Category Archives: Adrianne Geiger DuMond

Learning from Failure

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

 

 

Most of us have experienced failure at some point in our lives – lost a job we wanted, lost a promotion, lost a contract or grant. I recently read an article that put a different spin on failure – learning from the experience. After enduring the disappointment, what comes next? With a mindset to associate failure with improvement and growth, this can be a springboard to future success.

 

1.Failure can make us like a ‘scientist’ – like the research chemist that tries again and again, to achieve his chemical theory:

– What factors went into the outcome?

– Who do I know who could give me insight and advice on these factors?

– Should I return to the decision maker for some honest feedback?

– If so, what is my behavior like – appreciative, sincere, not defensive?

 

  1. Failure demands reflection. The point is to examine the failure to determine if the cause might be part of our own weaknesses. Hopefully we can acknowledge what weaknesses may be holding us back – job assessments or performance reviews. But don’t let this knowledge shield you from the strengths for which you are already recognized. Those strengths are what took you to the present state and will be needed as you go forward.

 

3.Failure must generate a ‘can-do’ attitude. Albert Einstein was famous for saying, “a person who never made a mistake never tried anything new”. The reaction to failure is a test of character. A winner is a loser who just tries one more time.

Author:  Adrianne Geiger DuMond. Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

 

Are You Prepared? The Breach of Data Security

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

 

 

I recently wrote about the benefits of data as a public relations tool – especially when the IRS Form 990 is available to the public. I would be remiss if I didn’t address the possibility of such data being hacked. “The philanthropy community is still catching up to the digital security needs faced by civil society” says two security experts, whose article is noted below.[1]

The article recommends four steps to take to be AWARE of the risk. They are:

  1. Commit to digital security as essential to all work. Although digital security work takes resources and energy, it is critical to keep a focus on its importance. Like fiscal responsibility and good governance, digital security needs to be part of strategic planning.
  1. Take big responsibility for big data. Organizations must take responsibility for stewarding their data seriously, or many people they serve, engaged supporters and institutions may be at risk.
  1. Prioritize “capacity building”. This means addressing the structural vulnerabilities that make it easy for an online adversary to attack the organization. This includes auditing the specific systems the organization uses to store, share, and process user data. The authors point out that individual training programs are not sufficient, since the ground is always changing. It takes focused, structural change. 
  1. See the shared threat as a call for interdependence. Digital security is a shared responsibility among funders, donors, partners, and our own customers and clients. Organizations need to be realistic about the interdependencies and work together to avoid the risks. But lastly, data security relies on a structural, system-wide focus in the organization to avoid the risk.

[1]Tackling Digital Security Across Civil Society”, Josh Levy & Katie Gillum, Stanford Social Innovation Review, April 20, 2018

Author:  Adrianne Geiger DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County, ECofOC.org

A Guide to Succession Planning

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

 

 

Succession planning is one of the hardest activities that non-profits take the time to consider. I was recently given a document that I feel every non-profit leader should read. This is because it provides every single consideration, every step, and many resources for completing the task. It is called, ‘Building the Organizations:Succession Planning for NonProfits’, funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The author is Tim Wolfred of CompassPoint Nonprofit Services (compasspoint.org).

The document is 20 pages, and I would like to just tell you some of the subjects included, in the interest of space.

  • Three ways of thinking about succession planning:
    • Strategic leader development – assuring the right skills are present for the leadership in the strategic planning process.
    • Emergency succession planning – the document does an excellent job of laying out first steps, of demystifying the hesitancy that ‘being prepared’ might engender, and providing care for the departing leader.
    • Creating the probability for successors to the Executive Director and other important leaders to emerge from your talent pool.
  • A Succession Readiness list
  • The importance of sharing knowledge – to increase bench strength
  • The nuts and bolts of Departure-Defined Succession Planning – when a leader announces a departure date ahead of time.
  • Getting the Board on board
  • The Tough Issues
  • Finding an Interim Executive Director
  • Tools You Can Use – and where to get them
    • Staff surveys
    • Stakeholder Surveys
    • A sample of an Emergency Succession Plan – with steps to how to accomplish the plan (compasspoint.org/et).

I hope this information will encourage you to consider succession planning as vital to the success and sustainability of your organization.

Author:  Adrianne Geiger DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Managing Conflict Between Direct Reports

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

 

One of the most worrisome tasks of a manager is managing conflict between direct reports – especially when it spills over into the staff. Rather than ignoring the situation, here are some steps to take to lessen the toll on everyone, and it is a manager’s responsibility to be held accountable.

Step 1: Setting the tone for a meeting: Preparing for a meeting requires a boss to think objectively, be open-minded about rumors and accusations, look only for the facts. For example: “I have called us together today to discuss the differences you two have, to try to understand what is going on, and to see what we can agree upon going forward. I am concerned for you and how it is affecting our team. I know how committed each of you is to the mission, so I hope we can find some agreement. Are you willing to try?”

 Step 2: Fact Finding: “ I think it might be helpful if you explained what the differences or disagreements are about. I ask each of you to tell us as objectively, clearly and specifically as you can, your perspective on the conflict. Afterward, each of you may ask the other any questions you have. Who would like to go first?” (If this goes well, thank them for their openness and candor. The manager’s job at this point is to push for clarity, remain open-minded and be supportive of the effort.)

Step 3: Describing today’s agenda: “ Now let’s see if we can find some solutions. I would like each of you to think a minute, and then tell us (a) what you admire about the other person, then (b) what you would like to see them do differently, or stop doing, and (c) WHY. After each has finished this part, the other person may ask questions for clarity – no reasons yet, just questions. Are you comfortable doing this? If not, please tell us why.” (Sometimes, just reassurance from the boss – especially for confidentiality – helps the process move on.)

Step 4: Seeking Agreement: This section seeks a list of actions and behaviors that each party might subscribe to that would lessen the tension between the two.  Identify potential points of agreement and areas of disagreement. Push for possible solutions that might satisfactorily resolve the conflict in a constructive way.

Step 5: Verify Solutions: Together, select solutions that meet all parties’ needs. Remember this might require some compromises, but all are aware of the positions taken. Changes can occur as goals are set and reviewed at a later date.

Step 6: Establish an Action Plan:  Each person develops an action plan with specific actions and behaviors that both are willing to take to implement the solutions. Agree to meet again in the not too distant future to review the plan and make any adjustments. Again, thank them for helping solve the conflict and reassure them you are always available to meet further.

Author:  Adrianne Geiger DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Can Your Data Tell a Story?

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

 

 

 

How many of us input data, and never see it again, lacking an effective way to use it? What if the data could tell a compelling story that might inspire others to support the mission? An article on the Stanford Social Innovation Review website provides some recommendations for helping your data tell a story/[1]

 

1. Data storytellers answer a question – “so what”. I recently had a client whose services had added 20 customers for the quarter. That number had no significance until he asked some questions:

  • What percentage is 20 of our customer base?
  • How does this effect our operation?
  • Who needs to know these numbers?

Analysis of the data leads to clarity and to more questions.

2.  The data should inspire us to ask more questions.

Back to the example:

  • What factors contribute to this increase?
  • How does it effect staffing?
  • What external factors are contributing to the increase?
  • How can we portray this information graphically for social media purposes?

3.  The use of rigorous analysis is better than numbers on a page. A concise Executive Summary of the findings from the analysis is a first step.The author, Jake Porway, favors visualization of the data over raw numbers – a graph or pie chart to crystallize understanding for an audience. Porway has several websites in his article for learning more about data visualization. This may be difficult for some IT personnel. But the goal may be worth the investment in order to impress upon donors and volunteers, viewing the media source, that their service and contributions are needed and welcomed.

[1] Three Things Great Data Storytellers Do Differently,  Jake Porway, author, Stanford Social Innovation Review, June 8, 2016

Author:  Adrianne DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

The Glossary for Nonprofit Governance

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

 

 

Many of us in the nonprofit world use terms and acronyms that may be confusing to newcomers – especially young employees trying to learn about the nonprofit as a business. I recently ran across a very useful tool for educating everyone in this business. The glossary should probably be in every manager’s office.

The Glossary is published by BoardSource and can be found under Nonprofit Board Fundamentals on their website. The glossary is alphabetized and runs five pages and has every term that is ever used in this business.

For example: have you ever wondered what the difference was between a 501(c)(3) and a 501(c)(6)? There are also simpler definitions: For example:

  •  Board Development
  •  Disclosure requirements
  •  Emeritus status
  •  Fiduciary duty
  •   Immediate sanctions
  •   Operational reserves

Possibly the most Important definitions provided for novices are the terms for IRS requirements, which can be confusing. For example:

  • Form 990
  • Form 990 – PF
  •  Form 990 – T
  •  Form 1023
  •  Form 1024
  • Or maybe a ‘Federated Organization’ ?

I recommend every nonprofit have a copy of this glossary – maybe even board members might appreciate the information.

Author:  Adrianne Geiger DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Form 990 Can Be a Public Relations Tool

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

 

Many nonprofits consider the IRS Form 990 to be a dreary necessity at tax time. In the 2008 tax year, major revisions were made to the Form. Nonprofits have been slow to realize the impact the revisions may have for donors and the public.  The diverse information provided in the new Form is now available to the public and can be found online free at at such sites as Guidestar.org, and nccs.urban.org.

In a recent article by Michael Wyland, an author and member of the editorial advisory board for the Nonprofit Quarterly, Wyland points out the advantages to providing accurate and complimentary information on the Form.[1] The Form displays not only financial information (assets and liabilities), but also facts that address governance, programs, and fundraising. His article shows a breakdown of the Form with its schedules and functional area relevance, because not every nonprofit completes the same schedules. However, he points out that most of the 990 parts and schedules still address the multiple categories of governance, programs, and fundraising.

As Wyland notes,”not all organizations complete all parts of the Form, and not all file each and every schedule. For example, while most 501(c)(3) public charities must file Schedule B (Schedule of Contributions), it is considered confidential and not disclosed to the public. Private foundations, on the other hand, must disclose and make it publicly available.”

Never the less, ALL Form 990’s do reveal to the public governance (governing bodies and management, policies, and disclosures), programs, and fundraising. A potential donor may look for efficiencies and financial data, but still seek the charity that meets his/her passion for a particular service or need. A potential volunteer may consider who manages the organization and where they can fit in. It is important for all nonprofit staffs and boards to be aware of the public exposure, but also the opportunity to be more advantageously promoted to the public.

[1] Your 990: What Nonfinancial Matters Does It Reveal to the Media and the Public, Michael Wyland, Nonprofit Quarterly, November 17, 2017

Author:  Adrianne Geiger DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Changing Leadership Skills for the Promotion

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

 

Even good leaders often face uncertainty when they consider what skills need changing in the new job. In a recent newsletter published by the Center for Creative Leadership, they present four (4) important attributes to consider: Self- Awareness, Communications, Influence, and Learning Agility. The premise is that these skills vary depending on the job level in the organization.[1]

Self Awareness: This knowledge may be the most important for the accomplishment of all the skills. For example, do you lead intuitively, deliberately, or strategically and to what degree? If you move from an operational level to a management level, will you need to think strategically and how do you get there? Self-assessment instruments and feedback surveys provide this kind of knowledge so a person can use his/her strengths effectively and make adjustments to the weaknesses. ECOC has coaches skilled in this process and are able to assist in the planning and execution of this process.

Communications: Communications becomes more complex as one moves up the ladder. It is basic to success at many job levels, but requires a different perspective in a larger role. This is especially true if a new boss has been a peer before. Different skills may be building trust, encouraging discussion, listening well, and conveying the vision, mission, and strategic intent.

Influence: Now you need to bring people along and influence their thinking, align the actions of others, and build commitment to achieve measureable outcomes. Again, it is wise to know one’s style of doing this so that adjustments can be made, if necessary. New skills required may be: presenting logical and compelling arguments, more focus on steering long-range objectives, giving insight, inspiration and motivation.

Learning Agility: Being constantly open to learning provides the confidence it takes to learn new skills. “ Learning agility involves asking good questions, respect for give-and-take, listening well, and being open to feedback. For senior leaders, learning agility also includes inspiring learning in others and creating a culture of learning throughout the organization.”[2]

[1] “Leading Effectively”, The Center for Creative Leadership, September 29, 2017.

[2]  Ibid.

Author:  Adrianne Geiger DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Improving Board Governance: Part 3

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

 

The role of the CEO/Executive Director: Barriers and Risks

I have spoken in past blogs of the importance of a ‘generative mindset’ for enhancing the importance of Board governance. Generative mindset encompasses a macro level of thinking for Board meetings. There is a risk when Board members are confortable with a less strenuous mode of thinking. They may be uncomfortable with the new mode. It may take some time for Board members to accept and participate easily.

Perhaps the most important role for success is by the CEO/Executive Director (ED).  The ED is the primary conduit between staff and Board (as should be defined in the by-laws). The ED is responsible for educating the Board – to improve governance – and is accountable for the knowledge and information the Board receives. The ED also controls the pace of meetings so they are useful as well as informative – and this is an important necessity. Meetings can drag on, lots of talk, little new understanding or resolution on next steps.

Meeting guidelines for the CEO/ED:

  • In a separate meeting, beforehand, brief the Board chair, explain your goals so that he/she can support your quest.
  • Explain how governance is a partnership – between ED, staff, and Board.
  • Prepare and select carefully the project/subject for which the Board can provide guidance.
  • Encourage Board members to ask more questions than statements – challenging suppositions.
  • Ensure that nothing is “undiscussable” in the board room, and assure confidentiality.
  • Encourage different opinions.
  • Share information and leadership opportunities – asking questions can prove this to members.
  • Control discussion where a member dominates – one way to do this is to say,  “Sam, in the interest of time, let’s meet after the meeting to hear your viewpoint so that others can express their opinions here more openly”.
  • Don’t be too wedded to the past, but also not too far ahead of the Board.

Author:  Adrianne Geiger DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org

Improving Board Governance: Part 2

Adrianne Geiger Dumond

The Importance of Effective Board Meetings

Board meetings can be comprised of dedicated supporters, and/or highly trained professionals – all committed to the cause, but with different skill sets for good governance. Part 1 of this series named the three ‘mindsets’ that Boardsource likes for adequate governance of a nonprofit. They were: Financial Insight, Strategic Insight and Generative Insight – the third mindset being the most challenging to grasp.

Generative governance requires time being spent to feel comfortable with the concepts – critical thinking, problem analysis, and tackling ambiguous Board circumstances. It’s more than the usual Board meeting agenda. Board, staff, and CEO must work as partners to handle the strategies going forward. A generative mindset might be quite healthy in a nonprofit’s staff and its teams. For example, a problem arises, the appropriate team analyses cause and effect, researches possible solutions, proposes recommendations to the CEO – who then takes it to the Board. A generative mindset might mean that the staff person/team leader also present their reasoning to the Board, since the Board may need to approve a large expenditure. This thinking for the Board is at a macro level that may feel uncomfortable at first. And it requires better preparation for Board meetings – asking better questions instead of focusing on immediate, short-term considerations – like balancing the budget.

Operating in a generative mode is educating Board members and requires more meeting time and resources for critical thinking, discussion and debate. Here are some tips for making the transition easier.

Consent agendas:  Sending out an agenda ahead of the meeting allows quick acceptance of routine reports and approval of recurring actions.

Pre-reading: No meeting time should be spent reviewing documents for information and knowledge, Information should be sent early enough for Board members to be prepared for discussion and to provide their opinions.

Board Composition: A diversity of thinking styles and problem solving is important. This is a great learning opportunity for all involved. Often, great team work is the outcome – members having better understanding of each other.

In Part 3 I will cover the important role of the Chief Executive in this process, and the risks and barriers.

Author:  Adrianne Geiger DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org