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Danger Ahead!!! Beware the three dangerous traps in finding new leaders

The hole that is created when a key leader leaves an organization is often frightening, to say the least – and the desire to fill that hole can lead to high anxiety and knee-jerk reactions.  The impulse to move quickly can often lead to poor decisions, and poor decisions can lead to a downwaDon Head shot 004 2011 (1)rd spiral of problems for the leadership team and the organization.  Beware these traps:

1) 
The “Rush to Hire” trap – Fear of the “unmanaged” organization or program often leads to a quick hire – sometimes the most convenient hire – someone we know, someone on staff — without taking the time to get clear about the skills, background, and experience needed to guide the organization successfully into its next phase of life.

2)  The “Good Interview” trap – We are often attracted to good interviewees and may choose based on emotion rather than combining a “good energy” interview with an analysis of whether or not the candidate actually possesses the skills, experience, and demonstrated abilities necessary to deliver in the areas the organization will need in the coming months and years ahead.  The skills, experience, and abilities needed are not likely to be the same as those possessed by the last leader.

3)  The “Same or Different?” trap – If the last leader was well-liked and successful, the desire to hire someone similar will be the mode of operation.  If the leader was not well liked, was dismissed, or unsuccessful, the inclination might be to look for someone with the opposite or different skills or characteristics.  Neither approach is a safe strategy for finding the right next leader.

These traps of engaging a new leader often play out in subtle ways.  Here are some ways to avoid these traps and do a better job at finding the right next leader:

1)  Conduct a comprehensive organizational assessment.  No matter how engaged a Board of Directors is, it won’t have a full, objective picture of organizational needs and challenges.  Having an independent, objective view of the organization – both its core strengths and the challenges it faces in the current environment – can yield critical information to help the Board be clear about the skills, abilities, and demonstrated experience and success needed in the next leader.

2)  Get interview coaching and guidance.  Having an outside coach or consultant – an experienced, objective interviewer – can help the Board get the most critical information needed during the recruitment and interview processes in order to make an informed decision.  An experienced coach can help sift through the information to help Board’s get clear about the real skills, strengths, and commitment a candidate can bring to the job.

3) Secure interim leadership.  Many times the anxiety about the unfilled seat and the un-managed organization, leads to the rush to hire.  Securing an experienced, trained interim executive leader can provide the Board with the time it needs to work through a comprehensive search process and avoid the upheaval and negative results of a bad hire.

The Support Center can help. These same processes can be helpful, too, when an organization is hiring a COO, CFO, or CDO.  Taking the time and getting the assistance needed can help you avoid making bad choices and lead to better results over the long-term.

We are interested in hearing about and learning from your experiences – good or bad — in hiring – tell us about them here.

Here’s to strong organizations!  All the best,

Don's_signature

Don Crocker
Executive Director/CEO

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Modest Needs Nonprofit Grants

captureModest Needs understands that small nonprofits face certain challenges, including securing basic program-related needs. Modest Need’s Non-Profit Grant allows small non-profits to appeal directly to the general public for help to afford expenses that will strengthen the programs and services they provide to the communities that they serve.

To be eligible for this grant, your organization must have a gross income of at least $50,000.00, but not more than $500,000.00 dollars and must file a Form 990-EZ or Form 990, and must register with Modest Needs. Click here for more information and to apply.

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April & May Tweets

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Our Staff Picks

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Development of Human Capital is Essential to Success in Social Investment.

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One of our favorite clients ~ Services for the Underserved ~ held a mind fueling conference today on the potential impact of social investment.  All 10 panelists had useful insights and good examples and highlights can be found on the twitter feed here – #SUSCONF2013 Financial and nonprofit leaders together investing in providing more affordable housing, healthcare, workforce development and more.  Of course our mission ~ the development of human capital ~ to lead these initiatives is essential for success.

– Harriet Joynes, COO – Support Center|Partnership in Philanthropy

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Interim Executive Leadership – A Powerful Resource in Lead New Jersey’s Executive Transition

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“Working with [the Support Center’s interim placement] Richmond [Rabinowitz] was truly a gift. What a great opportunity to have such an experienced professional serve as the interim executive director for our organization. She is smart, focused, full of energy, has great communication skills and best of all a wonderful sense of humor.” 

– Phil Salerno, Lead New Jersey, Chairman, Board of Trustees [during the transition]

When Lead New Jersey (LNJ) needed a new leader they came to the Support Center for Executive Search. After undertaking a thorough organizational assessment, it was clear that an Interim Executive Director (IED) would be key to bridging the leadership gap while the search was conducted. The IED’s goals were clear—strengthen management practices, undertake a review of fundraising and communications and recruit a new class of Fellows and organize a seminar series.

Lead New Jersey’s board looked to the Support Center’s unique pool of highly experienced IEDs for a solution.  All professionals in this talented group have extensive nonprofit management experience with most having been Executive Directors themselves for many years. And equally important, they all have gone through the Support Center’s IED training program which is focused on the special challenges IEDs face. With the help of Julia Lu, the Center’s Director of Consulting, the LNJ Board found the perfect fit for their unique needs–Richmond Rabinowitz. Richmond successfully led LNJ’s operations until the hire of Mark Murphy, the current President.

To learn more about our Executive Search and  IED services contact Julia. And if you are an Executive Director interested in joining our pool of Interims, learn more about our upcoming IED training program

A Passing, a New Pope, and the Opportunities in Nonprofit Executive Search

“It Isn’t the Changes that Do You In”

“It isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions,” wrote William Bridges in his ground breaking book titled Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change.  “They aren’t the same thing,” he continues, “Change is situational…Transition, on the other hand, is psychological: it is a three-phase process that people go through as they internalize and come to terms with the details of the new situation that the change brings about.”

The New York Times, in its obituary of Mr. Bridges (who passed away on February 17th of this year) noted that Bridges’ “…pioneering work on transition transformed the way people think about change…Mr. Bridges had a worldwide impact on educators, psychologists, corporate executives, business consultants, and non-profit leaders, as well as the general public.”

We will always be grateful to Mr. Bridges here at the Support Center/Partnership In Philanthropy (SC/PIP), as his work forms the heart of the way we conduct our Executive Search work.  In contrast to traditional executive search – which can be one-dimensional and misses the depth of opportunities in transition – our focus goes beyond the surface of finding the next nonprofit leader, to insuring that the search process not only secures the right next leader, but also minimizes the risks and maximizes the opportunities available during the transition.

A New Pope – The Change Triggers Transition

In February, quite unexpectedly, Pope Benedict XVI resigned and left a legion of Catholics wondering about future Church leadership and anxious about the future.  Most were surprised, many confused, some were sad and others angry.  William Bridges, of course, would have predicted these reactions suggesting that anger, anxiety, sadness and disorientation are the natural emotions of transitions.  He would, however, have quickly noted that if handled skillfully and thoughtfully, the transition would offer an enormous opportunity for change and growth.

Bridges posed that in each change process we go through three-phases of transition:  1) The Ending – the experience of loss and letting go that triggers a full range of emotional responses; 2) The Neutral Zone – the unknown, where critical re-thinking and a new future can be imagined; 3) The New Beginning – a new identity and new energy can be embraced with a “new sense of purpose that [can] make the change begin to work.”  Clearly these phases were evident in the transition in Rome, as a strong reaction of mixed emotions emerged at the announcement; anxiety with a mix of hopefulness emerged in the “neutral zone” as followers awaited the announcement of new leadership; and hopefulness and energy reigned as Pope Francis greeted the masses on the day of his selection.

While our nonprofit leadership transitions don’t attract quite so much media attention, these phases are clearly at work.  The SC/PIP Executive Search model, which has been developed in collaboration with our grantmaking partners including the Annie E. Casey, JPMorgan Chase, Clark, and Altman Foundations, has been found to reduce the risks of transitions and strengthen organizational health and effectiveness.

Making the Most of an Executive Search

An early study of this approach described by the Annie E.  Casey Foundation in their monograph Capturing the Power of Leadership Change “retrospectively analyzed a five-year capacity building and executive transition initiative conducted by the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation…This research found that these organizations had significant positive outcomes from utilizing the model including increases in executive tenure (from 4.3 to 5.7 years),“healthy” rankings (from 67% to 89%) and direct investment and growth in funding in communities served (from $146.7 million to $418.9 million).”  More recent assessments of this model here in New York, as well as assessments in San Francisco and Maryland show similar results.

Over the past ten years, we have assisted a wide-range of nonprofit organizations in our region helping them get the most out of their search process, significantly minimizing the risks and maximizing the opportunities.  We’re not sure that the Vatican knew of the good work of Mr. Bridges (no, they didn’t call us for assistance).  But it has been reported that the “search and transition team” spent a good deal of time thinking about the management of the transition process and the risks and opportunities they faced going toward the future.  Was the job description redesigned based on a comprehensive organizational assessment?  We’re not sure, but Bridges surely would have recommended it!

Warm regards,

Don's_signature

Don Crocker
Executive Director/CEO

Don Crocker

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