Helping individuals and organizations navigate change is critical to personal, professional and organizational success. Yet, my clients often struggle to make decisions that are in the best interest of the organization (which, I believe, is also in their own self interest). The conversation with my clients is always an interesting one and usually starts with my asking “do you have the right people in the right places?” The answer, more often than not, is no. And, more often than not, the person who is not the right fit or not living up to their role and responsibility, knows too. This is a critically important issue for all businesses (heck, all relationships) and one that gets avoided all too often.
Gene Takagi’s 12 Reasons Why You Should Gracefully Resign from a Nonprofit Board is an absolute must read and guide for individuals who serve and governance committees of nonprofit organizations. As I read and thought about sharing this with all of my nonprofit clients, I realized I needed to assess my own board participation and make some decisions.
I invite you to do the same.
Assess your nonprofit board participation using this list and, if you find yourself on the list, gracefully resign. It relieves the angst of having to confront you, the embarrassment of being confronted— more importantly, it allows the organization to invite change, and to create a culture of engagement among board members invested in the success of the organization. Staying on a board well beyond your time and interest level can have a significant impact on the board and its culture and, ultimately, harm to the organization. Lack of engagement spreads like wildfire and leaves the organization vulnerable on every level. Nonprofit leaders often struggle with their boards and invest significant resources (human, financial, capital) with very little return on investment. While return on investment is often a conversation being had in leadership circles among Executive Directors, it is rarely a conversation had among board members. What is the return on investment to the organization provided by members and the board as a collective?
Trust me, countless stories from my clients (board and staff) and experience leading and serving on boards provide enough data to write volumes on the impact of board member leadership and engagement, or lack thereof, on the sustainability and success of a nonprofit organization. The remedy is often easier than we want to believe.
Change needed to revitalize your board or organization can be made easier if we all accept responsibility for gracefully resigning when we no longer add value!
This mountaintop looks like the corner on almost every street from my house to Boston and beyond. As we in the Northeast prepare for yet another winter storm to begin today we anticipate 6-12 inches give or take a foot or two! Before this snowfall even arrives, forecasters warn of a mid-week storm to follow. You might be releasing a heavy sigh just about now. You might be one of many who are complaining about the snow. Yet snow is a literal and figurative reminder to take white space. In this crazy, hectic, always plugged in world of ours we often lose site of the white space gift that comes with snow days. It is one of the few things that really slows us down and allows for introspection. Snow days are an opportunity to listen to and read poetry…and then go write your own poem, paint your own picture, write your story, bake, read, cook, snow shoe, ski, play! A snow day is a day for imagination, creativity, and blessed white space –make the most of it, get creative, open up and explore your potential!
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of being the guest speaker at Ready, Set, Lead a program of Leading Women a catalyst for advancing women leaders in the corporate sector. One of the participants wrote this post for her company’s blog. So grateful to for the opportunity to speak AND for this awesome thank you note!
Beneath the Surface
There is nothing quite like being inspired; that I-can-do-and-be-anything-I’ve-ever-dreamed-of feeling is really rather invigorating. And quite frankly, I think we need more of it.
Luckily, that moment with all the hyphens happened for me at a leadership training program when Dr. Marcia Cone, CEO of Women’s Fund of Rhode Island, spoke to our group. Like a well-seasoned travel guide, she walked us through her experiences while on a sabbatical in Scandinavia, one of the most gender-egalitarian regions in the world. Throughout her presentation, she tied in a metaphorical reference to everything she shared. For instance, Scandinavia’s climate does not foster an environment adequate for substantial agricultural growth; however, Europe has exceptionally high levels of geo-thermal heat. By utilizing the heat and energy of this resource, indoor greenhouses were developed to supplement not only Scandinavia’s nutritional needs, but also to create a profitable export. Although this is an interesting fact alone, the philosophical component Dr. Cone provided made the lesson transferrable to any situation, making it truly inspiring. As she mentioned, “There are no problems, only solutions.” Even what seems impossible is only lacking innovation. How can you use your strengths to not only overcome your circumstances, but exceed them?
Intertwined in the story of her trip were words of paramount wisdom. First and foremost, do not just play the game – be a game-changer. If you do not believe in something from an ethical standpoint or if you believe something could be done bigger and better, do not just fall in line and follow those in front of you. Sometimes, in order to gain the greatest advancements, you have to blaze your own path. Also, if you are not hearing “no,” you are not asking enough – take risks even if they can lead to failure. Be diligent, be persistent, and ask for what you truly think is needed.
I have been through enough seminars and presentations about work/life balance to recite what has become just generic repetition. But through Dr. Cone’s speech, I gained a new perspective. She shared this: undervaluing yourself is selfish. Who are you to keep your talents, your skills, your strengths, and your ideas to yourself? The world cannot benefit from your assets if you do not share the very best of yourself. You NEED to value yourself – and part of valuing yourself is valuing your time and energy. You cannot give 100% if you are undernourished, overworked, and overwhelmed. Position yourself to delegate work that is draining your personal resources and, when needed, do not be afraid to say no. It is great to challenge yourself, but not when it conflicts with your own wellbeing.
I learned a lot from Dr. Marcia Cone’s speech, most importantly that “no” is never the end. I learned that impossible is possible with innovation, integrity, and diligence. And I learned that the world and life in general is a canvas for learning; it just takes insight and reflection to cull out the meaning of what lies beneath the surface.
I am completely fascinated by the inherent ability, the often uncharted and sometimes intentional capacity for growth and development of humans. In a constant state of investing, (yes, yes often over-investing) in others , I should not have been surprised the day my LC said “How about you fall in love with your own potential for awhile!”. I laughed—-and realized she wasn’t.
I’d started my conversation with her that day sharing an aha moment. Interestingly, my best ideas and insights seem to spring forth while in the shower. Streams of water that with force can move mountains, flood villages, and with gentleness can provide unfathomed beauty and give life—cascaded down on me and whispered softly ”Marcia, you fall in love with potential.”
I stumbled out of the shower in a daze, looked in the mirror and said the words out loud to my image “You fall in love with potential”.
The message came to me as though an awakening. As though this thread would shed great light on the darkness of the most recent, deeply painful breakup (though is it a breakthrough now?). The epiphany that would allow me to alter what I could not before this moment.
It’s true. My first love, first marriage and all the loves in between and after had one thing in common– they all had great potential.
My confession during that session, I thought, would lead my LC to explore this insight about “them”. Instead, she challenged me to become interested in my potential. And so I have become curious about the falls, geysers, sheds, babbling brooks and still streams of my potential. This space a place for my musings and mutterings through the lens of something I love– potential–yours, mine and ours.