Board Leadership - What Not To Do

The Situation

The other night I was at a committee meeting for a group I volunteer with. The group, in a round about way, does have an organization that it is affiliated with and a board member from that organization came to our meeting to give us an update on ways we could get involved with upcoming events. We are going to call him Al*.

Al came to the meeting about 30 minutes late for a 1 hour meeting. The committee members didn't know Al was coming, but our Chair may not have passed that information along. Al was hoping to get us all involved on an event that is this coming weekend and wanted us to come to their annual meeting. But, Al couldn't give us any information on either opportunity. Al didn't know the dates of the annual meeting, but he did know it was coming up!

Al continued talking, causing out meeting to run late. He was trying his hardest to provide all the information he knew. But, outside of the event this coming weekend, we weren't sure how we could be involved. We knew the Board wanted our aid but were confued with how they needed us.

*Not the real Al So what can we learn from Al?

First, educate your Board members. Al had a captive audience of 20+ people including the Mayor of the city for a few minutes. He should have this information at his fingertips. I had my iPad with me and had to lookup the dates of the Annual Meeting for him. Al should have been ready to answer any questions we have, within reason, about that meeting; really sell it to us.

Second, that we, as nonprofit staff, need to teach our Board members what they should be doing in these situations. Imagine what all Al would have been able to accomplish if he would have had the right tools at our meeting? He could have inspired us to really lead our community to do more great things. Instead, we were all thinking about when the meeting was going to be dismissed. We were ready to leave and were not listening to AL. Board members need to be organization promoters and take advantage of every opportunity.

Third, Al needed to define his ask. He needed to be armed with specifics of what the organization needed from our group. Al needed to be prepared to share that with us and get us on board. Then, Al should have gotten a firm commitment from all of us.

In The End

Luckily, we have some really great volunteers and we are able to make the upcoming event.  Based on the email chain, everyone has figured out everything else as well. Learn from "Al," and be prepared! 


*Al is obviously not the board member's real name and I am purposely trying to hit which organization Al is a board member to. 

Chief Collaboration Officer

The last few days, HBR has caused me to start thinking, yet again. There was an article posted to their blog about how each organization needs to have a Chief Collaboration Officer. As I started reading and processing the article, it made perfect sense.

Increasingly, companies are embracing collaboration as part of their strategy to grow, by cross-selling products to existing customers and innovating through the recombination of existing technologies. But this won't work unless employees work effectively across silos — across sales offices, business units, sales, product development, and marketing.

This new Chief would be the person responsible to connecting the different areas within the organization and beating down those silos. Beyond this, new media would be housed under this Chief. Which, in my opinion, is the perfect location. This person is someone who would teach their staff how to develop relationships on and offline. Staff in other departments would know who to go to for specific projects. They would be the people connecting others together to work more efficiently. They would be the new type of project manager.

...craft a holistic solution to collaboration, one that involves strategy, HR, product development, sales solutions, marketing, and IT. In short, he needs to be a masterful collaborator. Choosing a CCO is less about which role a person currently occupies and more about whether he or she has the skills. Pick the best collaborator.

In a older, hierarchal system, this would be extremely difficult to implement. This new type of employee could be perceived as rocking the boat. I would encourage those who see this type of position this way to examine their structure. Where are the silos? Are there any? Is this type of collaboration happening naturally? Are specific people already fulfilling this role but without the Chief title? If they are, connect with those individual. You never know, you might already have someone on staff who is perfect for this role.

Videos from LA

Finally,  the videos from LA! I am slowly getting these off of the Flip and into iMovie. I will keep posting updates as I get more videos uploaded. 

The first, Cyndi Lauper with the song we were waiting for:

Closing Party with Cyndi Lauper - Girls Just Want to Have Fun from Steffanie Feuer on Vimeo.


In other news, I have no harddrive space left after these, so I am getting a super big harddrive next week :-) I remember when I thought I would never fill an 80GB drive. Now, I have done that several times over. Oh, well. It was worth it for these videos. 

And Go!

It is official! The opening celebration is tonight. The volunteer brunch was this morning and my Young Association Executive Committee is "facilitating" (we are learning about leadership right now). For your viewing pleasure:

Yesterday, I was in Pasadena at our golf tournament raising some funds for one of my programs. 

I met Marcus Allen there too!


And my committee Chair Aaron:

Social + Community

Over the past year I have focused a portion of my time in the office on our young professional community's social efforts. The past two months have led to great strides in what we have been able to accomplish with the tools we use. Three weeks ago a national news source came to a happy hour I hosted and we were the top headline. Two weeks ago I was in Chicago for an event I was hosting and an on-site registrant came because of a facebook fan page update.

This morning, I was finishing my yougart and a tweet pops up that I wasn't expecting. (My program aggregates specific keywords I have set.) A person I haven't met wrote a thank you tweet to us for hosting an event last Friday; then a tweet went out about blog post was written about the community by someone else I haven't met. Both tweets were re-tweeted with all of our info over and over and over again. With a little analysis, from the first tweet, we had over 5,000 impressions. This is mostly in front of people we haven't reached before. For our community, with just over 700 members, this is a big deal! Add the second blog post in there, coupled with the total impact of the first tweet, and we are at 15,000 impression. On a Monday morning.

Now, take this to the next level. Where could this go? The great, and scary part, is that it can be taken to a whole new level. If we continue to cultivate this audience, on and off line, we will have a whole new grouping of potential members and program attendees. Plus, they are already more likely to get involved with my origination based on the positive experiences that were just reviewed. So, I think it was a great Monday for the community.

We Needed This Last Night

I have this app on my phone called Square. It allows you to accept credit card payments anywhere via your iPhone and/or iPad. You can even get a little card reader so you don't have to manually enter in the credit card info.

So, I have had this app for a little while and didn't think much of it honestly. OK, it is neat that I can take payments from friends via their credit cards and we don't have to worry about carrying cash. But, I still haven't used it that way. 

 This morning it popped into my mind how we really could use Square everywhere...

including at our fundraisers, like the one we had last night. We traditionally take donations through the old paper and pen method which requires a lot of work back in the office after the event. I keep thinking how much easier Square would make this process. It is quicker for the person donating. All you have to do is swipe the card, sign, give an email address and you are done. Plus, the receipt is mailed to them on the spot. The big selling point for me is privacy and safety concerns. With everything being handled in the device, you don't have to worry about someone getting a hold of that piece of paper with your sensitive information on it. 

It also allows every employee with a company issued iPhone could take donations throughout the evening. If we did this, I would turn it into an employee competition to see who can get the most number of people to donate. It puts the fundraising responsibilities on the entire staff at the event and not just the one person at the lone table taking donations. 

All of this being said, this is just in theory (at least for my experiences). I haven't even used the app yet other than to install it on my iPhone and iPad. Nor has Square asked me (or given me anything) to write about their product. I am waiting for my card reader to arrive and I hope I have a reason to test it out. 

Change Quotes

I am sitting in a conference about leadership and being a future leader. I am actually here to run the conference and make sure my Academy students are networking and having a great experience. Instead of checking email and catching up on work today, I am sitting in the back of the room paying attention to the new content since the last time I attended the conference. The presenters just put up quotes about changing and this quote stuck out to me and I wanted to share it. The person who said these words, founded Visa, the credit card company:

The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get old ones out. Every mind is a building filled with archaic furniture. Clean out a corner of your mind and creativity will instantly fill it. - Dee Hock

Weird Nonprofit Science

Ars Technica posted in Weird Science finds marriage can kill an interesting tidbit about the perception of nonprofits. Apparently, in this University of Chicago Journal of Consumer Research found that people see nonprofits as incompetent.

If you're not in it for the money, you must be incompetent: It's a two-fer of weirdness from the Journal of Consumer Research. US society as a whole is based on the assumption that the profit motive drives all sorts of creativity and competence. Apparently, we've internalized that message so well that we assume nonprofits are incompetent. Consumers feel warmly towards nonprofits, but aren't especially interested in buying anything from them. Sending subtle signals that suggest the nonprofit is good at what it does can overcome this effect, at which point the warm feelings make consumers even more likely to buy. 

Why does having a very specific mission and not paying the CEO million dollar bonuses mean that your incompetent? I would think that being a nonprofit means that they have their values in the correct place. The world relies on nonprofits everyday; look at who is helping in Haiti and Chili right now. Yes, there are some government services, but a majority of donations and help are coming in through the Red Cross and other nonprofits. I agree that with any donation you should research the organization, but how in the world can you generalize that just because they are a nonprofit, they are incompetent? How?

Inequality - Women & The Baby Issue

In my current research, I keep discovering how great the inequality is for women within my sector. In my current organization, women make-up a majority of the membership. Yet, when looking at the number of those women who are in executive positions the number is miniscule. It drives me nuts! As a woman, I plan to help fix this. The plan on how we will help women in my sector is still in the blueprint stages and is forthcoming.

Bellow is an article about Silicon Valley. As many can guess, the tech sector, is lacking in women. Here is Stacey Higginbotham's article Silicon Valley Has a Women Problem, But Women Still Have a Baby Problem.

A post yesterday on TechCrunch did a wonderful job of illustrating how many more men than women there are in the U.S. venture capital industry — and how that imbalance extends to tech entrepreneurs. It also extrapolated a rationalization for this gap that, while reasonable, was incorrect. Silicon Valley’s gender problem isn’t that complicated — it boils down to babies. As in, those who have them can’t be a startup CEO, too.

Vivek Wadhwa, the author of the TechCrunch post, included a nice list of reasons why women entrepreneurs and women-led venture-backed companies are scarce:

Sharon Vosmek, CEO of venture accelerator Astia doesn’t think that VCs have an overt bias against women. Instead, it’s the way the venture-capital industry operates. Vosmek says that these “systematic or hidden biases” include: 1. that VCs hold clear stereotypes of successful CEOs (they call it pattern recognition, but in other industries they call it profiling or stereotyping.) John Doerr publicly stated that his most successful investments – and the no-brainer pattern for future investments – were in founders who were white, male, under 30, nerds, with no social life who dropped out of Harvard or Stanford (2009 NVCA conference). 2. VCs invest in people they know. If women aren’t in their natural networks, they won’t get through the door. We know that still today, men and women network in separate business networks. 3. VCs want to invest in serial entrepreneurs. (This further reduces the chance for woman entrepreneurs.) 4. The VC community is obviously male dominated, and it just got worse…after the cold freeze VCs experienced over the past 24 months, many women partners exited the industry. As the Diana Project research shows, a firm with women General Partners is more likely to invest in women entrepreneurs.

However, it was a comment from TechCrunch reader Chem that actually laid bare the issue of why women aren’t better represented in tech — essentially, it’s because women have babies, and the perception is that when we do, we leave the workforce to take care of them. And while Chem’s stereotype isn’t correct ( I was back at work and even took on a more demanding job soon after my daughter was born), the fact that women are “supposed” to bear the brunt of raising children is a huge reason why women aren’t more visible at the helm of venture-backed startups. It’s the babies, stupid.

Or rather, it’s the idea that women should shoulder the burden of raising children, an idea that dominates our society to such a degree that many women and men buy into it without question. Society at large explicitly perpetuates motherhood and not parenthood (check out the New York Times, from stories that demand mothers learn how to speak nanny, to the spate of “wow-men-are-now-staying-at-home” stories, and implicitly enforces the status quo through its policies around access to childcare for babies, school calendars and thousands of other complicating factors that any family, be they dual-income or single-parent, must navigate.

And when that navigation does require a trade-off, it’s generally still the mother that makes it. Which means that yes, once women have babies there are forces that can keep them from taking on a 90-hour-a-week startup gig. We can bemoan a scarcity of female role models in tech, entice women into the math and science professions or even blame women who leave the work force to take care of kids for the lack of gender diversity, but to fix the problem, we’re going to have to discuss the lack of parity between men and women when it comes to raising children.

Because Wadhwa is right: Gender diversity is important, and women shouldn’t have to choose between raising a family and building a startup any more than men should.

Small Staff Associations and Social Media

I was asked to present on social media to a group of small staff associations this week. They wanted to know what their staff of (1-5 people) can do with social media to maximize their efforts and small amounts of time.

My first point is really a side note. It needs to be said because more than one organization did not have a web site.

First- Have a positive web presence. If you aren’t able to design a website in-house, find an established firm that is able to create one and update it for you. If your website is out of date and hard to navigate, who is going to want to join your organization? If you don’t have a website, how are they going to figure out who to contact?

Second – Go where your members are. How do you know where they are at? Ask them! Think of all the prospect research you do to gain little insights so they make that donation, apply that concept to social media. If you are trying to target a younger population, go where that population is. Do searches on facebook, twitter, etc for key terms and for your competition to find people that may be interested in your membership.

Third – You have to fit into your member’s lives and send the appropriate amount of information.

...people lead cross-channel lives. I've done a fair bit of work in financial services, and one of the recurrent themes in my customer research is that people channel-hop — they receive monthly statements in the mail, they call a call center to get certain kinds of information or ask a support question, they go online to research more deeply and to engage in certain transactions, and they go to branch offices for yet other types of transactions.

The problem is that each of these channels is developed in isolation, with little regard to what other channels are doing. So every channel tries to do as much as possible, acting as if those other channels don't exist. I've worked with financial services firms that send 20-page monthly statements that no one reads. That's not what people want from the monthly statement — they want a summary and a sense of progress. If people want more detail, they're happy to go to the channel that delivers that best — online.     Quote Credits:  http://bit.ly/TabOw

It goes back to knowing your membership. Not just the stereotypical or vocal member, but all personalities of your membership. By understanding your membership, you are able to place your resources in the correct areas and not duplicate your efforts; in return maximizing your time.

By being on different mediums throughout the day I am able to respond to members quicker and in a more positive manner than email. Plus, I get to know them in a different light which makes connecting and creating that emotion connection to our association easier. In the end,  they are happy and I am happy because it saves me time.