Posts filed under ‘Leadership’
Mitt Romney’s now infamous comment at last night’s debate has opened a new line into our nation’s ongoing discussion about affirmative action. When he was Governor of Massachusetts, Romney says he had to reach outside the usual application process to ensure that men weren’t the only ones applying for his cabinet positions. Luckily, he was in a state ranked first among all 50 in higher education attainment, where more than 50% of the population hold at least a 2-year degree (Lumina Foundation, 2010). So with a little outreach, the Governor easily found plenty of qualified female applicants. If he’d been governor of Alabama, though, his task would have been much more difficult, since that state’s percentage of folks with any college is only 31%. And if he’d been leading a state with a large Hispanic population, that number would also be low. According to the 2010 Census, just 19 percent of Latinos between 25 and 64 years old had at least a two-year college degree. For whites, the figure is 43 percent.
One of the keys to our economic success as a nation has been ensuring that All Americans, including newer immigrants and women, get access to higher education. My own all-girls school was founded by a woman, Jesse Moon Holton, who was a leader in educating young women, and created the best school motto I’ve ever heard “I shall find a way or make one.” That motto reminds me daily of brave little MalalaYousafzai of Pakistan, who risked her life just to go to school. Thankfully we don’t live in a society where extremists mount school buses to shoot kids trying to get an education.
But we do put far too many obstacles in the way of people who want this path to economic inclusion. As a society, we should do everything possible—affirmative action in higher education, The Dream Act, funding early childhood education (and yes, a few bucks to Big Bird)–to ensure that every corporate CEO and government leader who wants to hire talent has available to her binders full of qualified and well-educated African-Americans, Hispanics and women of all ethnicities ready and able to succeed.
The Sullivan vs. Dragas battle at UVA is a classic case of nonprofit versus corporate leadership styles. UVA president Teresa Sullivan’s approach–getting to know the university’s key constituencies–is best suited to nonprofits, in which shouting “Follow Me!” rarely gets you more than a sore throat. But Helen Dragas, Chair of UVA’s Board of Visitors, is known for her no-nonsense business style. She expected the newly minted (18 months IS recent in NST–Nonprofit Standard Time) university president to “stop listening and lead.” (If you haven’t been following, the Chronicle of Higher Ed helpfully summarizes the battle here.) Particularly in a university setting, where you have power centers including tenured faculty who frankly don’t have to follow anyone thank you very much, as well as a constant stream of new students and important donors, Sullivan’s style of taking the time to “listen and learn” before launching major change initiatives will likely win the day.
This battle comes at an interesting time. As nonprofits have been moving steadily to adopt a “more corporate” model of governance, corporations have been embracing social sector models of getting things done. (And hey, after the Wall Street meltdown, my money is on the nonprofit sector so to speak.) In her recent letter to shareholders, Calvert Investments CEO Barbara Krumsiek (disclaimer–Barbara and I know one another through a nonprofit board) noted the increase of sustainability proposals at shareholder meetings, and the implementation by more than 400 business sector CEOs of the United Nation’s Women’s Empowerment Principles, which were adapted from Calvert’s own Women’s Principles in 2010. In their new white paper subtitled “Is Your Board Prepared?”, Ernst & Young point out that social and environmental issues accounted for 40% of shareholder proposals on corporate proxy ballots last year–up one-third from 2010.
That trend away from business models to social sector models is addressed by Jim Collins in his recent monograph “Good to Great in the Social Sectors,” a follow-up to his famed book on high-functioning businesses. In the new book he questions the implementation of business practices in the social sector, saying”we must reject the idea…thgat the primary path to greatness in the social sectors is to become ‘more like a business.’” In fact, the metrics for success in a mission-based operation are very different than those in the for-profit. Delivery on the mission is primary. Lowering cost-per-delivery, while essential to good accounting, is not a measurement of success. Neither is efficiency in certain areas. Sometimes nonprofits need to spend a lot of time listening to their “customers” in order to deliver better services, and this listening is often done by social workers or nurses or pastors–professional listeners, but not folks in a marketing setting. The way they may evolve a solution to a particular customer problem may not be the most cost-efficient delivery of service, but it might create the best outcomes in the community served.
The same can be said of effective nonprofit leadership styles. Someone who understands how to harness the different concentric circles of supporters–from staff to donors to volunteers (and students and faculty, in the case of an educational institution) are going to be more successful in moving a strategic plan forward to get the mission accomplished.
So my bet is on Sullivan. What about yours?
Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, Senior Associate Dean of the Yale School of Management, did a great piece in the Washington Post this weekend on Facebook’s challenges with a Founder/CEO. He points out that good governance practices often go out the window, and directors kow-tow to the mystical leader, when a founder is at the helm of a company. Public and private companies are not alone in having leadership challenges—or what I call “founder’s syndrome.”
Many nonprofits have also been created by visionary leaders, and have the same challenges Facebook may–like boards of directors who aren’t willing to stand up to the founder, or even at some point look for new leadership.
There are ways to avoid this dynamic.
A Diverse Board. Facebook’s board is all-male. Don’t make the same mistake. A diverse board, though, is not just gender or race diverse. It should be age-diverse and made up not only of donors, but of people from the communities the organization serves. It should also include several individuals from related institutions (perhaps in other states), who can lend relevant expertise.
Free-Thinking Leadership. Board leaders are often hand-picked by the Executive, so that they get along well together. This is great. But more important is leaders who can speak their mind to the Executive and be sure all ideas and options are on the table.
Financial Compliance. It’s not uncommon for nonprofits still being led by their founders to have some squishy numbers in the books. An Audit Committee—separate from the Finance Committee—should oversee an annual audit process that follows current accounting standards. Independent Sector offers a checklist for accountability that includes these standards.
Mission-Driven Decisionmaking. At the end of the day, every board and leadership decision should meet this simple litmus test “Does this further our mission?” It sounds easy, but sometimes Founder-led organizations can get sidetracked with pet projects of the founder, or conversely, projects the founder doesn’t find particularly interesting but need to be done to move the mission forward.
Succession Planning. Every business owner needs to do it. So do nonprofit organization founders. It’s a conversation that needs to be had with the board, with real plans and timelines drawn up on paper so everyone knows what role the founder will play and how the organization will continue to succeed after he or she retires. Consider planning for an Interim Executive for 18 months after the founder leaves. No one can match the zeal and history of the founder, and a leader who is experienced in helping organizations make transitions can be just the right person to bridge to your next visionary.
Mr. Santorum’s “snob” remark about higher education is getting push back from surprising quarters. That’s because millions of Americans look to higher education as a way to pull their families forward both economically, and in increased job satisfaction. While fewer than one third of Americans hold a B.A. or higher, 75% of Americans polled believe that a college education is “very important” in today’s economy. And 92 percent of public school parents believe that their children will go to college. (Both stats from Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll, September 2010) That’s because they know intuitively the what many of us in my region show students through a program called Achievement Counts (AC), created by the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education (yup, a group of business executives). That is, that with every year of schooling you get beyond high school, your job opportunities and income level increase. Despite his rhetoric, Mr. Santorum knows this, given the millions he’s made as a Washington, D.C. consultant with his B.A., J.D. and M.B.A. When I’ve led these brief AC classes at my local high schools, I always poll the kids about what they want to be when they graduate. Many of them plan to play in the NBA or NFL. “What if you get injured?” I ask, knowing it’s hopeless to make the case that a tiny fraction of American athletes could ever even qualify. That’s when a light-bulb goes off for a few of the kids. If you like the science of the body and athletics, I say, consider getting trained in Physical Therapy, one of the fastest-growing careers in the country. (This requires a minimum Associates Dgree to be an Assistant, and a full B.A. and post-graduate work to become a PT.) Maybe it’s worth getting an accounting degree (B.A. and CPA license required), so you could help those NFL guys manage their millions. Maybe you might even want to go into business for yourself—so you could buy your own team one day!
Mr. Santorum’s father was an Italian immigrant. My dad’s grandparents immigrated from Italy a generation earlier. And while my grandmother completed junior high and my grandfather elementary school, it was a point of great pride that they were able to send their son to college. He worked the entire time he attended Fordham University (run by the Jesuits, hardly the bastion of radicalism Santorum paints for campus life), driving a laundry truck to deliver linens to the fancy yachts at the docks on the river. He told me once that while it was tough to get up so early to make his deliveries and still stay awake for classes, the job reminded him of the tedium he could avoid by getting that college degree. He went on to get a graduate degree from Columbia in Economics and worked as an economist his entire life.
The road through high school is hard for many kids. College is not for everyone. But getting a foothold in 21st century life requires more training than a high school degree can offer. Mr. Santorum knows it. And those of us who care about and work in the education field need to keep reminding Americans that higher education is a brand worth celebrating.
More and more companies are turning to video as a way to communicate with customers, vendors and the general public. Often the CEO finds him or herself front and center. What can you do to make your leader come across better on camera? Here are five tips from my work coaching on-camera performances from a wide range of national and international leaders.
Hire a makeup artist. Often makeup is an after thought or considered to be “only powder,” but a makeup professional—one who is trained for on-camera uses, not salon or theatrical makeup—can make all the difference in how your CEO looks and feels. He or she also has tools to keep bald pates from looking shiny, can keep shirts from wrinkling, and ties from drifting. A good makeup artist is also a conversationalist, making your leader feel more comfortable before the camera. The $600 day rate is well worth it!
Have the CEO review the script ahead of time. Often whoever has written the script will keep it from the CEO until the last moment, trying to avoid a lot of revisions or politics. The result is your on-air talent is now not fully comfortable with the copy. This tends to lead to more mistakes and copy changes while the cameras (and dollars) are rolling. Making sure your CEO has seen the copy and is comfortable with the style of language. Making the the verbage both accurate but also conversational and easy to say out loud will be critical to your success.
Choose clothing that works for Television. If your CEO is more comfortable in shirt sleeves, don’t make him put on a jacket. If she loves wearing bold colors, bring them on. But avoid tight herringbone patterns in jackets and ties, as these can cause a “moray” or shifting of the lights and darks back and forth when they conflict with scan lines on a monitor. Shooting in High Def can minimize this, but it’s best to be safe.
Use a Teleprompter…Sometimes. If your CEO is comfortable with a teleprompter and there is a lot of copy, it’s best to use one. Teleprompters are designed to fit over the lense of a camera so that the eye line of the individual speaking goes directly to the viewing audience. I’ve often done training sessions with teleprompters ahead of time, so leaders with less experience feel better stepping on stage and before the cameras. If your CEO is happy with bullet points, those can also go up on a prompter.
Keep Everyone Out of the Eyeline. Often a CEO has various press secretaries, assistants, consultants, etc. who must be present any on-camera appearance. Do your best to keep them out of his or her eye line during taping. They can often become an unintentional distraction. They can also raise the anxiety level of someone without extensive on camera experience. A calm and focused CEO is one who comes across with confidence.
If you have a story about putting your CEO or other leadership on camera but you’d rather stay anonymous here, feel free to share them with me at amy [at] amydelouise [dot] com.
With Hurricane Irene bearing down on us and news stations blaring 24/7 about the states of emergency being declared all around us, my husband and I dutifully prepared. Battery backup for the sump pump-check. Backup pump-check. Sandbags around the pump hole-check. Bottled water-check. Canned food-check. Flashlights-check. Candles-check. Then we headed to the liquor store to stock up for a hurricane dinner party (hey, we live inland, we had to have some fun).
As it turned out, Irene was a flop–at least in our area. But the preparations and evacuations were reminders of the Katrina legacy. Understandably, no one wanted to repeat those horrific scenes of people who could not be rescued for days. But how would people now respond to what now appeared to be an overblown response?
In some ways, the situation was like a real life drill, so we could see how things worked. Did our governance structures allow for quick response? Did our communications pathways let us reach affected stakeholders quickly? I was interested to watch each mayor, governor and federal agency leader acting out their own crisis response plan. Which made me think of the top four things organization can do to be prepared for communicating in a crisis:
1. Build multiple pathways to your customers. Be able to reach them via text, phone, cellphone or email. But boots on the ground may be necessary as well. Newark New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker actually knocked on doors to get people to evacuate. (I noticed he also responded directly to a constituent on Twitter who was worried about his mother’s loss of power and offered to go check on her.) Reinforce the pathways to vital communications by not overwhelming them with junk, or they won’t respond when you need them to. In my area, PEPCO left voicemail for customers warning them about possible power outages. This was useful. But part of the message suggested checking the PEPCO website for updates. Oops.
2. Develop a quick-response team. This may not just be top organizational leadership. It may include others who can connect to different parts of your staff or customer base. Prepare the team on how to respond to media inquiries. Ultimately you may bring on a crisis PR group to help, but in the initial hours your own team will need to handle the job. One person should be the “face” of the organization if you must go on television. This was one of the big missteps during the BP oil spill crisis. For days and days, there were multiple people at the microphone, resulting in coverage that said “who’s in charge here, anyway?”
3. People come first. Not your company/entity. That means being as honest as possible in responses, as timely as possible, and as transparent as possible about your process for fixing the problem. The gold standard of crisis response remains the Tylenol tampering scare of 1982. The fact that they responded quickly, put safety first, and changed their packaging were both smart moves for the brand and for the customers.
4. Maintain post-crisis communications. Tell the story of what happened, what you did about it, what you could have done better, and what worked. Giving your narrative and keeping the communications lines open after a crisis builds trust for future response. This may be some of the hardest work ahead for the folks responding to Irene. Mayor Bloomberg will have a delicate messaging job to do in the coming hours and days to ensure New Yorkers don’t roll their eyes the next time he or a future Mayor orders an evacuation. It may not matter today, but it could save future lives if he does it right.
It’s August and time to kick-start the work of September. Many companies and boards are launching their summer retreats. Why not make this one an “advance” on your agenda instead? Having led many such working groups, here are a few tips to making it a better experience for all.
1. Move Out of Comfort Zones. Remember Family Systems Theory? Just like families, boards of directors and staff function according to rules (spoken and unspoken), patterns, relationships and boundaries. Creating a retreat with more interactive time and fewer presentations, mixing up people who wouldn’t otherwise sit together, and using physical spaces that allow people to connect more personally—i.e. no big long tables—can radically change the outcomes of your time spent together.
2. Engage an Outside Facilitator. Experienced outsiders can offer a new perspective. But even more importantly, they can cut through some of the habits your group may have formed that can sometimes diminish productivity and creativity by drawing out different voices (see below) and using techniques to guide the conversation towards implementable tasks. Plus, using an outside person adds some entertainment value–it’s not the same boss/board chair/department head they are accustomed to hearing from. So this is not just self-promotional talk. (Though if you’d like to vet a project with me, please do shoot me an email at amy [at] amydelouise [dot] com!)
3. Encourage New Voices. Often we lean on leaders to, well, lead. They are the ones everyone looks to at the end of the meeting to say what they think or what should happen next. Not so at a retreat. In this environment, they should hang back and allow other voices to come forward. They will get more fodder for what they ultimately need to accomplish this way.
4. Think Out of the Box. Use exercises that encourage your group to look beyond what they already know. I like to use case studies from competitors, or even from industry groups or organizations in a completely different business area as a jumping off point. I’m also a fan of giving teams different problems to solve with only certain tools they are allowed to use to solve them. The goal is creative thinking, not same thinking.
5. Plan for Implementation. There’s nothing worse than spending the day at a workshop and finding that Absolutely Nothing Happens with all those little sticky pad notes and flip charts you filled up. Spend a good chunk of time at the end of each day (or end of the retreat) planning how to implement the ideas and suggestions made there. Who is responsible for what? Is there a need for a small sub-group to help organize and re-distribute the information? What happens next?
Retreats are great. Advances are even better. Go for it!
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As part of my series of guest posts from colleagues here is contribution from Kim Foley, president of Professional Image Strategies. Kim teaches credibility workshops for organizations, as well as being a television stylist and author. In a world filled with casual Friday attire, I though she could shed some light on the relationship between branding and credibility.
Everyday my challenge is to help my clients be seen as the credible experts they are. Whether my client is on the cover of a magazine or professional journal, being interviewed on television, or executing a presentation or speech, it is critical that their visual message supports and enhances their verbal message. Think about it – have you ever been watching a TV interview and wondered, “Where in the heck did they dig this person up?”
Your credentials and reputation are only part of the story when it comes to credibility and branding. It is far too easy to dismiss those who do not conform to the picture we carry in our heads of a credible person. All societies and tribes have cultural, unspoken rules about what communicates integrity, and garners trust from those around us. Everyday we all have the opportunity to either enhance or to sabotage our personal brand. The hard truth is – it is impossible to inspire or persuade others if they do not see us as having credibility.
The fight or flight reaction is still part of our primal response. The result of this response in modern times is to either confront or disengage from those whom we do not trust. Everyday in the workplace there are lost opportunities and derailed dreams all because of a person’s credibility. Those with questionable credibility will not get the job promotion they are seeking; those running for office will not get elected; and those trying to sell, persuade or lead will be left feeling confused about why they are powerless.
So how do you assess your own credibility factor, or the credibility factor of those who are representing your organization? Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What is driving your ‘look’? Is it style? Comfort? Or is it (as it should be) credibility. Successful people are intentional about their choice of clothes, shoes, hairstyle and accessories, and credibility is their motivator.
- What are the cultural expectations for your profession or position? When you are introduced to a person of influence, do you fit their view of what a “_____” should look like? Is your look too casual? Is your wardrobe up to date?
- Do you understand the subliminal statements of color? Everything from the color of your tie to the color of your organization’s logo should be chosen with care. They are making impressions on the minds of those you meet, visit your websites and receive your brochures. What is the message you want to communicate? Is it strength and power? Is it reliability and trust? The color and design you choose will either support or negate that message.
- Do you know what your clothing is saying? Your outward appearance is like the frame on an artist’s masterpiece. It should be complementary, without distracting the eye of the viewer. You want them to remember you, not what you were wearing. Your visual message must support your verbal message.
The assumptions that people make about us when we are first introduced are critically important. These assumptions, or stories, that are constructed in people’s minds, strongly influence whom they do business with, whom they take seriously and whom they desire to build a relationship with. We need to take control of that story. We need to carefully craft the message that we project.
If we want people to perceive us as a person or an organization of value and integrity, someone they can trust, then we need to understand the value of appearance when we are planning and implementing branding. When we don’t take the time and effort to create the visuals that match the message we desire to portray, we make a subliminal statement to everyone around us about how little value we place on ourselves and the organization that we represent. When we acknowledge the role appearance plays, we can support our personal and professional brand.