When I coach nonprofit managers I often repeat some of my most fundamental management tips and processes. Most of them work for any organization, for-profit and not-for-profit.

As a leader, the character of your organization will never exceed your own. Make sure you exhibit every trait and quality you want your people to exhibit. A culture of trust and respect is vital. If you don’t trust and respect an employee, that person should not be working for you. That is your responsibility. If you set an example of taking responsibility for your own decisions instead of scapegoating, your people will do the same.

In Applied Wisdom I talk about some of the leadership challenges The Nature Conservancy (TNC) faced in the middle of the last decade. One of the proposed solutions was to hire a new CEO, and I was brought into the process.

I thought that TNC would be well-served at that time by a leader who had come from either the management consulting world or investment banking. In both those fields individuals have to parachute into complicated, often high-pressure situations and use an orderly process to analyze what is going on and discern what the options are. That pretty much defined what the next TNC president was going to have to do. Mark Tercek fit the bill and became TNC’s CEO in 2008.

In June of this year The Nature Conservancy announced that it was becoming a founding member of the Climate Leadership Council (CLC), along with over two dozen corporations, nonprofits and distinguished individuals.

The CLC is an international research and advocacy organization with a mission to convene global opinion leaders around new climate solutions based on carbon pricing and dividends. Founding members include former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, scientist Stephen Hawking, and economists N. Gregory Mankiw and Lawrence Summers. This is the kind of leadership that the TNC under Mark Tercek have become famous for.

Please Comment Below

Have you found ways to help your colleagues and staff to embody the principles of the organization?

Not every business practice translates to the nonprofit world, but here are some that do. I hope you’ll find them helpful.  —Jim Morgan

Focus on the Long Haul 
Most leaders are smart, knowledgeable about their business, and committed to their goals. What sets real leaders apart is their ability to maintain the pace. Social transformation, like running a Fortune 500 business, is a marathon—not a 50-yard dash. Keep an eye on important things like taking care of your health and family. Take time to carefully plan your business and personal calendars, and make sure that you’re including time for physical exercise.  This keeps you competitive and available for the next challenge.

Own the Monkey  
Some organizations are particularly susceptible to paralysis by analysis. Take responsibility for your decisions—as we say, “Own the Monkey.” You can always change or adjust your decision later if you have built in concrete review points ahead of time. Remember that decisions build momentum. Look for the “driving forces”—only one or at the most two items are the primary reasons for making a decision a certain way.

Even a well-analyzed decision is often not the most critical part of a decision process. It’s how you manage the consequences of the decision that matters. Practice determining what is the right thing to do for the organization, for your group, for your key stakeholders, and then for yourself.

Plan for 5%
Devote at least 5% of each week to planning. If you can focus your thinking out 3 to 12 months, you reduce the lack of control that builds up from being in a constant reactive mode. You begin to find patterns and to see possibilities and develop contingency plans. Then, review your best ideas at least weekly, prioritize them, and think about when they can be actionable: in a week, a month, 6 months, 12 months or 18 months. Determining when they will be actionable helps you evaluate the quality of the idea, the caliber of the talent, and the resources you have available (and provides a stimulation to get the missing capabilities in place). Then…

“Book It and Ship It”  
Success comes from the implementation of ideas. Time should be spent on organizing, strategizing and planning, but you need to complete the project, hire the person, get the donation, etc. Think about the “top three” priorities. You will have a long list of important things but try to make sure to get your focus on the top three. Think, “10% Strategy/90% Implementation.”

Collaborate Successfully
Leverage each other’s strengths. Enable others to build the capability required. The best management is simplified management by committed people willing to share the credit and be accountable.

Remember the “Six C’s”: 

  • Contact – Network for points of contact
  • Compromise – Make intelligent compromises
  • Contract – Agree to work together
  • Concrete – Ensure that objectives are measurable and concrete
  • Check – Streamline collaborative processes to avoid duplication
  • Close – Meet your commitments

To your success!

Please Comment Below

Have you learned lessons at your nonprofit that you think have a much broader application?