Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Daring to Lead 2006 - Recommendations

This is going to be my last post of the Daring to Lead 2006 study. It concludes with a list of recommendations for nonprofit executives based on their results. I think the list is worth reading and strikes me as fairly practical advice—reminders about things all nonprofit execs should do but not all find time for. They include:

1. Take responsibility for developing a strategic board.
2. Build leaders at all levels of your organization as a succession planning strategy for the day you'll no longer be in the exec position.
3. Ask for adequate salary and benefits.
4. Build a network of supportive peers and mentors to help you over difficult patches.

The report provides some more details in each of those areas. But the one I really want to zoom in on is:

5. Live in the question: Am I still the right person for this job?

How many execs ask themselves this question on a regular basis? Am I the person to manage the challenges emerging for this organization and to take it to the next level of mission achievement? The study authors argue that the number of forced resignations they encountered in the backgrounds of the study participatnts could have been successfully avoided if more execs would approach their work with this mindset—that they won't always be the solution, and that when the merry-go-round stops it's better to get off gracefully than to be asked to leave. It also reflects a level of stewardship that is still not entirely in vogue.

From a generational perspective, I think this question is more important than ever. It'd be interesting to hear the takes of Boomers, Xers and Millenials on the question. Would one group be more willing than others to ask themselves the question? Would one more easily move on if the honest answer indicated that they should?


Caley Kleczka said...

Eric, you raise an interesting question and one I have been personally grappling with for some time.

I would think that individuals, regardless of generational category, avoid or fail to ask the question simply because of what an answer of no potentially means. I suspect that maintaining a good salary, being cognizant of an uncertain job market, and the need to protect one's ego have a lot to do with whether or not the question is asked and honestly answered. One can conceivably be satisfying the tenets of good stewardship by performing at an efficient, albeit uninspired, level. Many are probably very happy doing so. It is not surprising, then, that forced resignations might be aligned to the concept of "right" for the organization at any given time.

As I find myself embroiled in a seemingly never-ending search for employment, I have discovered that it is easier than I thought it would be to question my "rightness" when considering an opportunity or deliberating the merits of an offer. This is true even when I have gone into the process convinced that I will take a particular job if offered. Like most everyone else, I could certainly use the money, I very much want to get back in the game, and I both fear and hate the idea that I may be losing credibility with my colleagues, family and friends as I languish in unemployment.

However, I am very cautious about taking on a position without considering if I am a good fit for an organization, or it for me. I have taken jobs in the past without fully considering this issue; I made a terrible mistake. Now, I want to be convinced that I can make a difference over an extended period of time. Otherwise, I simply decline the offer.

How frustrating it must be for those around me as they try to understand why I turn down this or that great job opportunity! But I think it unwise to underestimate the value of a "good fit" from all sides of the equation. What if I take that job? How long before I am frustrated by a lack of progress or sense of achievement? How long before they ask me to step down because I am unable to lead or no longer leading the organization effectively in the direction it needs to go, or in a direction that is consistent with the board's vision? How difficult will my job search then become as I approach it from even less than ideal circumstances?

Then I wonder if I would adopt/maintain the same mindset once IN the position. I like to believe so. Actually, I recall thinking about this when I was considering leaving a position in the past. I kept saying that someone else would come in and revitalize the position. I'm pretty sure I was only coming to terms with my decision to leave rather than truly believing what I was telling myself. But in retrospect, I think it was true. My successor has done some amazing things in moving the society's mission forward!

Does any of this have to do with me being a Gen-X'er? I think there so much more going on at the individual and deeply personal level, that it may be somewhat difficult to characterize how each generational group would approach the question of "am I the right person for this job". At the most basic level, as a GenX'er, this question probably has more relevance for me than for my Millennial counterparts. I crave stability and this affects how I answer or am even willing to approach the question. A Millennial may see employment more on a project basis, so it is possibly easier for this group to address the question and accept the possibility that it is time for them to move on. And I suspect earlier generational cohorts may be even more conservative in their approach to answering the question.

I would definitely be interested in hearing other perspectives on this!

Post a Comment