Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Daring to Lead 2006 - Finding 3

Still working my way through the Daring to Lead 2006 study. Finding 1 was about how 75% non-profit executives of all ages plan to leave their jobs in the next five years. Finding 2 began to explore why, with Boards of Directors contributing significantly to executive burnout. Finding 3 continues that exploration of reasons—non-profit executives believe they make significant financial sacrifices to lead nonprofits.

This was another finding that did not vary much with the age of the executive. On a 6-point scale, 39% of executives under 40 years old rated their sacrifice as a 6, as did 37% of executives in their 40s, and 32% of executives in their 50s and 60s. What did seem to make a difference was the size of the nonprofit organization the executive was running—with the degree of perceived financial sacrifice much lower among executives of larger organizations where the salaries are higher. The data show as many as 70% of executives who work for small staff size organizations believing they have made a significant financial sacrifice, compared to only 44% of executives who work for large staff size organizations.

The study report doesn't address this point, but I'd be curious to see a comparison between those who believe they have made a financial sacrifice to lead a nonprofit with the various career paths that lead to nonprofit leadership. Is it only those who come from the for-profit sector who feel they've made a financial sacrifice? Or do those who have come up through the nonprofit ranks also feel that way?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Gen X Assets and Liabilities

Raines, Zemke and Filipczak have written a good book about Generations in the workplace. I particularly like that at the end of each chapter, they present an "Assets and Liabilities in the Workplace" section. I thought it was nice (and fair) to point out that EVERY generation has both assets and liabilities. Here's what they wrote for Generation X. Anything to challenge or add?


·       Adaptable

·       Technoliterate

·       Independent

·       Unintimidated by authority


·       Impatient

·       Poor people skills

·       Cynical

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Daring to Lead 2006 - Finding 2

I continue to work my way through the Daring to Lead 2006 study. I blogged last time about the study's first finding—that 75% of surveyed nonprofit executives plan to leave their jobs in the next five years. Their second finding—that Boards of Directors and funders contribute to executive burnout—begins to get into the reasons why so many executives are apparently dissatisfied.

Look at these data sets from the study, comparing the responses of executives who were planning on leaving with those who were planning on staying:

Board is not personally supportive
46% of executives who plan to leave agree vs.
19% of executives who plan to stay

Board doesn't understand ED's job
49% of executives who plan to leave agree vs.
27% of executives who plan to stay

Board doesn't value ED's contributions
32% of executives who plan to leave agree vs.
8% of executives who plan to stay

Staff don't view the Board as leaders
66% of executives who plan to leave agree vs.
48% of executives who plan to stay

The point here is obviously the higher agreement rates among executives who are planning to leave. But look again at that last data set. Two-thirds of executives who plan to leave say their staff don't view their Board as an engaged leadership body—but nearly half of the executives who plan to stay say the same thing.

The study is careful to point out that it is simply reporting on executive perception of a relationship that requires strategic effort on both sides. In other words, just because an executive thinks her staff don't view her Board as leaders, that doesn't mean her staff really think that, or that her Board isn't really comprised of leaders.

I'm curious what you think about the potential behind this statistic—that between half and two-thirds of nonprofit staffs don't view their Boards as engaged leaders. Don't worry, I'm not asking you to comment on your staff and your Board. I'm asking whether you think such a disconnect really exists in such a high percentage of our nonprofit organizations. I'm skeptical.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Leadership Meme - Hourglass Style

For background, read this.

Then check out what others have posted on their blogs: Jamie Notter, Jeff De Cagna, Deirdre Reid, Maddie Grant, Bruce Hammond.

Now, here's my list. The top three things I've learned about being a leader.

1. Make a decision. Get the facts, consult with others, hear what those affected by the decision have to say—but at the end of the day you need to make the decision and take ownership for what happens next. Leaders act.

2. Raise your expectations. The leader in any system sets the bar for performance, either knowingly or unknowingly. Do it knowingly. Expect more of yourself and of those you lead. You won't break the system and you may be surprised by what can be accomplished.

3. Don't get distracted. You must consciously decide what to spend your time on. Time is the most limited resource you have and it must be spent wisely on the things that you personally can have the greatest impact on. Don't let the trivial events of the day distract you from the long-range plans that you must nurture if they are to succeed.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Daring to Lead 2006 - Finding 1

I wanted to get back to the Daring to Lead 2006 study. When Jamie and I first blogged about it, we got a thoughtful comment from one of the study's co-authors, who made the point that one of things that prompted the study, and its predecessor in 2001, was the observation that talented and committed non-profit executives were burning out early in their tenure because of the overwhelming demands of the job. In reviewing the study's more detailed findings, the case for that conclusion really bares itself out.

For starters, let's take a look at their first major finding: Executives plan to leave their jobs—but not the sector—within five years. Fully three-quarters of the nearly 2,000 study responders agreed with this statement. And, more directly for our purposes, those results did not vary according to the age of the responder. Eighteen percent were under 40, twenty-five percent were between 40 and 49, forty-one percent were between 50 and 59, fifteen percent were between 60 and 69, and one percent were 70 or older—and across the board seventy-five percent of them said they were planning to leave their current jobs within the next five years.

When asked what to classify their ideal next job, seventeen percent of the executives cited retirement. Although the report is not specific on this point, it would seem logical to assume that this reply was skewed towards to older responders—perhaps that entire group over 60 and a few in the 50 to 59 range.

What assumptions would the different generations attach to these findings? Speaking as an Xer, they don't seem all that out of whack with my own expectations and experiences in the non-profit association world. Most younger executives I know view movement to a new association after several years of success as a valid career development move. And Jamie has already described how the Millennials expect to have four or five different CAREERS over the length of their working lives.

The report does not position it as anything else, but taken in and of itself, this first finding seems to validate the natural dynamics of the nonprofit marketplace. The reasons behind this anticipated turnover will be explored through some of the other findings.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Being in the Middle

Generation X is obviously the thin middle in our Hourglass metaphor, surrounded on both sides by much larger (and, according to Strauss and Howe, more dominant) generations. And recently we've also primarily been in the middle of organizations, between the senior level and the entry level.

Barry Oshry wrote a great book titled Seeing Systems that talks about the way people act when they are "tops," "middles," and "bottoms." It's very predictable and consistent. In the book he points out that middles are constantly frustrated because they are trying to please both the top and the bottom, but he argues the middle's real role is to connect the top and the bottom together directly rather than trying to be a buffer between them.

I'm honestly not sure if this line of thinking applies to the generations, but I have been wondering lately if Generation X right now has an important translation role to play--connecting boomers and millennials by helping to translate the worlds for each of them. Although Gen X outnumbers Millennials in the workforce right now, they are a bigger generation and will eventually outnumber us. Being the middle of the hourglass, Gen X is constantly a minority. And minorities are much better at learning the language of the majority population than vice versa (they have to for survival). 

I'm getting clear that Generation X is not really about being in the limelight (neither was the Silent Generation). So do we have a role as translators?