Linking things up – Holiday edition!

Dec 10, 2012 by

Somehow, it’s December. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, since this has been the fastest year of my life. But somehow, here we are.

And, I’ve been slacking on the blog lately. Our new house is taking up an incredible amount of time and effort – but the ‘end’, at least in terms of unpacking, arranging, buying new furniture, re-arranging, etc. – is in sight! By the end of the year, we’re looking forward to really settling into the home and finally enjoying it, rather than viewing it as a source of work and occasionally, frustration.

I wanted to share some links for great posts from other blogs that I’ve been keeping up in my (limited) free time. Enjoy and stay tuned – I’ve got a lot in store for 2013!

  • Millennials Are Here: 5 Facts Nonprofits and Businesses Need to Know by Colleen Dilenschneider at Know Your Own Bone - As usual, Colleen has taken hard data and provided a clear, thoughtful analysis that even non-data nerds (like myself) can appreciate. In this post, she points out what should be obvious to us all, but apparently isn’t – millennials are the largest generation in history, they are already having a huge amount of influence over pop, intellectual and consumer culture and nonprofits ignore them at their own peril. If you work at a nonprofit, are a data nerd or just appreciate incisive writing, get over there now.
  • 4 Mistakes Employers Are Sure To Notice by Heather Huhman at Glassdoor Blog - Glassdoor’s posts are always concise, to the point and provide great advice for you job-seekers out there. This post is no different. Heather breaks down four mistakes that you need to avoid if you actually want to hired. Take it from Heather Huhman, an experienced hiring manager: you don’t want to get noticed for all the wrong reasons.
  • Foundations Must Get Serious About Multi-Year Grantmaking by Niki Jagpal & Kevin Laskowski at the Stanford Social Innovation Review – I don’t talk about fundraising or foundations much in this space, but it’s something that every nonprofit professional must pay attention to. In this excellent piece, Jagpal and Laskowski highlight the decline in multi-year grantmaking by foundations to nonprofits and the devastating effects it is having and will continue to have in the future. Without a consistent source of funding, nonprofits will continually struggle to make ends meet and will not be able to focus on the mission-based work that the foundations supposedly support. And on a more personal level, any nonprofit professional’s job could be on the line because of that lack of support.
  • Worst-case scenarios. You gotta love ‘em. by Danielle LaPorte on her blog – This elegantly simple post comes pretty close to summing up my philosophy to career risks. To wit: what’s the worst that could happen?
  • What You Pay in Time by Philip Brewer at Wisebread – This post kind of blew my mind. Wisebread’s tagline is “living large on a small budget” and they share all kind of posts about how to value your time, money and stuff appropriately – and how avoid over-valuing the same. This post breaks down, in fairly stark terms, one method of determining what you’re giving up and what you’re getting when you make different choices – in this case, in terms of time. While the focus is framed around time and money in general, it made me think specifically about my career and the growth of my business. How much time am I spending just trying to earn money…in order to spend more time making money. Read it – maybe it will blow you mind too.
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Linking things up – November edition

Nov 30, 2011 by

Every couple of months, I like to pull together a list of some of the best blog posts, opinion pieces and otherwise cool stuff I find on the interwebs and share it with you. Here’s November’s edition, enjoy!

  • The Importance of Managing Your Professional Development from Entry Level Living – Allison Jones has hit the nail on the head again. In this insightful post, she talks about how organizations – corporate and nonprofit – have been cutting back on professional development money/opportunities, leaving job seekers hanging in the wind. But have no fear! There are things you can do to build your own professional development even if your employer won’t. Check it out.
  • Invisible People Don’t Get Seen from RosettaThurman.com – I can’t agree with Rosetta more on this post. You know that 99% everyone’s talking about these days? Well in my career coaching work, I often refer to the 99% as those that are invisible and will be lucky to get anywhere in their careers. You must be part of the 1% that actually gets seen and Rosetta can offer you some tips on how to do it.
  • Lessons from Boot Camp from SamDavidson.net – I’m happy to know that I’m not the only blogger that can take a lesson from sports. In this excellent post, Sam lays out what at learned at a workout boot camp and how those lessons apply to leadership, career and life. These are lessons we all need to learn.
  • Free Non-profit Webinars for December 2011 from Wild Apricot – Every month, Wild Apricot shares a great list of free webinars happening all over the nonprofit sector on topics including fundraising, hosting effective webinars, writing grant reports and more. Here’s your opportunity to take Allison up on her suggestion to get your own (free) professional development.
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7 Habits of Highly Successful Managers

Jul 21, 2011 by

Welcome to a new installment of my semi-regular ‘7 Skills/Habits’ series (travelers, coworkers, supervision), an idea stolen blatantly from Stephen Covey.*

A couple of months ago, I was asked to present a training on leadership and management. I was told that I had 3 hours and about 15 interns to work with in the session. And that was it. It was intimidating to say the least. I mean how do you talk about leadership and management in a way that gets across some useful lessons in 3 hours? It seems like both too much and too little time.

But then I took a deep breath and started to focus on the ‘7 Habits’ model as a way to design the training. What I came away with was a distillation of many of the management habits – best practices really – that I consistently harp on within this blog. Now, I’m going to share them with you:

  1. Listen – You have two ears and one mouth for a reason.
    • Listening is one of the most difficult, but also one of the most important management tools you have. Some people never listen, some listen occasionally and some listen a lot but still filter everything they hear through their own biases. You must strive to avoid being any one of those people and instead seek to be a person who truly listens to what people say and even what they don’t say. Doing this will make you both unique among your peers and better able to manage everyone around you.
  2. Prepare – Proper preparation prevents piss poor performance.
    • Make no mistake: proper preparation requires time, effort and energy. But it also makes for success in everything you do. Making a list and checking it twice isn’t only for Santa.
  3. Prioritize – Figure out what is most important. Do that first.
    • I’m not claiming that figuring out what is most important is easy; it is not. However, just because something is difficult doesn’t mean you should avoid it or not even bother trying.
  4. Follow up – If you say you’ll do something, do it. If someone else says they’ll do something, make sure that they do.
    • This one seems so simple and yet so many people don’t do it! I’ll give you a perfect example related to career development: in my first job, I worked with hundreds of college students all around the country, many of whom were nearly ready to graduate. Now, I was only 22 and fresh out of school myself, but I had gone through a job search, moved to a new city and had some contacts from my job. How many of those hundreds of students followed up with me to ask for help, advice, support to contacts. None. That’s right – not one of them followed up with me. Would I have noticed if one of them did? Of course.
  5. Manage Up and Laterally – Ask for guidance and be explicit about what you need.
    • As you begin your career, learning to manage up can be one of the most daunting tasks you face. How do you approach your boss? How do you get what you need? How do you figure out what you’re supposed to do on particular tasks? The key for managing up and laterally is to ask questions and be explicit. None of us are mind readers – you have to tell people what you want and need.
  6. Delegate – Give responsibility, authority and accountability.
      1. Responsibility – you must set clear expectations, but not step-by-step instructions on how something should be done.
      2. Authority – the person you delegate to must be given the right to make decisions
      3. Accountability – the person you delegate to is responsible for the work, but you (the delegator) have ultimate responsibility for the task
    • Out of all of these habits (with the possible exception of listening), this is the one I see screwed up the most. Delegation means “transferring decision-making authority to another employee for a task not necessarily within their job description; the delegator still retains ultimate accountability for the project.” (Apologies, I found this quote several years ago and I can no longer remember the source of it.)
    • Here are the key takeaways – and the things that people screw up about delegation:
  7. Take Responsibility and Give Credit – Own the bad, share the good.
    • This one is fairly self-explanatory: don’t take credit for other people’s ideas or work, share the credit when you both get it done and take responsibility when you – or someone you delegated to – messes things up. Simple, but maybe not easy.

Are there other tips you have for good managers? What do you do to keep at the top of your management game? Let me know!

*To further pay homage, I’ll note that most of the content from this post comes from lessons I’ve learned from Peter Drucker, one of world’s foremost management experts and one of my personal mentors in absentia (obviously I don’t know him personally and he sadly passed away a few years ago). I encourage you to purchase or borrow any one of his books right away.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Leo Reynolds
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Linking things up – January edition

Jan 31, 2011 by

Between my Google Reader, Twitter and Facebook recommendations, I get to read all kinds of amazing content every month. Since I love to share the love, here are some links for you to check out:

  • A Strategic Nonprofit Reorganization Plan – This amazing and hilarious piece was published in the Nonprofit Quarterly a few weeks ago and got tons of play on Twitter and Facebook but I had to share it yet again. It is the perfect culmination and expression of nonprofit frustration in the face of ridiculous foundation expectations. It’s long, but you should just go read it. Now.

  • 5 Tips for Blogging in the Post RSS Era – While I don’t know if I fully agree that RSS is dying, I do agree with Geoff Livingston’s excellent blogging suggestions and tips. We all need a reminder about what makes a good blog and how to keep readers coming back for me.
  • 5 Lessons I Learned From Bad Managers – This great post from Nikita Mitchell has excellent tips for what to do when dealing with bad managers. It’s a fate too many of us suffer, though I hope you can avoid becoming one of those bad managers yourself.
  • Freedom is Priceless, But It’s Not Free – My friend Rosetta Thurman has been blogging at Happy Black Woman for the last year or so and she still always manages to share the most amazing tips, thoughts and revelations possible. This particular post is a mediation on the work it takes to actually be free and achieve your dreams. As someone who has owned her own business before and is still working to make her dreams come true, I can certainly identify with the loneliness and ‘nose-to-the-grindstone’ mindset that Rosetta explains. But if you want to achieve your dreams, it takes work and Rosetta can help show you how to get there.
  • Three reasons why young nonprofit professionals should be mentors – This wonderful blog post by Allison Jones is right on the money about the importance of young professionals helping those even younger than themselves to succeed. If you’re still not convinced, cruise on over to Allison’s blog and check out the reasons why.
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7 Skills for Supervision Success

Jan 12, 2011 by

Somehow I’ve managed to generate a mini-series of “7 Things” posts on this blog – mostly complaining about people – so it only seems right to continue it; this time on a more positive note.

I recently led a workshop on supervisory skills for YNPNdc as part of their Emerging Leaders series late last year. I had a great time working with them and thought I’d share some of what I offered to them, here. If you want the full workshop experience – or want to hire me to coach your staff or yourself – contact me!

Image courtesy of Flickr user Leo Reynolds

No matter who you supervise, I think there are 7 core skills that you need to understand, practice and think about all the time. Obviously, supervising an intern or entry level employee is very different than supervising a senior level staff person but I think these skills are the basics that you need no matter who you supervise.

Let me make one other thing clear: all of these skills are simple and basic. For some of these, you’re going to think “Obviously – of course that’s what a supervisor should do.” However, just because they are simple does not mean they are EASY. If they were, everyone would be an amazing supervisor.

What are these “7 Skills for Supervision Success?” Here you go:

  1. Listening – This one is simple right? Well as I said before, simple and easy are not the same thing. Try this: the next time you’re talking to someone, try forcing yourself not to speak for 2 full minutes. Really listen to what the person is saying. And let me know how difficult it is for you to stay quiet.
  2. Availability – Availability can mean a lot of things, both tangible and intangible. On the tangible side, it means being physically present at work. Of course, you’re not going to be at your desk every second of the day, but being away all day, every day by traveling too much, having too many off-site meetings, etc. isn’t productive. That also means keeping your calendar updated regularly. Personally, I’m a fan of making your calendar ‘public’ through Outlook. On the more intangible side, availability means being mentally present and available – and being clear about when you can’t be. If you are under a lot of stress for a major project, you need to let your supervisees know that you won’t be able to help them think through a project. But don’t let the ‘can’t’ times take over the ‘can’ times or you’ll create problems.
  3. Mission-focus/priority-setting – Here is what priority setting comes down to: Figure out what is most important. Do that first. It is that simple and that difficult. In a nonprofit environment (every environment really) it is essential. We are mission-focused organizations and everything we do, everyday, should help us achieve that mission.
  4. Transparency – Not every decision needs a full, 360 degree explanation, but lots of secrecy is frustrating and ultimately dis-empowering to those you supervise. Being transparent also means admitting when you’re wrong or when you don’t know the answer. No one is perfect and if you constantly try to hide behind a perfect image, the downfall will be that much harder.
  5. Delegation – Delegation is arguably the hardest of these skills to learn and perfect. Delegation basically means transferring decision-making authority to another employee for a task not necessarily within one’s job description while still retaining ultimate responsibility for the task. There are three key pieces of this:
    • Responsibility – setting clear expectations, but not step-by-step instructions on how something should be done
    • Authority – the delegatee is given the right to make decisions
    • Accountability – delegatee is responsible for the work, but delegator has ultimate responsibility
  6. Taking Responsibility and Giving Credit – When you delegate authority, you are responsible for what your supervisee does. You must take responsibility for the mistakes. BUT – you must also give credit for the good things.
  7. Realism – Again, simple: DO NOT make commitments that you and your staff can’t keep. Promising the world to a funder, sponsor or partner does no one any good – especially if you can’t deliver. Putting that extra pressure on your employees (not to mention yourself) just creates all kind of unnecessary stress. You also need to be realistic about what you can do as a supervisor – don’t be a bottleneck.

So what do you think? Are these skills easy? Difficult? How do you operate as a supervisor? I’d love to hear more!

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