Dani Robbins

10 Things You Can’t Afford Not To Do

In Leadership, Organizational Development on December 11, 2013 at 9:22 am

I talk to Execs all the time about a variety of topics. The one sentence I hear the most, regardless of field, experience or issue is “I don’t have time.” It’s usually in response to something I suggest that they do.  That’s cool; I was an Exec for many years and understand the job often feels like you’re a running around like a chicken.  However, to not fulfill the second part of that phrase and have your head get cut off, I have a few suggestions of things to do, primarily because you can’t afford not to.

  1. Think Strategically

I heard a great quote the other day “We’ve spent all the money; now it’s time to think.” Nonprofit CEO’s rarely have that luxury.

Leaders need to find time to think. If you have to carve out that time by listing it on your calendar, do so. If you have to walk the dog in the middle of the day, leave early to run on the treadmill, meditate, or take super long showers leaving no hot water for the rest of your household, do so.

Doing what you’ve always done is not going to get you where you want to go. Strategic thinking is critical for your success and the success of your agency. You cannot afford not to make time to think.

2. Read

This goes for reading the most relevant information in your field as well as the most recent stuff out there on leadership. It also includes reading the mail, your email, the newspaper, every single agency policy and procedure and if you’re the grant writer, the directions for submitting and managing grants.

I cannot tell you the number of times in my career that someone has told me a story about something they had to do at the last minute, money they left on the table or opportunities they missed because they didn’t read information that they had in their possession.

Finally, I implore you to read the entire contract that is being put in front of you even – and especially – if someone is explaining it to you and to also read any and all agreements, leases and memorandums of understanding. Never sign something you haven’t read or don’t understand.

3. Communicate

Communicate your vision. People are far more likely to follow a leader when they know where that leader is going. Paint the picture and people will follow. Fail to, and they’ll stand around trying to figure out what you’re doing, which will neither meet your mission nor achieve your vision.

Return phone calls and emails the day they come in or, when that’s not possible, the next morning. When you get an email – reply. I know you’re busy, but so is the person who sent it to you. Even if you just say okay, say something.

Responsiveness, especially in the non profit field, is a job requirement. Lack of responsiveness is a performance issue.

4. Accept Feedback Graciously

The appropriate response to feedback is “Thank you; that’s good feedback.” Afterwards, think about what was offered and decide what to do with it.

5. Take Responsibility

If the buck stops with you, you own whatever bad thing that happens. After it happens, review each step to ensure it never happens again. Recommend new policies and train staff accordingly. Let your constituents know of the plan and how you are going to implement the plan. Hear them if they have an issue, question or concern and adjust accordingly.

If you were wrong admit it – and then make sure it never happens again. Life is about making new mistakes.

6. Give Credit Where Credit is Due.

The Exec gets all the compliments when things go well, but we shine the brightest when we give credit to the staff members that made it happen. Call out staff by name when their contribution made the difference.

7. Be Consistent

You should give the same answer on a Monday when you had a great weekend as on a Thursday morning when you were up all night with a sick child. If consistency is not your strength, take time and care when issuing instructions. Consider appointing a dedicated and trusted staff member to remind you of things you previously said or write them down so that you’ll know for next time.

Changing the world is hard; it’s much harder when we send mixed signals.

8. Recognize

Find a way to recognize your constituents when they do what you expect and when they go above and beyond. Compliment at least as often and preferably more often than you correct. Apply for awards for your board and staff, honor your donors and highlight your client’s accomplishments in whatever manner is appropriate to your field and your community.

9. Say Thank You.

Thank your donors for helping you make the world a better place. Thank your staff and your board for their service. Thank your clients for choosing your agency.  Thank the community leaders for including you at the table. Demonstrate your gratitude at every opportunity.

10. Train your people

Staff should be trained each year, or more often, on the most relevant information in your field and on every applicable policy and plan. If you have policies that your staff haven’t read lately and haven’t been trained on this year, those policies will be irrelevant at exactly the time you will need them.

Board members should be initially oriented and annually trained as to their roles, how they can fulfill those roles, including the boundaries of those roles and any and all relevant policies they are expected to uphold. The Board having approved a policy at some point in your agency’s past is not a guarantee that they will remember that policy when the time comes. Train them on the policies you need them to know.

There’s a great sign that’s been floating around Linked In lately. It goes something like this: “What if we train them and they leave? What if we don’t train them and they stay?” That pretty much sums it up!

What else can’t leaders afford to not do? As always, I welcome your insight, feedback and experience. Please share your ideas or suggestions for blog topics and consider hitting the follow button to enter your email. A rising tide raises all boats.

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