: What is your non profit organization’s game plan for recruiting and retaining new board members? Who in the community are you approaching to fill the pipeline for a steady stream of quality board members — and future donors?
Where are the X and Y generations? How can organizations expect to keep boards dynamic and growing if they don’t “seed” the boards with the future leaders — and those future leaders, and in many cases, current leaders in the community, are X and Y gens.
Well, I believe I can provide one method for “filling the pipeline” — and it will pay dividends.
I have always been impressed with several Non Profit Loaned Executive Programs. Unfortunately, many non profit organizations do not have the same local, national, and economic exposure (and clout) that some of the larger organizations possess that employ the Loaned Executive program. However, and let me add another “HOWEVER”, I recently introduced a modified loaned executive concept to a local non profit board. Modifying a template from several non profit agencies in the area, the program was restructured and then positioned in the following manner:
[Please note: I have eliminated the name of the organization and use “organization” generically]
The approach to a local corporation in your community begins with a teaser statement:
Does your company pride itself on being a part of the community? Are your employees not only engaged in their work but also in their passions? Do you see the benefit in broadening their skills through hands on experience with local nonprofit organizations?
We then continue with an explanation of the program:
The purpose of the [Organization Name] Loaned Executive initiative is to tap the expertise of an individual, usually a middle management employee, for a set period of time each week. This person will be asked to assist us in expanding our organization, communicating our vision and mission, as well as providing leadership skills to our board of directors. We are looking for fresh ideas, creativity, and the willingness to network throughout the local and international communities.
And, of course, being the sales people we need to be in ANY non profit organization, we continue with the BENEFITS:
We believe that this position creates a winning situation for everyone: your loaned executive works hand-in-hand with a nonprofit board of directors to hone his/her skills in communication, negotiation and networking with both local and international groups.
In turn, your company is not only directly engaged in the community and enhancing its corporate image, but it offers a unique opportunity to its employees, allowing them to develop skills which can be used in the workplace and to contribute to an organization that provides an array of benefits within our society. And, service work of this nature will be a positive for the employee’s resume.
And then we talk about the joint venture between the organization and the company:
This is not a full-time position and does not require the employee’s relocation or moving from his/her job. It does require a small time commitment from both the candidate and the company to be “loaned” to our organization for Board Meetings, special events, fund raising campaigns, presentations, and leadership programs.
This is a high visibility position in the community. Loaned Executives are non-voting board members and will assist the organization in planning and implementing fundraising strategies that aid in furthering the mission of our organization.
Being a Loaned Executive is an excellent opportunity to develop as a leader, network professionally, build relationships with local companies and organizations — locally and world-wide.
And finally, some of the job requirements (not all inclusive) with a call-to-action to submit an application:
- Motivated, self-starter, enthusiastic, and creative
- Possessing a true team player attitude
- Excellent communicator with good presentation skills
- Computer skills including most common social media programs
- Adept at fundraising (or the willingness to learn)
- A persuasive and honest presentation-style for small and large group presentations
The preceding job requirement list is, of course, adaptable to meet the specific needs of a non profit organization.
Finally, don’t forget the all-important final piece of initiating a program of this nature — an additional source of funding from a local company:
A donation from your organization and/or membership fee is required to help continue this valuable program that will benefit you and your selected employees
The minimal cost to the company is typically just the corporate membership/sponsorship fee for the organization — many organizations have levels such as a “silver,” “gold,” or “platinum” corporate level. I am sure this program, modified for other non profits, can be a “win-win-win-win” for all parties concerned:
- A “win” for the company that supports the program and encourages its employees to “give back” to the community — thus becoming good corporate citizens.
- A “win” for the employee, who gains valuable experience (and lends valuable experience) to the non profit sector.
- A “win” for the organization that is the recipient of new talent and new ideas. A “win” by always having an ongoing source of positive energy to keep the organization forward-thinking.
And the final “win”
- A “win” for the community(ies) the organization serves, because it is receiving support that goes beyond the servicing organization.
Employ a modified “loaned executive” program for your non profit organization and you will see new vitality and growth in your organization, an increased pipeline of membership, and of course, future donors.
For non profits, the answer is “Yes”
By Joseph John
You know that many of my articles focus on marketing and/or communications for non profits. Board members have a responsibility to “tell the story” about their organization and learn how to market or “package” their organization and the benefits it provides to the publics it serves and the publics it hasn’t yet “discovered.”
I really don’t see how the two processes — Marketing and Communications — can be separated for non profits. Especially in light of the fact that many non profit boards are small in number, i.e., bodies, and are limited in their organizational outreach programs. It just makes sense to combine the two — and it’s patently more efficient.
Marketing and Communications need to go hand-in-hand. As a matter of fact, I believe one of the standing committees for any non profit organization should be a “Marketing and Communications” committee. This committee’s charter is to — are you ready? — Market the organization’s programs and long term goals while Communicating the Vision, Mission, and Values. Marketing and Communications in the non profit arena are one-in-the-same.
When you’re effectively marketing, you’re effectively communicating. Of course, the inverse of that statement is true as your board members embark on fund raising campaigns, volunteer for special events, and speak at other public gatherings.
If you look at the word “Communication,” it contains all the letters of how action-oriented (and focused) your organization, and most specifically, your committee needs to be to tell the story to the community:
Commitment, Objectives, Marketing, Motivation, Utilization, Needs, Ideas, Controls, Access, Talent, Initiative, Opportunities, Negativity.
Let me work backwards on the acronym and highlight just some of the important elements of what you need to do in communicating the non profit organization’s mission:
Eliminate the NEGATIVITY and start looking for the many OPPORTUNITIES that are at your disposal. Don’t stifle the personal INITIATIVE and the TALENT that exists on your board and, most importantly, your committee. OH, by the way — remember that “members” of your organization, not necessarily board members, can sit on that committee. Fresh ideas from others associated with your organization, but not necessarily on the board will help with brainstorming, generating great ideas, packaging them and introducing those ideas in the community.
Make sure the committee has ACCESS to everything it needs, and the CONTROLS it needs to measure its objectives in order to carry out its mission. Encourage the generation of IDEAS while making sure that the NEEDS of the organization are met. UTILIZE every resource imaginable to tell the story, while you’re MOTIVATING internal and external publics. Always think of MARKETING your organization and all the great things it does for the community — look for that “competitive edge” that differentiates your organization from others.
Finally, make sure you have built measurable OBJECTIVES (benchmarks) so you can check the score, and most importantly, get the COMMITMENT from everyone in the organization that Marketing and Communications are one-in-the-same and are critical for success and long term growth.
So, is it Marketing or Communications? For non profits, the answer is “yes.”
Forget Resolutions — PLAN and Implement
By Joseph John
Scott Cutlip and Allen Center, co-authors of Effective Public Relations, presented a planning model in their book, which is most applicable for anyone, including Non profit Boards:
Planning requires: 1) a searching look backward; 2) a deep look inside; 3) a wide look around; and 4) a long, long look ahead.
You may remember an article I recently wrote regarding “Organizational Milestones.” In that article, I stated that a Historical Timeline creates a better grasp for seeing trends over the almost twelve years since the millennium to determine what the next one, three, or five years might look like. It’s a great planning tool. And yes, I’ve already tested this concept with a number of non profit associations that I deal with — and they collectively say “OMG…that would be fantastic for all of us to review”.
Well, that historical timeline is the foundation of the “searching look backward” and the “deep look inside,” and the “wide look around.” Just what will your organization do NEXT year and the years following that are different, far more reaching, and more challenging than what your organization has ever done before? Or is it easier to say “we’ve never done it that way before,” or “it’s not in the budget.” Or worse yet, “we’re happy with the success we’ve had over the past “X” years, so why change?”
You can’t plan unless you have credible data — and that’s what your historical timeline provides. That informational flow helps you determine if your non profit organization is mobile enough and motivated enough to go where your organization has never gone before? (Sounds like something out of Star Trek, doesn’t it?)
Are you pleased with the trends you’ve seen over the past twelve years? Are there spikes, highs-and-lows, along that line, or is it simply a flat line picture of essentially no growth in the organization.
Let me ask you: Does your non profit organization have the organizational “guts,” that is, the commitment, to set the bar higher, and to venture into new markets that you haven’t approached before? Is your organizational “vision” aggressive enough to make reaching for new goals a real challenge?
January 1 is the start of the New Year — and it’s called the New Year because it provides your organization a chance to get a fresh start on moving towards and accomplishing new objectives. Or, will you repeat history, based on your timeline, and fail to take those extra steps to be better than your best? Remember that you’re responsible for planning and implementing OBJECTIVES — forget the term “New Year’s RESOLUTIONS” — that’s the stuff of New Year’s parties.
Just how different will your Annual Campaign and Friend Raising be this coming year? What are the stretch goals?
How many board members will you be adding (or subtracting)? And what will their responsibilities be? What new accountability measures will you place on each and every board member?
How many community events will your non profit board members attend to “tell the story” to seek support for your organization? And how will your communications, both internally and externally, be shaped that will breathe new life into the organization?
Is there a new look, a new fresh coat of paint, that is necessary to re-define your organization? Have you dusted off the bylaws, the mission, vision, and values?
That deep look inside your organization should create a very pointed question: What will be that ONE Something, or several Some Things, that will benefit all the beneficiaries of your organization’s mission and the communities you serve?
Now take a long, long look 365 days from today — what will your Historical Timeline look like? Will it just be a flat line chart that reflects little or no significant change from the prior twelve years? Or will you be pleased at how much the non profit organization has grown over those 365 days?
Resolve to forget resolutions — PLAN and Implement.
Jim Kukral provides some insights on “non success.”
I no sooner sat down to write an article on nonprofit boards when a friend of mine sent me an article he had just read, written by Jim Kukral*. A quick read convinced me that I needed put my initial draft down and create a new one addressing some of the very salient points he raised in his direct and “tough love” article.
Kukral opened his article with the following statement: “Feeling down about your small business these days? Is the broken economy hurting your sales and keeping you up at night? Need some motivation and tough love to help you stop pitying yourself? Well, here you go: 13 reasons you might have in your head about why you’re not as successful as you should be.”
Well, I realized that even though Jim Kukral is addressing the problems that could be plaguing the small business owner, those same reasons apply to anyone, in any business, and, yes, to board members in the nonprofit sector.
He writes just one small paragraph for each of the 13 reasons — it’s almost like a punch to the gut, or a whack on the side of the head. The 13 Reasons: Laziness, Entitlement, Fear, Negativity, Stop Thinking, No Goals, “They,” No “X” Factor, Time Waste, Social B.S., Think Small, Don’t Want It, Don’t Believe.
I will share six of the 13 Reasons that Kukral writes about that I pulled from his article — these six reasons should really send a message to nonprofit Board Members. It’s interesting that many of those points are the same points I have been addressing in many of my articles. Do you think I’ll say “I TOLD YOU SO” at the end of my article?
Negativity: You may not realize it, but the people you associate with might be negative…They could be soul-sucking beings who don’t want anyone to be successful. Get rid of them, now! Surround yourself with successful people. People you want to be like.
Stop Thinking: How much do you want to bet you have paralysis by analysis? You think way too much about what you could or should do. Doers get what they want, and everyone else gets what they get. Stop analyzing and start doing.
No Goals: You plan nothing. You believe that someway, somehow, everything you always wanted will just magically happen. So you “play it by ear” and wait. You need goals to shoot for. Otherwise, you’re just treading water.?
They: There’s no “they”. There’s no secret group of people that controls your success or failure. You’ve made that up to make you feel better about yourself. The truth is you, and you alone, control your success in life/business/everything. It’s easy to blame “them” though, isn’t it? Weak.
Time Waste: You’re a classic time-waster. You spend hours and hours every day working on not-working. You do things that aren’t productive. How are you ever going to get anything done, or reach any goal if you keep wasting time? You’re not. So you might as well give up now if you’re going to keep this path.
Think Small: You think way too small. You are constantly looking only a day or a week ahead instead of years ahead. Because of this, you never get anywhere, and you never lead; you always follow.
Many of the points that Kukral addresses regarding small business owners apply to those in all walks of life. Oh, and here’s the big “OUCH”: Those negative characteristics carry over, naturally, to the nonprofit sector. Yes, if a person exhibits those reasons outside the nonprofit sector, what makes one think they won’t be carried over to their board of director responsibilities? And do you know what that snowball effect will cause? Well, read my article on “Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.” SEE! I told you so!
By Joseph John
*Check out Kukral’s publications at JimKukralBooks.com
Moving your Organization from “WHY” to “WHY NOT?”
By Joseph John
Hopefully, you’ve read my article about the “WHY?” exercise for non profit boards. It’s an important and very healthy question to ask on a periodic basis. The “WHY?” is the backbone of your board’s annual physical. Everything may appear to be fine and running smoothly, but like any good annual physical exam, it will reveal some things going on with the non profit organization that need to be addressed before a serious illness takes place.
Stagnation is something every organization should fear. The same old, same old practices of non profit board members must be challenged to provide responses other than “because.” And with that being said, why not look at the Best Practices of other 501 (c) (3) organizations. Yes, Best Practices. It’s a common exercise in the for-profit world to look outside the organization and see what is working for the competition. Well, let’s not use the word “competition,” but nonprofits should be looking outside at other organizations for periodic reviews.
Think about it. There are literally tens of thousands of non profit organizations in the U.S. Do you know how many are located in your town? Well, why not challenge your organization to step outside and see what some of the others in your town are doing. Envision 15 board members on your board. Those 15 people either sit on other boards or know people who are board members. They can provide the necessary information for your Best Practices Exercise.
Now, roll up your sleeves. You should be able to obtain, essentially, a minimum of 15 sets of the following items for your analysis: vision, mission, values, bylaws, training guides, communications processes (internal and external), FAQ’s, code of conduct, operations manual, fund raising procedures, membership recruiting, and the list goes on.
The next step is to establish several ad hoc committees to review the documents that have been collected. Remember that this does not have to be a laborious process as you examine and prepare to report back. You are looking for: 1) new ideas, 2) a better process or procedure, 3) “ah hah” ideas that aren’t in your current processes and procedures, 4) creative ideas for marketing and communications, 5) short and long term projects for consideration, and lots more.
The final step is the “tell back.” A special board meeting or board retreat must be scheduled specifically for the Best Practices review — don’t shortchange the process!
The committees will report to the board the discoveries that were made and what may possibly work in the non profit organization because it appears to work in another. Remember that the organizations don’t have to be related at all. That’s the beauty of Best Practices. As a matter of fact, the more diverse the organization from yours, the more “ah hahs” you will uncover for possible implementation in your organization.
This exercise will always generate a very spirited “WHY? Well, WHY NOT!” Now, don’t forget that all the great ideas need to be prioritized for possible implementation. The proverbial “don’t bite off more than you can chew” applies with the Best Practices exercise. Some ideas can be implemented immediately, but there will be many practices that will require timelines to ensure success and seamless implementation.
By implementing a Best Practices exercise, your board can avoid potential stagnation and create a group of non profit board members whose mantra will be WHY? Well, WHY NOT!