This year our newsletters are tied to our firm values of integrity, thirst for learning, collaboration, and courage. At Olive Grove we believe courage is key for success in any leadership role – whether as an individual leader, or an organizational leader. Courage is one of those things that is hard to quantify but easy to spot. It doesn’t mean that you don’t fear; it means that you have the moral strength of will to advance along the right path in spite of your fear. As Rosalind Franklin notes in her article below, part of being truly courageous is also being vulnerable.
My personal perspective is that one of the most courageous acts is to
bring a life into the world. I am excited to share with you that Mona Jones-Romansic, our Director of Learning and People Practice, gave birth to a beautiful and healthy baby girl. Fionnuala Eainin Aille Romansic (OK you may need help here – “fin – oo – la”) was born on 8/16/13 at 12:20 p.m. The entire Olive Grove family is so excited to welcome her into our world.
For this newsletter we have two very different articles that tie into the theme of courage. You’ll learn about courageous leadership from Rosalind Franklin. Anthony Reese tells us how to be courageous as Executive Directors and Board Members by being clear and resolute in what we need from, and how best to leverage, corporate Board members.
This summer we were fortunate to have the partnership of Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business and their Bridges program. Our Bridges team conducted both qualitative and quantitative research to learn more about nonprofit consultant needs, how they change over time, and where they are investing in professional development and why. You can learn more about the study and results in my article about minding the gap.
We hope these articles inspire you to move courageously ahead, continue learning, and embrace your vision! Thank you for your contribution to a vibrant and just society.
Founder and CEO
by Rosalind Franklin
A courageous act has no age, no color and no boundaries. It can be remarkable and inspiring to witness ordinary people that achieve extraordinary results through reacting instinctively. The Merriam Webster’s definition is: “the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous.” For me, that could mean getting on a weight scale first thing in the morning, for others, like a physician, it’s making instant life-altering decisions in an emergency room. So what innate character traits make it possible for different types of people to be daring?
Recently, the world has been captivated and inspired by young Malala Yousafzai’s story. The Nobel Prize Committee nominated this 16-year-old girl, who had been shot in the head by Taliban extremists. Her courage translated into a powerful statement through a deep and passionate commitment to her belief. Malala wasn’t hindered by the unthinkable consequences of her actions. On the contrary, she was driven by her instinctive deep principle, that all women have the right to an education, even the daughters of those who threatened to kill her.
“One person with courage is a majority.” ~ Thomas Jefferson
I regularly witness less dramatic, but equally significant acts of bravery as part of my consulting and coaching practice, working with parents of young adults living in wilderness or residential treatment programs for addiction or extreme behavioral issues. In many cases, and for the first time, this situation forces both the parents and the kids to look deeper within and explore their inner “demons” in order to turn their lives around.
Parents never give up, even though it is very painful and difficult, their emotional energy is eroded, they’re desperate, exhausted and depleted by their kids. But somehow, observing their child take the necessary steps toward change, and seeing first-hand their explicit desire to improve their own lives, rewards them. Program participants are required to take full responsibility and accountability for their actions and decisions. Over the course of 12 weeks in a wilderness program, exposed to the raw elements with just a tarp and warm clothes, struggling young adults gain full and exclusive exposure to their environment, therapist and peers. There is nowhere to hide, resulting in them being forced to be authentically themselves in every way – and often for the first time – a hard mandate, even for most adults.
Depending on the situation, courage can impact the whole world or it can be internal and personal, affecting only those closest to us. The indisputable common denominator in either situation is that it is impactful, and can create powerful, positive change and personal growth.
Both of these very different displays of courage share the same ingredients – what I call the 3c’s – character, commitment and change.
Character embodies what you are capable of in times of crisis. You never need to access your deepest self when times are good, but rather when you are tested. That’s when your true nature and character is on full display.
Commitment is the outward and inward demonstration of what you believe.
Change only comes when all of these elements are brought together with the bonding agent of courage to take action.
Courage protects your principles; it doesn’t express you opinion. Courageous leadership lives in all aspects of our lives – not just in the boardroom, office, school or home. It is based on fundamental beliefs and convictions and must be carefully distinguished from the expression of a strong opinion. More importantly, everyone has an opportunity to play his or her part by establishing principles not rules. Principles apply to an array of situations while rules generally apply to just one.
“When one door closes another one opens – but those hallways can be hell!”
It can be a painful process, but often your voice is speaking for so many others that don’t possess the courage to ask the tough question, or challenge the status quo. If relayed with truth and integrity, speaking out for the greater good, not a self-serving interest, will always win over the consequences of staying silent. Courage is the core wellspring from which everything else flows.
Here are a few ways you can be courageous and bring it forth in others.
- Be authentic. Know your core values and principles. If you are true to yourself and clear about your values – when tested – it is easier to stand up for what you believe in, than sit back and allow things to happen that may result in negative outcomes.
- Be self-aware and self-improve to promote bravery – since it is only through change that we grow.
- Make yourself visible to others for who you are and what you believe. Our values and principles are reflected through our courage.
- Be vulnerable. Studies show that true leadership is steeped in vulnerability. Have courage to acknowledge that you don’t know everything and that help from others is critical for success. Remember, your beliefs don’t make you a better person or make you courageous – your action and behavior demonstrates those traits.
Winston Churchill one said “courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; it’s also what it takes to sit and listen.”
Whether it is a young girl, passionate about education for women in Pakistan, or a young adult in a wilderness program in the mountains of Utah, the courage to change their lives and future has a domino effect – impacting so many others on the way. Courage can be a momentary decision, or can be one that is strategically assessed for longer-term impact. Either way, you can make a difference, let go of the fear and don’t wait for others to do what you believe should be done.
Rosalind Franklin grew up in England and is a certified professional coach and consultant who brings 25 years of leadership development and an organizational strategy to her work both in the US and abroad. She was the co-founder of an award winning nonprofit arts organization and has worked with clients in the areas of education, government, faith and community based projects. She is known for her straightforward and intuitive approach, partnering with her clients to develop strategies that arm them with the practical tools and knowledge they need to successfully and effectively manage the challenges and opportunities in their professional and personal lives.
Leveraging Corporate Board Members
by Anthony Reese
Nonprofit work is the toughest work going. Nonprofits engage humanity’s most intractable problems with the scarcest of resources. And all too often their efforts have been hampered by misguided and inappropriate values imposed upon the nonprofit sector.
Fortunately 2013 has seen the beginning of the end of arbitrary overhead standards that have robbed nonprofits of needed infrastructure investment.
Another unfortunate and all too often self-imposed value is the drive to be “more business like”. This desire typically manifests in the recruitment of private sector board members into prominent roles such as treasurer or even board president.
Board members with private sector experience can be a boon to nonprofit organizations, adding valuable perspective, connections, ideas and energy. However, some nonprofits have reported tensions, and difficulty gaining positive contributions from their private sector board members. Over the years I have been struck with the frequency of such reports.
The key to effective utilization of any organizational asset, whether technology, equipment, staff or board is assessing how it fits into your organization’s strategic objectives. Often a nonprofit’s leadership considers private sector board members an asset without considering precisely what the prospective member brings to table. Like lawyers, business people are generally thought to be smart and incisive. However, there are many sub-specialties under the heading of business, including finance, marketing, sales, strategy, and human resource management, etc. What is the expertise you are looking to leverage? Are you asking your corporate board member with a sales or marketing background to provide expertise on accounting issues? Failure to engage this question can lead to a disappointing relationship.
Another limiting factor can be the attitudes of the corporate board members themselves. Corporate board members often go astray by entering the nonprofit environment with an emphasis on bottom-line profitability and “living within our means.” In their zeal to make the nonprofits operate like a business, they tend to focus exclusively on the expense side of the income statement, seeking to cut budgets and investments in people and infrastructure. Ironically, this approach is not business-like at all, and would kill any business by neglecting important investments that could lead to enhanced stability, improved performance, increased revenues, and innovation.
A more sophisticated approach to being business oriented means more than just watching the bottom line. It means knowing what business you’re in, who your customers and competitors are, and knowing your market. It means understanding your competitive advantage, as well as your strengths and challenges. It means understanding your organization’s business model. It means knowing what life cycle phase your organization is in, as well as knowing when to grow, shrink and invest. It means being aware of your greatest assets, and of your greatest risk.
Are your corporate board members bringing those perspectives to the table?
Here are a few tips for maximizing the value-added of your corporate board members:
Use consistent recruiting standards.
Corporate Board members should be subject to the same recruiting standards as other board and staff members. It may sound silly to emphasize that the corporate candidate is APPLYING and not doing us a favor, but many nonprofits do not approach it that way (Test yourself: Do you have a board job description and evaluation process? How rigorous is your interview? Is there a background check?). The key question should be: Do the candidate’s skills, temperament and experience align with the organization’s strategic need?
Choose members with relevant nonprofit experience.
Where possible, find a corporate member who has either served on a board or has previous nonprofit experience. Choosing members familiar with the nonprofit environment can greatly reduce the potential for friction and a clash of cultures.
Choose members who are willing to learn.
Every business, whether for or not for profit, has a context. Regardless of their skills and experience, each board member needs to learn the organizational context of the agency they are joining in order to become an effective contributor. Screen for the member whose style is inquiry before edict, who is a good listener, and who will take the time to become a student of the organization.
Take the time to teach.
Many board members are more than willing to learn, they are simply never properly oriented. It is critical for the Board President and Executive Director to provide a detailed orientation into the organizational culture, history and operating context of the agency if the new board member is to be positive and productive. Again, we would not dream of hiring key staff without a substantive orientation, but we routinely deny board members, our strategic thought partners, that courtesy. Invite your board members, corporate and otherwise, to understand the dynamics of your enterprise. Finally, since the environment is ever-changing, orientation should be an ongoing function.
In terms of governance, boards occupy the highest ground within an organization. However, Executive Directors are often the holders of the organization’s contextual, operational knowledge. Executive Directors must bring that contextual knowledge to the table, and not defer unnecessarily to the business expertise of their corporate board members.
Have a firm understanding of the desired role and contribution.
Be as clear and honest as possible. If your sole desire is for the corporate board member to add prestige, and possibly fundraising muscle to the board, be sure to design the role accordingly. Don’t invite the member to become Board Treasurer, develop a strategic business plan, or serve on the finance committee. For these important roles, find a corporate member who has both built a business and dealt with operational issues, or has directly relevant experience in finance/accounting or business planning.
Anthony Reese is an organizational development and financial management consultant. As a nonprofit executive, Anthony managed boards of foundations and nonprofit organizations. Anthony is a past board member of the Coro Foundation and a current board member of the Common Counsel Foundation.
Mind the Gap – Professional Development Needs Among Nonprofit Consultants
by Emily Hall
Olive Grove was fortunate to have the partnership of Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business and their Bridges program
this summer. The team – consisting of Joshua Fradenburg, David Halvorson and Sandra Hughes – worked with Olive Grove staff (shout out to Kristin and Jean!) to design and execute a summer project to answer the questions:
- Where are nonprofit consultants currently investing in professional development, and why?
- What are their professional development needs, and where are those needs not being met?
- How do their professional development needs change as they deepen their consulting experience?
- What do funders think about the status of professional development among consultants?
Our Bridges team conducted both qualitative and quantitative research. They launched an online survey to both our network and well beyond to other consultant communities. They conducted in-depth one-on-one interviews with a number of individuals and did a lit review and environmental scan. Although the breadth and depth of the study was limited to our Bridges summer timeline, they covered a lot of ground.
As a network that leverages expertise, capital and great ideas, Olive Grove is profoundly interested in the continued learning and integrity of its talent resources. Based on our years of experience we believed that consultants are driven to continuously enhance their learning, and yet many professional development needs are not being met. This study confirmed our hypothesis and provided some additional interesting tidbits to chew on.
Among our survey pool, the vast majority find the greatest value in peer networking, but also value cohorts, seminars and workshops. Access to research and white papers was the least valued. This has supported our experience that while data is critical, its real meaning is derived by investigating multiple perspectives (which is why nearly all of our projects are team-based).
We learned that consultants prefer to use professional development for deepening vs. broadening their skills by a hefty ratio of 5:1. We believe this conversation warrants much further exploration. On the one hand, the need for deep content or technical expertise is more important as nonprofits expand and adjust in rapid time, and need access to expertise they can’t invest in through staff roles (either due to cost, or time to fill the role). On the other hand, we have seen and heard from clients, funders and consultants that the most important skill now is the ability to help clients “understand and navigate the system”, which requires a broader understanding of how the entire organization, and their external ecosystem, works.
Not surprisingly, there is a correlation among years of consulting experience, consulting revenues, and investment in professional development. Newer consultants are generating annual revenues under $100,000 and investing less than $2,500 annually in professional development. More experienced consultants (those with more than six years of consulting, but many in the 20-30 year range) are securing more projects, generating revenues far north of their less experienced peers, and spending upwards of $10,000/year in professional development.
On a force-rank among 13 subject matters, these four scored the deepest interest:
- Leadership training and coaching
- Change management
- Organizational effectiveness
- Strategy development
We were curious to learn that financial management and human capital subject matter scored low on the priorities. We are seeing a rapidly increasing demand (and a talent shortage) for these services as organizations dig into their financial and capitalization models, and think in new ways about leveraging their human capital (staff, volunteers, board, consultants). This may be a sampling factor, or perhaps consultants have not yet felt the increasing market demand for these skills.
The Bridges team left us with loads of data to continue to sift through and make sense of. Many areas warrant deeper research beyond what was possible within the summer time frame for our Bridges team. As we continue to design ways to better identify and leverage expertise – and thus drive greater impact in the sector – we look forward to continuing the exploration of the learning needs of our talent network.
|Illustration by Heather L. Young
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