There are BIG BUTS to consider when planning for change in your workplace

leading2Welcome to O.D. Fridays at DonorDreams blog. Every Friday for the foreseeable future we will be looking at posts from John Greco’s blog called “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly” and applying his organizational development messages to the non-profit community.

In a post titled “Big Buts,” John talks about leadership and how changing the culture at your agency starts at the top. I just love the Chinese proverb with which John starts his post: “The people follow the example of those above them.”

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve walked in the front door of an agency because they need help changing something.

Something being . . .

  • We’re not raising enough money.
  • We’re not hitting our goals.
  • No one is on the same page.
  • The agency is adrift.
  • The programs aren’t achieving the necessary impact.
  • Donors are abandoning ship.
  • The board is disengaged.

In these initial conversations, I’m always asked to help fix the situation, but the fix is always something like:

  • Help us write a strategic plan, board development plan, resource development plan, annual campaign plan. Plan! Plan! Plan!
  • Conduct a program assessment.
  • Facilitate a training.

leading1Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that assessments, plans and trainings aren’t important. They are crucial! However, there are questions that must be asked first. Those questions are:

  • Is the leader (or leaders in the case of a non-profit organization) willing to lead the change?
  • Is the current leader the right leader to lead this change? Or are they part of what needs to be “changed”?
  • Is the current leader willing to lead by example after the training, assessing or planning is completed?
  • Is the current leader willing to do whatever it takes to get everyone else (e.g. middle management, board members, etc) aligned and on the same page?
  • Is the current leader willing to advocate and lead on issues pertaining to policies, procedures and practices (e.g. budget practices, fundraising policies, HR policies, board practices especially around creating accountability in the boardroom, etc).

Again, please don’t misunderstand me. I am not just talking about the executive director of a non-profit organization. Depending on the circumstances and requisite change, these questions can also pertain to:

  • board president
  • board volunteers who serve as committee chairs
  • fundraising professionals
  • program leaders

All I am saying is that step one to any change initiative at your agency needs to involve taking a good hard look in the mirror and asking some tough leadership questions. To John’s point in his post “Big Buts,” the issue goes beyond just “Do we have the right person(s) sitting in the right seat(s)?” It includes a lot of BIG BUTS.

Only after those questions are asked and answered can planning or training efforts take root and spark the cultural change you seek in your non-profit agency.

An old friend of mine is famous for saying: “Non-profit success starts and ends with leadership.

To channel Jim Collins this morning . . . Does your agency have the right people on the bus? Are they all in the right seats? How do you know? What tools do you use to answer these questions? Annual performance plans? Committee work plans? Year-end individual board member evaluation tools? Written annual personal performance plans for individual board members? If it is change you seek, are those individuals willing to lead by example?

Lots to ponder on a Friday morning. Once you have some answers, please share a few of your thoughts in the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

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