Monday, August 15, 2011

Daring to Lead 2011

CompassPoint and the Meyer Foundation have come out with a new "Daring to Lead" study. I blogged a bit about their 2006 study, so thought I would give the 2011 update a read as well. It's a survey of more than 3,000 executive directors of non-profit organizations and, although it seems weighted towards charitable and social service organizations, there are a few interesting parallels and tidbits for associations.

First, the good news.

...the distribution of executive tenure across the 3,000 respondents reflects a healthy continuum of new and veteran leaders in the sector. Nearly a third of current executive (31%) have been on the job for fewer than three years; this is more than the 27% who have been on the job for ten or more years. Alarm at the potential widespread sector disruption executive turnover might cause has given way to concern about how best to prepare new leaders and their organizations to weather, and even leverage, inevitable transition.

It's good to hear the generational transition in leadership is actually taking place, and that people are starting to mellow out about it. In the 2006 study, there was a lot more angst about the crushing inevitability of time, and concerns that the new group of younger leaders were not prepared for their positions and (shockingly!) had higher expectations for pay and for work/life balance than the sector traditionally provided. Boomers, it seemed, would have to stay in their positions longer, or the critical missions of their organizations would not continue.

Daring to Lead 2011 seems to indicate that this is no longer the worry. It reflects, I believe, the leadership trend we're also seeing in the association world. More and more GenX and even Millennial leaders are coming into positions of prominence (something obvious to anyone who attended the recent ASAE conference in St. Louis) and, although old and new challenges still linger, the world is not crashing down and the work is somehow getting done.

Now, the bad news.

Executive time invested in working with boards of directors was notably low. Sixteen percent (16%) of executives reported spending fewer than five hours per month on board-related activity, yet nearly half of these executives described themselves as spending the right amount of time. The largest group of executives (39%) spend between five and ten hours per month--just 6% of their time overall--and half of these executives said this was the right amount of time. Other studies have found that executives who spend 20% of their time on board-related activity have high rates of satisfaction with board performance. Similarly, among these respondents, executives at the low-end of the time investment spectrum were the least happy with their board's performance.

This is disturbing and a trend, I hope, that is NOT reflected in the association sector. Speaking for myself, the predictive indicators defined above work. I definitely spend more than 20% of my time on board and board-related activities, and I am satisfied (to say the least) with the performance of the board in my organization. For executives who are not satisfied, I would ask them to reflect on how much time they are spending on the board and on board development activities. Investment of time and levels of satisfaction naturally go hand-in-hand from my perspective. To think that there are organizations whose executives are unsatisfied, but who are unwilling (or unable?) to spend more time on the problem, says something fundamentally deficient about the organization and its capabilities.


Jeffrey Cufaude said...

Eric: You should create a simple survey of a couple of questions polling execs on how they spend their time related to board and board-related activities and post it to the Exec Mgmt Listserver. I think the responses would be interesting for all of us to see. I don't think ASAE currently surveys this topic, but you would know better than me since you would probably see the survey as an exec.

Eric Lanke said...

Good idea, Jeffrey. When thinking about the 20% number, I'm including the work I put into board meeting planning, agenda development, board development, orientation, communication, environmental scanning, strategic planning, follow-up on board meeting action items, etc. Depending on how you slice it, I could see it adding up to well more than 50%. Do you have any thoughts about what should and should not be included in "board and board-related activities"?

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