A Non-Profit Board's AHA Moment
When I was a naive manager thrust into a management role, I had the misconception that most leaders back then were born or they just seemed to drop from the sky. Forward a year and I acknowledged my errors. Our bank management training group dwindled down as we became "leaders" and landed new roles. Trust me; our leadership was in name only. Sadly, we lacked development and had not been mentored enough to be managers.
After recently reading Mark Miller’s new book Leaders Made Here about building a leadership culture and developing an internal network of talented leaders ready to jump into a role, I remembered my young management experiences with a bitter smile. The stories that I could share! Mark’s parable about a leadership journey was very relevant. While reading his book, I had an “aha” moment. A non-profit board that I serve on is rebranding, and we are facing a leadership deficit. All of our efforts to advance our goals are futile if we don’t have new leaders ready to jump onboard.
I have been privileged to serve with some very talented people educating and building community with local business professionals on a monthly basis. Everyone involved serves in a volunteer capacity including our director. If you have ever been on a non-profit board, you understand the challenges. It’s difficult to keep volunteers motivated and engaged or showing up. Some members of the council serve purely to note that they are involved in the community and only lend minimal thoughts or expertise. When officers or volunteers quit we have no plan to replace them, no pipeline of leaders mentored to jump in, and in the past, it was addressed when it happened. Our director or board members recommended someone that they knew to join us or we scoured LinkedIn for prospects, and the process began all over again.
Mark’s story rang in my ears. I realize that now is the time for our board to strategically mentor new talent to fill our board and volunteer leadership gaps. You see, our director is stepping down and we have been working through the process of revisiting our mission, value statement, and place in the community. We are bringing in new talent with experience in developing programs, marketing, and engagement. Our ultimate goal is to elevate the organization within the community so that people want to attend our events and join our volunteer efforts.
In the past two months, we cemented our foundation and are ready to introduce the "new" organization to the community. There have been bumps and some struggles, however, we have greater cohesiveness, and our culture has grown. We acknowledge that we need to continually lead more efficiently on initiatives while mentoring new people to join us.
Leaders Made Here is the “leader” that fell from the sky to assist me as our group develops one another and as we grow talent to join us on our journey. My role will be instrumental in mentoring talent and here are some ideas that I gleaned from the book;
- In the past, anyone could volunteer, and they were thrown onto a committee. Now we will request an application asking for interests and strengths so that we can find the right fit.
- We are developing guidelines for interviewing volunteers and future board members picking those that align with our beliefs who are open to growing.
- For the first time, we will form processes for filling critical gaps when a board member leaves. What are our criteria? What is our succession plan? How do we prepare volunteers to jump into a leadership role?
- We need internal benchmarks and a leadership scorecard for our leadership team.
- Discussions around specific guidelines for training and coaching need to start.
- Sharing our definitions of leadership on a regular basis need to start and acknowledging our gaps and challenges is crucial. Plus, we need to act on them.
I would love to peek five years into the future to see where our group excels and lands within the community. Restructuring our organizational foundation has been a journey of sweat and examination. We have sparked new life and jumped on a new path for building sustained leadership within our group and for the organization as we move ahead to engage and educate our members. Wish us luck!
Lisa holds a Masters of Management degree in leadership and has 20+ years of experience in leadership, team-building, marketing, and business relationship building. She serves on a variety of non-profit boards and is passionate about bringing others together to proactively foster improvements, effect change, and impact the communities in which they live and work. She also manages the social media platforms for some local non-profits and is enthusiastic in promoting endeavors of concerned people to build community.
Through her book blog, Green Thumb Leadership, she enjoys introducing readers to newly launched books focused on empowering leaders and growing their leadership influence.