by Anne Yurasek on November 30, 2009
It is absolutely our pleasure to be hosting this month's Nonprofit Blog Carnival. As much of our work revolves around collaborative efforts between and among nonprofits and their stakeholders, the theme is collaboration. Thank you to everyone who submitted posts - we've got a great round up of perspectives.
Thanks to everyone who submitted this month! Next month, the carnival will be hosted by Future Fundraising Now.
by Anne Yurasek on November 29, 2009
Over the course of working on collaborative models for fifteen years, we have noticed that organizational leaders who seek collaboration fall into three distinct types. We call them (1) Peer; (2) Expert; and (3) Servant leader. Some organizational leaders hold true to type in every collaboration in which they participate; others are more strategic in choosing a psychological stance toward a particular opportunity. Just as there is no "wrong" personality type, there is no "wrong" negotiating style. Let's look at each type:
- Peer: these collaborative participants put a lot of faith in process. They believe that, if the right process steps are followed, and if their collaborative partners engage in the process with integrity, both a strong relationship and a solid, positive outcome will emerge. They are likely to insist on jointly developed ground rules for who will lead meetings, how decisions will be made, how problems will be addressed, how grievances will be handled, etc. They feel that clear guidelines and procedures help to avoid inefficient process---and having these discussions early helps potential partners learn about one another's working styles and priorities.
- Expert: these collaborative participants have a very clear idea of what they are trying to accomplish by participating in the collaboration. They do not always share what their true goals are, feeling that they can teach their partners over time and use their superior knowledge to influence how the relationship evolves. They are slower to commit to written agreements and insist on strongly influencing the content of any agreements that do emerge. They tend to object to any constraining structures, such as ground rules or strict procedural rules, preferring to use their significant knowledge and ability to hold sway or lead the discussions.
- Servant Leader: these collaborative participants take a facilitative and supportive approach to relationship building. While they have goals, they see themselves as achieving those goals through influential relationships with other organizations that have been gained through support of those other organizations. They view organizational relationships as organic and evolving and define their role in reaction to what the other organizations involved do, say or want. Pursuing their mission occurs as opportunities arise within these relationships.
We find it helpful to encourage our clients to think through what their strategy is in each collaborative effort. Much like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator can help a team of individuals understand one another's work styles, a discussion of basic approach to the collaborative process can help leaders become more aware of their own conscious or unconscious choices about their own underlying assumptions.
So what type of collaborative partner are you? Peer? Expert? Servant Leader? Have you seen these types in action? What have you observed?
How We Can Help: FIO Partners' model for assisting organizations to develop healthy cultural norms is called a synergogical model. It is, in and of itself, a learning tool and is used to help a group structure discussions around important topics and come to consensus on what the "best" answer is. There is no right answer…only the one that the group believes will best serve its purposes. If you would like to know more about organizational norms, see our free article (with email registration) on this topic. If you sign up for our blog via email or our quarterly newsletter before December 31st or are already on our blog or newsletter list, just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know if you would like a to receive our norms tool for free (typically a $75 value) and we will send it along. Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks
by Anne Yurasek on November 23, 2009
I just took a few minutes to search on two terms…thankful and leadership. I wondered if anyone had ever written a piece on being thankful for the people who are willing to lead. I found a large list of pieces on why leaders should display an attitude of thankfulness, why leaders should be grateful for all that they have and should encourage others to be thankful too, but I failed to find anything that encouraged the rest of us to be thankful for our leaders.
Especially now, and especially in the nonprofit sector, as we face challenges that few among us have the skills to overcome on our own, the rest of us should be thankful for those among us who are willing lead, to be CEO's or Executive Directors. These are always tough jobs, but never more so than now. What we see in our practice are leaders who are losing sleep, who are stressed, who struggle with knowing how to take the right action at the right time. As they struggle to make the right choices, we see leaders who are willing to take risks, to develop new strategies and new strategic alliances. We see leaders who are willing to take their organizations in both their hands and move them, to reposition, to realign, to re-engineer, and, when necessary, to start over and re-invent. The ED's and CEO's of community organizations enable their employees to focus on mission, to do the work that makes the difference for others. Being a good one requires a good brain, a lot of hard work, a willingness to take risks and, even more important, to take responsibility for tough choices in these tough times.
So, since we are lucky enough to know so many CEO's and Executive Directors, we are taking the time this Thanksgiving to say thank you…for your vision, for your courage, and, most of all, for your willingness to lead. We are grateful for knowing you and for the opportunity to support you. You must realize that your communities would be much less healthy without you.
If this is reaching you, and you are not a CEO or an Executive Director, but you know one, take a moment and say "Thanks for all that you do."
Happy Thanksgiving from FIO Partners!
Photo Credit: The Gifted Photographer Read More
by Anne Yurasek on November 18, 2009
A quick note to let you know that our quarterly newsletter is now available. The Fall 2009 edition, "Managing in Difficult Times", aims to share with you recent blog posts
that you may find helpful, upcoming events and training opportunities,
and project examples. If you are interested in receiving future editions via email, sign up on our website.
Let us know what you think! We are always working to ensure that our publications - either here on the blog or via the newsletter are meeting your needs. What would you like to hear more about? Comment below! Read More
by Anne Yurasek on November 12, 2009
We are excited to be hosting the Nonprofit Blog Carnival once again on November 30th. Last month's round up was hosted by Joanna Fritz at the Nonprofit Pages of About.com and focused on fundraising tips with many interesting posts from around the nonprofit blogosphere.
For this month, the theme is "collaboration". We are interested in
posts about collaboration between nonprofits (formal and informal),
between nonprofits and other partners (typical or unusual), or posts
about web-based tools that can support these collaborative efforts -
tips, suggestions, and best practices. Or feel free to take our theme
in a direction of your choosing! We look forward to reading your
Please send the permalink for your post by Wednesday, November 25th to email@example.com or via the Blog Carnival form. Read More
by Anne Yurasek on November 09, 2009
There has probably been no previous time in history that nonprofit organizations are so in need of organizational climates that promote both critical and creative thinking. As the sector retrenches, and CEO's make tough decisions about who stays and who goes, it is easy to shift a culture, inadvertently, from one of accomplishment to a kind of paralyzed bunker mentality. At the very moment when every CEO needs each remaining employee to use every ounce of brains, intuition and creativity they possess, fear and insecurity about what the future holds can drive employees into a "head down, keep quiet, and keep out of sight" model of behavior.
So, what can a CEO do to maintain a powerful culture of inquiry despite the contraction of resources? One of the approaches I like best comes from Tony DiBella's How Organizations Learn. Written for for profit businesses, I have taken his list of what he calls "facilitating factors," and done some translation for nonprofits and this particular time in the sector's history.
This is a time of exponential change so the importance of scanning the environment for changes in fields of services remains. There are several areas of nonprofit practice that are undergoing re-engineering, particularly those that are funded by state government or federal Medicaid dollars. As well, change is coming from the shifts in consumer demand that are influenced by the economic upheaval and by other organizations choosing to close programs. Watching what competitors and collaborators are doing has never been more important. CEO's must help their managers and staff understand the value and importance of observing these changes and bringing those observations into discussions of strategy. Asking staff to pay attention, to be your "eyes and ears," and to bring that information to the fore, is critical.
CEO's must keep performance improvement on the agenda, despite cutbacks and increased stress. Monitoring for performance gaps should continue at every level of the organization. It is helpful to create a hierarchy of accountability to ensure the key success factors are watched at appropriate levels of the organization. That means that the CEO must encourage and guide the process of defining what "performance" is and insist that measurement both takes place and makes sense.
Due to cutbacks, you may have people functioning in new or expanded roles. It is the CEO's responsibility to create a climate in which people can identify mistakes they have made and learn from them. Survival in this environment will require experimentation and it is highly likely that your people will not "get it right" the first time, or perhaps, even the second or third time. The CEO has to make this experimentation acceptable. There is risk in this new world and risk aversive organizations will not survive.
This is not the time to wipe out your training budget. In fact, this is the time to intensify learning opportunities. No money to do that? Training is a great collaborative opportunity. You run a training program and invite staff from other organizations to join yours…the conversation will be richer for it. When they reciprocate, your people will benefit. Have everyone in your organization read the same book and get them together with you to talk about what they think they learned. Above all, show up at training and stay. Be part of the dialogue and be a role model for learning. CEO's should be able to track how new knowledge comes into the organization, how it is disseminated, and, most important, the degree to which it gets used. In considering how to use training resources, make sure the knowledge that the employee will obtain is relevant and immediately useful to their work. Expect results from training and ask middle managers to determine whether there has been any application of new knowledge.
It is the CEO's role to insist on documentation of information related to performance. This is not about compliance data that your organization sends off to funders.This is about management information that actually gets used to change how practice occurs. There is no more powerful tool than setting specific targets for performance and that carries over to performance improvement. Despite cutbacks, it remains a critical leadership function to set specific objectives that require the organization to improve its performance in key areas. Don't feel so sorry for the pressure and stress you have had to create for your staff due to cutbacks that you forget to lead in this critical area. Read More